New York, 9 June 2011

At the invitation of UNAIDS, President Paul Kagame today chaired the Heads of State and Government High level Meeting on HIV at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The President was invited to chair the special event and share his insights on how to shape the future of HIV/AIDS in the world as the disease continues to kill over a million people every year.

In his remarks, President Kagame said that visionary leadership, innovation and ownership of the cause remain key factors to help bring to an end the spread of HIV/AIDS: “We have seen results that show we can make progress, much as it is a very complicated situation. The dedicated and dynamic leadership in the struggle to end AIDS in the world is the profound reason why HIV/Aids is being tackled. Leadership and ownership are key in this. We should all ask ourselves: “Who owns this struggle?” People have to be part of this and believe that the fight can be won.”

President Kagame added that collaboration is vital and that there is no single individual or society that can win the fight alone. “Continued financing is paramount as it enables the execution of these activities,” he added.

Addressing participants, President Kagame cited women as the focal drivers of change in the fight against HIV/AIDS. He stressed the importance of those most vulnerable and affected by the disease playing a central role in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

He said: “In society there are people who bear the biggest burden yet they contribute to the development of the country. They should not be underestimated; we must let them take the centre stage in this process.”

The Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, hailed President Kagame as a visionary and a highly respected world leader who  has been instrumental in turning Rwanda’s AIDS epidemic around. He stated that his experience and leadership are instrumental in bringing AIDS out of isolation and giving it greater country ownership.

In his remarks, UN secretary General Ban Ki Moon thanked President Kagame for his concerted efforts in curbing the spread of mother-to-child HIV. He noted that Rwanda’s national health insurance scheme has made healthcare and treatment of HIV+ people accessible and cheaper.

Since President Kagame took up leadership in 2000, HIV prevalence has almost been halved and the number of people newly infected with HIV reduced by around 25%.