Meeting at UN media executives launch global AIDS awareness campaign

Kofi AnnanIn his remarks Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the audience that as leaders of the media they have the power and the reach to disseminate the information people need to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS. “Many of you here have already made magnificent contributions to the fight against the epidemic,” he said. “We hope to see many more of them in the future.”UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot said that AIDS was an epidemic of the information age. Yet, it was precisely the tools of the information age that were the strongest weapons in the fight against the epidemic, as denial, inaction, ignorance, stigma and discrimination were the key forces that allowed to spread.”Perhaps most alarmingly, despite knowing what works, we are not yet reversing its spread,” he said, pointing out that more people had been infected with HIV and more people had died of AIDS last year than in any previous year.”What makes today’s meeting historic is your commitment and action to harness the enormous power of your companies in making AIDS part of your core business,” Dr. Piot said, and that would have a tremendous impact on the world’s response to the epidemic. Bill GatesDelivering the keynote address to a luncheon for media executives, Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft Corp. and Co-founder of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, highlighted numerous examples of partnerships between the business community, governments and civil society.”I think the challenge for all of you is to think about how to raise visibility. The AIDS story is not just a bad news story; it’s a story about incredible people doing this scientific discovery…It’s a story of volunteers, it’s a story of people persevering, it’s a story of families coming together. There’s so much that’s positive about this that it doesn’t just have to be viewed as something that is incredibly negative,” he stressed. Shashi TharoorAt the end of the day, Shashi Tharoor, UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, moderated a press conference for participants in this morning’s meeting. Drew Altman, President and CEO of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and co-Chair of the event, said the summit had been an “amazing” event, during which all attending media leaders had made major commitments towards expanding public knowledge and understanding about HIV/AIDS. The Global Media AIDS Initiative, arising from a partnership between the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Kaiser Family Foundation, brought together the Presidents, Chief Executive Officers and senior executives of more than 20 companies from around the world for a discussion on how media can use their resources to raise awareness about and gain broader support for the fight against the disease.According to UNAIDS, a large percentage of people in some of the worst affected regions have never heard of the disease. Recent studies have shown that in 21 African countries more than 60 per cent of girls were found to have at least one major misconception about the virus or were unaware of its existence. In addition, stigmatization and discrimination against people living with HIV continue to be among the greatest barriers to preventing the spread of new infections and to providing adequate care and support. Drew AltmanMr. Altman also noted that all the participants had signed a declaration recognizing that the world’s media were in a unique position to help fight the AIDS epidemic. This, coupled with other major initiatives, would bring the fight against AIDS to a new level, he said. Video of events Roundtable meeting Luncheon Press conference Listen to UN Radio report read more