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World AIDS Day: UNHCR chief pledges to continue fight against HIV and AIDS

News Stories, 30 November 2007

© UNHCR/L.Dobbs
A huge red ribbon adorns the front of the UNHCR headquarters building in Geneva to mark World AIDS Day.

GENEVA, November 30 (UNHCR) In an annual message for World AIDS Day, High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said on Friday that the refugee agency has been able to expand its HIV programmes and help more people in need over the past year.

"Today, with projects in more than 70 countries and every region, our efforts are more comprehensive in both reach and scale. Refugees have benefited too from increasing international recognition of the right of displaced populations to host government AIDS treatment programmes," Guterres said in his message to staff, which was released on the eve of World AIDS Day.

He said that over the past year UNHCR had made significant progress in ensuring access to confidential testing, prevention of maternal transmission programmes and antiretroviral treatment. "Displaced populations are now integral to the policies and guidance of the other nine UNAIDS co-sponsor agencies and the UNAIDS Secretariat."

Guterres also noted that UNHCR staff and implementing partners were now more conversant with HIV and protection issues, adding that a key element in this effort had been the agency's focus on sexual and gender-based violence, as sexual exploitation and violence have strong links to HIV.

"We have been able to provide additional support for projects in seven countries, along with significant funding for workplace programmes for UNHCR staff and their dependants," he said, while adding: "We have also strengthened our partnerships."

In the year ahead, the High Commissioner stressed that UNHCR should continue to play a lead role on behalf of internally displaced peoples. He also said it was also vital to ensure, through HIV joint UN Teams at country level, that the needs of UNHCR's persons of concern are included in UN, as well as government, policies and work plans.

"We need to tailor activities to address most-at-risk persons and respond to protection needs that contribute to HIV vulnerability, particularly among women and children. Finally, we need to adapt our HIV projects to non-camp settings such as urban caseloads and local integration and recovery situations," Guterres said.

"The World AIDS Day theme this year is leadership. I ask for your help in making sure UNHCR keeps its promises and continues to lead by example," he concluded.

Although World AIDS Day falls on a weekend this year, many UNHCR offices and staff will be involved in special commemorative events around the world. A large red ribbon was draped over the main entrance of the agency's Geneva headquarters, which has participated in a UN HIV film festival this week.

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