(Tekst alleen beschikbaar in het Engels)
Ladies en Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be with you today in my capacity as Special Representative of UNAIDS and UNICEF for Children and AIDS. I strongly support your very original initiative. It shows that those suffering from AIDS contribute positively to Chinese society like any other citizen and that you are helping the environment in Beijing by the planting of trees.
Today, I would like to address the importance of education in the response to AIDS. Education is vital, not just for our own personal development but also for the role each of us plays within society. As a psychologist, I am in complete agreement with Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS when he says that ?education is a social vaccine.?
I am convinced that an effective response to AIDS is closely linked to empowerment of children and women. It is through education that young people, and young girls in particular, become aware that they should not to be exploited or discriminated against. It is crucial that children and young women acquire the skills that help them to realise this.
This brings us to another important element:
The importance of advocacy, raising awareness and providing correct information on AIDS, not just for children and women, but for the general public as a whole.
Too many people remain unaware of the threat AIDS poses to general health and to their families. That is why it is so important to promote continuously advocacy and awareness campaigns. The media have a very important role to play here ? they can reach the wider public with appropriate and targeted messages.
We must all work together on this: governments, local authorities and civil society including people living with HIV. These actions of sensitization should also involve the economic sector, through trade unions, private and public companies. I am very impressed by the economic development of your country and I know that the business sector can contribute a lot in the response to AIDS.
Raising awareness also serves another objective that I value highly: when people know how to prevent HIV, they will understand that there is no need for stigmatization and discrimination against people living with HIV. No need to exclude people infected with HIV, whatever their age, sex or ethnic origin, regardless of the way they contracted the virus. Today, you?re showing us the way, working together as citizens to make Beijing greener for the well-being of all. Thanks to your project, it doesn?t matter here whether you?re living with HIV or not ? everybody is contributing equally and for everyone?s benefit. I congratulate you for that.
China is a world player in many fields, and I see two important opportunities arising where China will take an important place in the response to AIDS:
Firstly, the next meeting of the Board of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will be held in China in November, and I am very confident that this meeting will lead to new international commitments to strengthen the global response to AIDS. My country ? Belgium - is an active supporter of the Global Fund.
Secondly, everybody is looking forward to the 2008 Olympic Games to be held in Beijing. The games will show us the world elite of young and healthy athletes. Traditionally, the Games have been a role model for children and the young, showing them how to grow to healthy adulthood. According to this philosophy, the Games also present a unique opportunity for raising awareness about AIDS. We should not miss it.
Under the theme ?One world, one dream? this city will be the centre of the world and hope next summer. It is a beautiful slogan, fully reflecting (and I quote) the essence and the universal values of the Olympic spirit -- Unity, Friendship, Progress, Harmony, Participation and Dream.
I am personally convinced that these very values are also the ones that should guide us in all our contacts with others, whatever their age, sex, ethnic origin or HIV-status.
I wish every one of you much courage and the fulfillment of your dreams and aspirations. Thank you all for your kind attention.