Dr Erasmus U. MORAH, Director, UNAIDS Office in China Opening Remarks at 2023 Technical Exchange Workshop of South-South Cooperation on AIDS Prevention and Control 23 August 2023, BEIJING
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Dr. YAN Jun, Deputy Director General, China CDC

Ms. SHI Ying, Deputy Director General, Department of Science, Education & International Cooperation, NDCPA

Dr. Han Mengjie, Director of NCAIDS

Dr. GUAN Wenhui, Deputy Director of AIDS/STI Institute, Jiangsu CDC

 

Dear colleagues from South-East Asia – Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam; and my African brothers and sisters from Tanzania, Uganda, and the Africa CDC.

So nice to see you all here in Beijing.

Let me start by sharing that I just returned to Beijing last week from visiting Africa CDC, at their magnificent new headquarters building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I met and discussed at length with the Deputy Director General, Dr. Ahmed Ogwell Ouma. I also met with China’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the African Union, Mr. HU Changchun, and his team.

I have two takeaways about this mission that I consider pertinent and want to quickly share with you. One is that China-Africa cooperation, within the larger framework of South-South Cooperation, is working and bearing concrete fruits that the people can see, touch, and feel their impact.  I want the Government of People’s Republic of China to take good note of this. That’s how the many African Ambassadors to China I have spoken to see the uniqueness of China’s support and assistance to Africa.

My other takeaway comes from an aspect of the discussion with Dr. Ogwell Ouma of Africa CDC. He shared that China had committed to deliver on the construction of the Africa CDC headquarters building in two and a half years time frame, which already seemed hugely ambitious. However, China delivered a imposing office edifice in just 18 months, COVID-19 environment limitations notwithstanding. Expounding of how China collaborated to achieve this spectacular outcome, the Deputy Director General talked about the Chinese meticulous planning, efficiency, discipline, and dedication to achieving results and targets.

Back to this South-South Cooperation on AIDS Prevention and Control, I want to thank the China CDC for successfully organizing this technical exchange workshop for the seventh consecutive year. Even the biggest disrupter of the century—the COVID-19 pandemic—could not stop it, succeeding only by moving it online. There truly can be no better demonstration of China’s commitment to ending AIDS through global solidarity than this. This is the spirit of resilience and urgency that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us and that resonates perfectly with the UNAIDS Executive Director, Ms. Winnie Byanyima.

The timing of this year’s workshop bears a special significance for the world and the UN system. We are at the halfway point in the journey towards the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals. Last month, the UN launched the Special Edition of Sustainable Development Goals Report 2023. It shows that “progress on more than 50 per cent of targets of the SDGs is weak and insufficient; on 30 per cent, it has stalled or gone into reverse.”

Like many other SDGs, the global AIDS response has felt the blow and we are not on track towards the goal of ending AIDS by 2030. The 2023 UNAIDS Global AIDS Update confirmed that, globally, 39 million people were living with HIV, 1.3 million people became newly infected with HIV, and 630,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses.

As stated by the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Anotonio Guterres, the reasons for this hobbled progress are multifaceted and include impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, general global economic downturn, geo-political discords, concerns with climate change, and widespread conflicts, such as the war between Russia and Ukraine. Mr. Guterres also emphasized another important reason by itself, which is that “Ambition, urgency and solidarity have been lacking.”

So, going forward from here and in this conference, we need to increasingly infuse URGENCY in all that we do to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs and ending AIDS by 2030. The topics of this 10-day workshop—such as ‘PrEP uptake among high-risk groups, innovative HIV testing technology, EMTCT, integration of Hep-C with AIDS response, achieving 95-95-95, civil society engagement and resourcing—are all very hot topics around the world today. They speak to China’s currency and leadership role in promoting South-South Cooperation.

At the UNAIDS Office in China, we have a clear mandate to engage and support China’s effort in this regard.  We can develop policy positions, strategies, special initiatives, and campaigns that support China’s partnership with the rest of the world with a focus on China’s south-south collaboration and strengthening the role of communities and civil society in global health diplomacy and engagements.

The UN Country Team in China, convened by UNAIDS, is currently collaborating with the African Group of Ambassadors to China and the Government of China on “approaches to concretely promote local production of medicines and health commodities in Africa, through a Tripartite Cooperation, under the framework of Forum of China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).” We hope to leverage China’s industrial power and comparative advantage in cost-efficient innovative diagnostics technology and medical devices, to uplift and ensure global security of health commodities supply through local production. Without the world finding a new way to break the present impasse on achieving the first 95 on HIV, it will be impossible to end AIDS by 2030. China can help a great deal in this regard, through its south-south cooperation and friendship agenda, especially with Africa.

Finally, 20 days from now, on September 12, the world will be observing the South-South Cooperation Day. This year’s theme is “Solidarity, Equity and Partnership: Unlocking South-South Cooperation to Achieve the SDGs”. At UNAIDS we believe that to end AIDS we must tackle and end structural inequalities that make people vulnerable to HIV. We therefore plan to organize a series of events to mark September 12th and discuss ways to bring about URGENCY in addressing the most pressing priorities in the achievement SDGs and the 2030 Agenda. Going forward, we at the UNAIDS and UN system in China—including WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and UNIDO—would like to see South-South Cooperation, led by China, playing an ever-increasing role in resolving many of world’s social development challenges, including achieving the SDGs and ending AIDS by 2030.

With that said, on behalf of UNAIDS and the UN Resident Coordinator to China, Mr. Siddharth Chatterjee, I want to wish all of you participants and the organizers of this technical exchange workshop a very big success.

Thank you, Xie-Xie, and Asante Sana!