LAGES SPEECH ON AIDS TO UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Cuba offers its help free of charge
June 28, 2001
No country is free of AIDS. Some the privileged and rich have managed to reduce the mortality rate with medicines sold at high, unreasonable prices. Others unfortunate and poor are experiencing a terrifying reduction in their populations life expectancy and a demographic decline that could lead them to extinction.
In many African nations, the number of teachers who die from AIDS each year is greater than those graduating.
The deaths in sub-Saharan Africa to date are equivalent to those that would result from the area being attacked by 70 bombs like those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is a dramatic paradox that the same continent that saw the appearance of man six million years ago is starting to witness our disappearance this millennium.
Cuba also suffers from this disease; our country has 2,565 cases of HIV/AIDS, 388 of whom have contracted the disease, and 896 have died from the disease in the last 14 years.
Our program to fight AIDS guarantees complete care for carriers and sufferers of the disease, including free anti-retroviral treatment for all AIDS sufferers, specialized medical centers for those who require them and a constant struggle for patients to obtain full social integration, that they can exercise their rights and are not discriminated against.
It also guarantees access to safe blood, certifying that 100% of the donations are free of AIDS, hepatitis and other illnesses; voluntary testing of all pregnant women resulting in a zero mother-child transmission since 1997, and an education and prevention strategy aimed at vulnerable groups, young people and the rest of the population.
We have the lowest AIDS rate in the Americas and one of the lowest in the world, with 0.3% of the population between 15 and 49 years.
CONTROLLING THE EPIDEMIC DESPITE THE BLOCKADE
Even with the blockade in force, without access to 50% of the worlds new medicines because they are produced in the United States, we have controlled the epidemic, and what is more, achieved a life expectancy of 76 years and an infant mortality rate of less than seven. Cuba is attending this Assembly as a responsible members of the international community, showing solidarity and modestly offering our experience and collaboration free of charge.
The UN secretary-general has proposed and is making a worthy and just effort to obtain $7-10 billion USD for the fight against AIDS. The amount is not enough and money alone cannot solve the problem, but it is a necessary start.
It is incomprehensible that this life-saving money cannot be found in a world that spends 40 times more on illegal drugs, 80 times more on military budgets and 100 times more on advertising.
It is incomprehensible to think that this life-saving money cannot be found in a world where 20% of the population is responsible for 86% of private consumption and where 22 people each have a personal fortune exceeding the amount the secretary-general is asking for, and which put together is 43 times more.
The richest and most powerful nation of all history, that claims it is a human rights champion, does not make its payments to the UN and is trying to reduce its contribution to the WHO, dedicates barely 0.2% of its gross domestic product to development. It is the only country to have voted against the resolution that gives every individual the right to have access to AIDS medicines, while on the other hand it has unleashed an insane arms race upon the world, with the sale of the most sophisticated instruments of war to allies and followers, and its global missile shield.
There is no need to elaborate any further in order to understand that the international economic order is criminally unjust, that when the words "democracy," "human rights," "individual liberty," "equal opportunities" and others come out the mouths of the powerful, they ring hollow and demagogic.
WE NEED JUSTICE AND SOLIDARITY
Donations and goodwill to help calm the pain and suffering are welcome and gratefully received but they are not the solutions to humanitys problems, what we need is justice and solidarity.
We believe it is necessary and possible to break down the imperialist dogmas that rule the world, but it will be a long fight and none of the 36.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS, nor the million who die each year from malaria, nor the three million from tuberculosis nor the 35,000 children who die daily from illnesses which can be prevented, nor many other groups, have time to wait. Cuba believes that this special session of the UN General Assembly should proclaim:
- That AIDS drugs and other vital medicines required on a large scale should not be protected by patents. People cannot be allowed to make money off the lives of human beings.
- That the external debt of the poorest countries be cancelled immediately and unconditionally. They have already paid more than once.
- That in the next Group of 7 meeting, instead of adopting the new economic liberalization that they will impose the poor and the less well off of the world, they should agree to reduce their military budgets in order to raise at least the $10 billion USD requested by the UN, and hand it over today, not to wait calmly until 25 million more people die. This is merely a small part of their debt to the Third World.
CUBAN GOVERNMENT OFFER
On behalf of the Cuban government, I would like to offer the following to the poorest countries and those with the highest incidence of the illness:
- 4,000 doctors and health personnel, to create a network to supply prescription medicine to the population, as well as vital follow-up. This same staff can train a large number of specialists in their own particular fields, including nurses and health workers.
- Sufficient professors to create 20 medical schools, many of whom could be chosen out of the 2,359 Cuban doctors who are currently helping in 17 countries as part of the Integral Health Program. In these schools, 1,000 doctors would be trained each year in countries that need the most help.Doctors, teachers, psychologists, and other specialists needed to assess and collaborate with the campaigns to prevent AIDS and other illnesses.
- Diagnostic equipment and kits necessary for the basic prevention programs.
- Retrovirus treatment for 30,000 patients.
All it would take is for the international community to provide the raw materials for the medicines, the equipment and material resources for these products and services. Cuba will not charge and will pay the salaries in its national currency, as this is the most expensive part for world health organizations, and the most difficult part is to ensure that the worker is prepared and ready to begin the mission.
AIDS, Mr. President, is a war without bombs and without armies. The world has accumulated extraordinary intelligence in all fields of knowledge. Many more scientists live today, in the same historical period, than ever before. Created wealth is more than sufficient to assure a healthy life for the world’s six billion inhabitants. Despite all this, we have started a new millennium in sickness. The only possible cure is to put the world’s infinite resources to use in serving humanity, free of selfish commercial or interests or national egocentrism.
It is our responsibility to succeed.
Thank you very much.
Carlos Lage Davila is Vice-President of the Council of the State of the Republic of Cuba
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