AIDS is a challenge to development that affects every continent. The transformation of AIDS from health concern to global development issue reflects the rapidity with which HIV has spread and the magnitude of its economic and social consequences. It also underscores the need for quick, decisive, and sustained action. AIDS is radically changing our perspective on the need for cooperation because it cannot be stopped without a coordinated and collaborative global effort. That is why we are here today. This Special Session of the General Assembly provides the international community with an opportunity to speak with one voice.
The Inter-American Development Bank is a committed partner in the international effort to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS. In March of this year, at the Summit of the Americas, in Quebec, our Heads of State agreed that HIV/AIDS is a threat to the security of the region and reaffirmed their resolve to combat the disease and its consequences. The challenges that face the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean vary.
They vary by HIV prevalence, they vary by the nature of the societal and political response, and by the socio-economic context in which the epidemic is occurring.
Prevalence levels in the Caribbean are the highest outside of sub-Saharan Africa, and in Central America the epidemic is growing rapidly. On the other hand, in the other regions overall HIV/AIDS prevalence is still relatively low, though high prevalence is found in specific sub-populations.
How can the IDB help?
The IDB can facilitate the regional dialogue on HIV/AIDS, it can provide technical assistance and it can lend.
There is still work to be done in our region to raise awareness and increase information about HIV/AIDS. At the same time, some of our countries have made important progress in the fight against AIDS and these Best Practices must be shared.
The IDB can bring together governments, NGOs, the Networks of People Living with AIDS, labor, religious leaders, and the private sector. We work with most of these groups regularly. We stand ready to help our governments and civil society facilitate dialogue at the local and national level. In March 2002, at our Annual Meeting in Fortaleza, Brazil, the IDB will host a major seminar on HIV/AIDS.
However, as a development bank, our main contribution in the fight against AIDS will be through our technical assistance and lending. For our poorest member countries, we can lend on very concessional terms.
To provide significant grant funding for AIDS the IDB would have to raise the money from donors. The IDB would coordinate with UNAIDS any such approach to donors.
In our lending and technical assistance, we want to work with other agencies and not to duplicate efforts. We want to find what we do best. One area where we have extensive experience is the strengthening of national health systems. This is critical to an effective response to AIDS. To date, we have lent almost US$ 2 billion to make national health systems more effective and efficient.
Other areas where our experience could give us a comparative advantage include programs for women, youth and socially excluded groups. However, the Bank will look for opportunities to address HIV/AIDS across the spectrum of our projects and in our policy dialogue with governments. As Peter Piot told our Executive Board, "investments that do not consider AIDS are poor investments".
Success in the fight against HIV/AIDS requires partnership. None of us can do it alone. We must combine resources and efforts. The IDB will work closely with UNAIDS, PAHO, and other agencies, and with civil society, particularly the regional Networks of People Living with AIDS.The time is right to take the decisive step towards a full-scale AIDS response.
The IDB will play its part to help ensure that there is such a response in Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB is in a unique position to understand and address the needs of our region. We are conscious of this special mandate and will actively support our governments as they address HIV/AIDS.