Canadian Statement to the World Health Assembly focuses on AIDS

Mr. President, Director-General, distinguished delegates,

I am honoured to lead the Canadian delegation to the World Health Assembly. Canada will work with and support the WHO and Dr. Lee.

The WHO's leadership is particularly important in the fight to combat HIV/AIDS. Last week, Canada bolstered its financial commitment to this effort with contributions of $100 million for WHO's '3 by 5 initiative', and $70 million to the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Canada and Canadians are proud to take these actions against HIV/AIDS.

These contributions underline the WHO's leadership as the foremost health organization in the world in setting the normative base and technical standards, training country-level HIV/AIDS health human resources and capacity building. These are key elements in our efforts to slow and eventually halt the pace of this epidemic.

We urge other countries to take up this challenge to humanity.

Last week another milestone in the HIV/AIDS battle occurred when Canada became the first country to enact legislation allowing the export of more affordable versions of patented medicines to developing countries. Canada's exported pharmaceuticals will meet the same rigorous standards for safety, efficacy and quality as those products available to Canadians. These pharmaceuticals will extend lives, improve the quality of life of HIV/AIDS patients, and keep children in families and out of orphanages.

HIV/AIDS is also a reality for many Canadians. In response to that reality we are doubling the resources for our Canadian AIDS strategy over the next five years.

I would also like to highlight the links between the WHO's work in the area of HIV/AIDS and the area of sexual and reproductive health.

It is unacceptable that in many parts of the world the most basic reproductive health needs of populations are not being met. In real terms, this is reflected in unacceptably high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity, sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, and unplanned pregnancies. These can be devastating for women and adolescent girls, their children, their communities and for future generations.

The WHO's sexual and reproductive health strategy is a valuable tool for addressing these challenges. It also represents an important contribution to achieving the Cairo program of action and the health-related Millennium Development Goals.

Mr. President,

The outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome highlighted the need for increased multilateral cooperation in strengthening collective defences against communicable diseases. Our experience with SARS has led to a renewed emphasis on public health in Canada. Yesterday we announced the creation of a public health agency. A key role of this agency and its collaborating centers across Canada will be to link up with WHO and other international partners to strengthen disease surveillance and control networks.

Revising the international health regulations is a key element of international preparedness against global disease threats. Canada hopes that serious progress can be achieved during the intergovernmental working group meeting in November.

Mr. President, non-communicable diseases also represent a major and a growing challenge for both the developed and the developing world.

Canada strongly supports the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. It is a key element in attacking the global growth of non-communicable diseases, and is consistent with Canada's Pan Canadian Strategy on Health Living. It is a reasonable, balanced and comprehensive menu of policy and programme options that countries can tailor to meet their national needs.

Tobacco control will remain a priority for Canada. Canada has championed the framework convention at WHO. We are working towards ratification of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control at the earliest possible opportunity. We urge the WHO to continue to play a leadership role in assisting countries to develop their capacity to implement the Convention.

Finally, Canada and the world need a WHO that is strongly rooted in the principles of results-based budgeting and programming, promoting value-for-money and transparency. This organization's products will only be as good as its governance and its management.

Mr. President, Canada is aware of its global responsibilities. We are committed to strengthening the WHO and to working with you all towards a healthier world for all.

Thank you.

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