Vienna, 19 January 2004 - "Development aid has achieved a lot; life expectancy in the Third World has increased by one third over the past three decades. AIDS threatens to reverse this trend," Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner warned on the occasion of today’s press conference with Thoraya OBAID, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). 40 million people worldwide have AIDS, and most of these people live in developing countries. Every day some 14,000 become newly infected with AIDS. "We cannot stand by and watch the spread of this epidemic without doing anything; Austria is not an island of the blessed, as more than 12,000 HIV/AIDS infected people live in our country too," the Foreign Minister cautioned. "We must fight AIDS first and foremost where it spreads the fastest. Austrians have always demonstrated solidarity with people in need. I have therefore made development aid one of the central issues of my work." The Foreign Minister cited an example: "Thanks to Austrian assistance, 350,000 people have access to health care services in Ethiopia alone. We can be proud of our commitment, but unfortunately there is still far too much misery in this world." The Foreign Minister announced that Austria would stock up its contributions to the United Nations Population Fund by EUR 200,000 in 2004. "A token of solidarity, but in view of the disastrous spread of this epidemic at the same time an absolutely necessary initiative," Ferrero-Waldner said.
UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Obaid expressed her thanks for the increase of Austria’s contributions and pointed out that the Austrian contribution is enormously important and valuable, notably for bilateral programmes in Palestine, Afghanistan and Nepal.
Foreign Minister Ferrero-Waldner thanked all the numerous Austrian men and women who care for AIDS victims under the auspices of non-government organisations often on a voluntary basis. "Austria has been offering assistance to AIDS victims for more than 20 years. Where would humanity be without the selfless commitment of these voluntary helpers?" Ferrero-Waldner asked. She also lauded HIV prevention in Austria as "a model of modern health care".
By way of conclusion Foreign Minister Ferrero-Waldner emphasised a personal concern: "AIDS infected people must not be ghettoised. They stand in need not only of medical care, but also of other people’s company. This is a challenge addressed to every one of us!"