بســم اللّـه الرّحمـن الرّحيــم

As salaam Alaikum

This evening I’m really happy that I was invited to attend this meeting, because in my work I don’t come across too many happy occasions these days.

I was wondering initially whether it’s really a happy or sad occasion. But after listening to the presentations made here, I decided that we should really celebrate, because I think this programme has made such an enormous contribution, I think in very difficult areas. It’s not easy to do the work that has been done in a society like ours where this sets precedence; working with very difficult, hard to reach populations, particularly in an area such as HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases and so on, is not an easy task.

In fact sometimes I keep wondering, having seen some of the very creative posters and commercial advertisements on television, I kept on wondering how you do that rather subtly, but still conveying very important messages. Because given our society you cannot make it very explicit either. So it was done quite creatively I think.

Having watched the four videos on the different problematic components, I’m convinced that you have really made a big contribution. And it’s now upon us to carry this forward. Although the Global Fund contribution has now come to an end, it’s not because the need for the work that is being done has come to an end.

On the contrary, we now have to master all the resources we can, to really stand up to the challenge and be able to carry this work forward, because it’s a difficult period at the moment. Andrew mentioned some of the financial issues and so on. But still we have to find a way to take this forward.

As State Minister Lubna just mentioned the most at risk populations are there, and then the need for support and care for them is still there. It could be growing. Although we have been really successful in keeping the HIV infection levels low, the risk continues to be there, it continues to present danger.

I’m happy to hear the Resident Coordinator tell us that UN will do its utmost to help support in whichever way they can. I think it’s really a mixed blessing that we have now been graduated from the Least Developed Countries’ status to a mixed status. Because a lot of the need for international assistance still remain and the country’s capacity to finance this very important programme is still very weak.

But my duty is really to thank the Global Fund for a very substantial contribution they have made over the last five years. And it was possible because a lot of very dedicated people worked very hard to secure the funding and also to manage it and to do a good job.

So I thank the United Nations. I also thank the Country Coordinating Mechanism, the officials. As the current chairman had mentioned, those who came before him who also made very important contribution for this programme.

But most importantly this programme has been successful because of the work of the NGOs. They are the ones who have been able to reach out to the most at-risk populations. Both Maldivian NGOs and also organizations within the migrant communities.

So I want to thank you for the very important work you have done, and are continuing to do. I had the good fortune to be able to work closely in the last two or three years with some of those NGO’s, particularly Journey and Open Hand. I know how dedicated they are to this programme, and how important this contribution is for them, for their work. Without this I think it’s going to be a real challenge for them.

Therefore we have to find a way, to get the resources that are necessary for them to be able to continue this programme. So when I first heard that we are not going to be receiving further Global Fund resources, it came to me as very disturbing news. And still I don’t know if we really have found alternatives to this.

I’m happy to hear that the National Drug Agency will actually bid in some work with the dropping centers, provide the voluntary counseling and testing services and so on. But that’s not going to be enough. We also need to continue to support, particularly the NGOs, to do this.

So I also pledge, along with my colleagues in the Ministry of Health, to provide all the support we can from the government, to continue this programme and also to seek additional resources.

I think it’s really important to continue the structures that have been created, including the Country Coordinating Mechanism, and provide the necessary coordination, and continue to strengthen the mechanisms that have been set up, so that we are able to move forward with this. I really think it’ll be sad if, because we are not receiving global funds any more, the programme begins to decline in any way.

So let us all put our efforts together and make sure that this programme is adequately funded, that we are able to take it forward. I will do all I can to support this programme and hopefully very soon discuss with the relevant officials, particularly the Ministry of Health and other relevant organizations, to find a way to ensure the continued progress of this programme.

I want to once again particularly thank the Centre for Community Health and Disease Control, the National Drug Agency, the Society for Health Education, Journey, Open Hand, for the work they have been doing, and also encourage other civil society organizations to participate in this programme.

So once again thank you very much it has been a really good programme, something that we should be quite happy and proud for the achievements that we have made. I have seen the numbers in the presentations and they are quite impressive. Large numbers of people have been touched by this programme.

So thank you for United Nations’ colleagues who are supporting this and also to our national colleagues from various agencies that are involved in carrying this forward. I’m really happy that we now have a national strategic plan for the next four years. We need to quickly develop an action plan for it and also find the resources to implement it. So we have a very challenging task ahead. I look forward to working with you on making this a success and continue the programme.

Thank you once again and congratulations.