Friday, July 14
The G8 summit is a time of optimistic pronouncements. The world's richest nations get together and work out agreements on concerns such as global warming, poverty and lack of basic health care for millions of people.

While the global media spotlight shines on the G8 Summit for a few minutes each year, the optimism generated is not always backed up by solid results.

Major institutions and civil society are frankly tired of broken promises and goals unmet. That is why an already urgent situation is forcing trade unions and civil society groups to take immediate action to call on leaders of the Group of Eight to establish a permanent mechanism on HIV/AIDS. The AIDS pandemic has been on the G8 summit agenda since 1987. With so little progress in 25 years, need anything more be said?

AIDS is killing teachers, health care workers, employers and working people -- the fabric of a functioning society. It is leaving many children orphaned -- more than 45 million by 2010 according to some estimates -- and the burden to care for them will take an even greater toll on society.

HIV/AIDS is killing educators and health care workers faster than they can be replaced to help others.

If there is any truth to the notion of sustainable development in a global economy, we need to recognize that we are all tied to each other.


Advertisement

The cost of unfulfilled literacy and unmet health care needs as a result of dying teachers and health care workers is a cost to the international economy that is shared by all.

A global economy means people are on the move. This means that the risk of HIV infection is a plane ride away from anyone in every country in the world.

HIV/AIDS is a crisis that will unquestionably destabilize countries and threaten us all. Yet, we do have answers. We know from experience that education for prevention among at-risk populations works. We need to work with health care providers, educators, employers and workers to apply the lessons learned in the past 25 years.

This year's G8 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, should take long overdue steps to mainstream HIV/AIDS into the G8 process.

We call for the creation of a working group on AIDS to deal with this major global problem. The fact that it has been addressed on a piecemeal basis for so long is completely unacceptable, especially when the G8 has been able to give attention to other critical issues like organized crime.

When the media spotlight on St. Petersburg moves on after a few days, a mechanism needs to be in place to carry on the work the remainder of the year and for years to come. This is the only way we are going to turn optimistic pronouncements into action.


Carol Bellamy is president of World Learning and the former executive director of UNICEF. Alan Leather is chairman of the Global Unions HIV/AIDS Programme.