Tackling HIV can help to drive progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro has stressed.

The “AIDS plus MDGs” approach, she said at a high-level meeting yesterday co-hosted by China, South Africa, Nigeria and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), “is an innovative course of action that brings AIDS out of isolation – and into a more dynamic circle of inclusion.”

Evidence has already proven that such an approach can help the world to meet several of the Goals, including those on empowering women, strengthening global partnerships and reducing maternal and child mortality.

Preventing mother-to-child transmission can not only save lives, but can also serve as an entry point to health services benefiting the entire family, she pointed out, adding that HIV programmes can also bolster national health systems.

“HIV prevention, care, treatment and support help us to reduce vulnerability to poverty,” Ms. Migiro underlined, while children are more likely to stay in school if families affected by the epidemic have access to treatment.

World leaders attending yesterday's gathering – including those from China and Ethiopia – emphasized the importance of South-South cooperation in combating AIDS and promoting development. African countries and China reached a partnership to promote renewed progress towards health and other development goals.

“The era of health and development programmes operating in isolation is over,” said Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director, who chaired the gathering. “We have to work together to make this one movement – we cannot afford to have a fragmented approach to health and development. This Africa-China partnership can be the engine that accelerates progress towards the MDGs.”

Halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV and AIDS by 2015, as well as achieving universal access to treatment for the disease, are among the eight MDGs.

More than 7,400 people are infected and 5,500 die from AIDS-related illnesses every day, and HIV remains the leading cause of death among reproductive-age women worldwide, according to the UN.

There are also nearly 10 million people living with HIV who urgently need treatment today.

UNAIDS data shows that new infections have declined by more than 25 per cent in the 22 countries most affected by the disease in sub-Saharan Africa, home to two-thirds of all people living with HIV.