We are here tonight, first to support those who are living with HIV/AIDS, and to recall those many millions who have now died. Equally I want to acknowledge the pain of those who loved them, and of those who have cared, and will care for them. You too have borne, and will continue to bear the weight of this disease.
As we are only too painfully aware, this is not a virus that is confined to one group in society, to one sex, to one ethnic group. It affects the rich and the poor, the male and the female, the child and the adult.
Here in New Zealand it seems that to some degree, HIV/AIDS can be managed, even if we do not yet know for how long. In so many other parts of the world, the progress of the disease is unchecked and terrifyingly rapid. Everyone, whether in New Zealand or in the Pacific, in Europe, the Americas, in Asia or Africa is affected by HIV/AIDS. Yet often, it is only when we are touched personally that the full tragedy of the disease hits home. Humanity has one face, however. And formerly great distances between countries and people have become very much smaller.
When it comes to HIV/AIDS, all of humanity is learning to speak with one voice - to say that HIV/AIDS must be eliminated, to save the lives of the individuals, and in some parts of the world, whole populations, including the very old and the very young, whom the virus is presently destroying.
The best memorial we can give to those who have died from this disease and to those who are living with it, is to promise that we will speak with a united voice, we will support them no matter what race, sex, or age they might be and that we will do our utmost to learn how to suppress the disease, everywhere and for good.