Despite unanimous UN AIDS declaration, disaffection voiced

16:57, June 11, 2011      

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The UN General Assembly on Friday unanimously committed to eliminate HIV/AIDS, marking the 30th anniversary of the pandemic that has claimed nearly 30 million lives.

More than 3,000 people attended the three-day High Level Meeting on AIDS at the UN Headquarters in New York. The new declaration was billed as a "Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS: Intensifying our Efforts to Eliminate HIV/AIDS" and described as an opportunity "to review progress achieved in realizing" a 2001 UN commitment and 2006 declaration on HIV/AIDS.

The stated intent of the declaration was to guide and intensify the global response by promoting continued political commitment and engagement of leaders.

It was hoped, in turn, they would lead "a comprehensive response at the community, local, national, regional and international levels to halt and reverse the HIV epidemic and mitigate its impact."

Targets include halving sexual transmission of HIV by 2015; reducing transmission of HIV among people who inject drugs by 50 percent by 2015; to ensure that by 2015 no children will be born with HIV; to increase universal access to antiretroviral therapy; to get 15 million people onto life-saving treatment by 2015; and to reduce tuberculosis deaths in people living with HIV by 50 percent by 2015.

Member states also pledge to close the global resource gap for AIDS and work towards increasing funding to between 22 billion U.S. dollars and 24 billion U.S. dollars per year by 2015.

Approval came after speeches by more than 140 speakers, including more than 30 heads of state or government and vice presidents and representatives of UN member states and civil society and private organizations. Additionally, there were about 40 side events.

Most of the speakers told of their country's progress in the fight and hopes for the future and developing nations expressed gratitude for assistance and asked for additional funding.

Many nations endorsed the "Three Zeros" call of zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.

"The discussions about the contents of this declaration began over a year ago with a series of national consultations and a second series of regional consultations to explore these issues so that when we came into the final negotiations .. a lot of these discussions had been worked through," said Dr. Paul De Lay, deputy executive director of the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), told reporters.

"Clearly there were some issues that had to be resolved this week and negotiations lasted 'til the wee hours of the morning over the last couple of days," he added.

Apparently all was not settled to the satisfaction of all.

Despite universal accord on ending the plague, just how to go about doing it remained in contention.

After formal, unanimous approval by consensus of the 17-page document, the Arab Group, Iran and the Vatican, voiced disagreement with some of the contents.

For example, one paragraph of the 104 in the resolution was singled out by Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari, the permanent representative of Syria, speaking for the Arab Group, Paragraph 29.

"Note that many national HIV prevention strategies inadequately focus on populations that epidemiological evidence shows are at higher risk, specifically men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs and sex workers, and further note, however, that each country should define the specific populations that are key to its epidemic and response, based on the epidemiological and national context;" it said.

The paragraph was in dispute because it described certain entities the more conservative would rather not talk about or they felt it was not applicable, yet was discriminatory.

Rare jeers echoed, apparently from the gallery rather than delegates, in the great hall after the observer from the Holy See voiced disagreement with aspects of the declaration.

Despite the criticism, UNAIDS was satisfied.

"The momentum we've experienced here again confirms the essential role of the UN in the AIDS response," De Lay said. "This meeting intends to bring us to the beginning of the end of AIDS."

The declaration is to guide the global AIDS response for the next decade.

"The world had rightfully reaffirmed that preventing HIV must be the cornerstone of the AIDS response," said De Lay. "And by urging member states to deploy treatment for prevention, the world is poised to reap the benefits of this game-changing prevention option."

The doctor also said the declaration clearly outlines the urgent need to increase access to HIV services for people most at risk of infection, including men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs and sex workers.

The pledge to eliminate gender inequality, gender-based abuse and violence and to empower women and girls must be fulfilled without delay, he said.

Additionally, he applauded the launch of a global plan to eliminate new HIV infections in children by 2015, which is intended to stop the 370,000 new HIV infections in children that happen every year and to keep mothers alive and a Security Council resolution that seeks to protect peacekeepers and the communities they work with as well as help end violence against women in conflict.

Source: Xinhua
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