AFAO, NAPWHA, Doherty Institute
Response to the UN Declaration on Ending AIDS
Heads of state, ministers of health and civil society congregated at the UN Headquarters in New York this week for a high level meeting to discuss progress on global goals to address HIV/AIDS.
The United Nations (UN) High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS comes at an important time in the global response to HIV, set against a backdrop of an ambitious UNAIDS 90-90-90 Fast-Track strategy, which aims to achieve targets of less than 500,000 new HIV infections by 2020, less than 500,000 HIV- related deaths by 2020, zero stigma and the 90-90-90 testing and treatment targets.
The Australian Delegation to the meeting included the CEO of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO), Darryl O’Donnell; President of the National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA), Cipri Martinez; and leading Australian HIV cure researcher and Director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute – a joint venture between The University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne Hospital), Professor Sharon Lewin.
In adopting the Political Declaration, Australia made a powerful statement calling for strengthened efforts to end HIV, and advocating for the central role of communities living with and affected by HIV.
The 2016 Declaration replaces the previous 2011 UN Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS. Although the new Declaration contains strong commitments to accelerate HIV prevention and treatment, civil society members have expressed concern that references in the text to key populations affected by HIV have been diminished during negotiations, and are not as strong as they need to be.
‘Australia has an important story to share with the world about HIV. We know from our own experience that pragmatic political leadership and partnerships with those who are living with and affected by HIV are the foundations to an effective response. We know this because in Australia, those ingredients have been crucial to our success,’ said Darryl O’Donnell.
‘Australia’s role at this meeting is especially important because we co-facilitated the last meeting in 2011 and we want to see the legacy created there further strengthened in 2016. The 2011 Political Declaration named communities most affected by HIV – namely, men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who use drugs – for the first time.
‘When those most affected by HIV are named in these high-level documents, countries develop strategies that also name the populations, and resources can flow to where they are most needed.’
Many civil society organisations also say the Declaration needs stronger language around political and financial commitments from governments to support HIV programs for key populations, especially for gay men, people who use drugs, trans women and female sex workers.
The key outcome of the meeting was the adoption of The 2016 Political Declaration on Ending AIDS, which will guide the global HIV response for the next five years, working alongside the UNAIDS Fast-Track Strategy and the WHO Global Health Sector Strategy on HIV.
Professor Sharon Lewin said that financing the response remains a key priority.
‘As clearly stated by UNAIDS, we are at a moment where increased funding can bring an end to AIDS. We haven’t had this chance beforehand and we may not have it again. It’s imperative we act on it now.’
Cipri Martinez said, ‘People with HIV stand in solidarity with key populations affected by HIV globally, including indigenous communities, women and girls, young people, sex workers, people who use drugs, transgender people and gay men.
‘We are disappointed this Declaration has not significantly increased the visibility of key affected populations. As people with HIV, we know the critical importance of a strong and visible voice in advancing progress for our communities. This is particularly critical for our near neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region who face additional challenges accessing cheap, modern medication and health care monitoring, and routinely experience stigma, discrimination and criminalisation.
‘However, we also recognise it has been a long and difficult process to gain consensus among all UN Member States. The 2016 Political Declaration on Ending AIDS is an important step towards ending HIV. We thank our present and past Australian governments for their bipartisan commitment to working collaboratively with all our communities to end HIV in Australia and to support the global response.’
About the UN High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS
The Australian Delegation to the UN HLM consists of six delegates.
- Head of Delegation: Ms Sharon Appleyard, First Assistant Secretary, Office of Health Protection, Department of Health
- Australian Government Representatives: Mr Peter Versegi, Assistant Secretary, Office of Development Effectiveness; Ms Catherine Meehan, Policy Officer, Health Policy Section, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
- Civil Society Delegates: Mr Darryl O’Donnell, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO); Mr Cipri Martinez, President, National Association of People with HIV Australia
- Minister for Health invited Delegate: Professor Sharon Lewin, Chair, Ministerial Advisory Committee on Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections (MACBBVS) and Director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity
- The Zero Draft of the 2016 Political Declaration was released on 15 April to UN Member States and civil society for feedback and input.
- Initial informal hearings of the Zero Draft took place over April 25-29.
- A compilation of proposed revisions was released 11 May.
- A second round of informal hearings took place 18-20 May. Civil society advocates including Jules
Kim from Australia (Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association) and Malu Marin (7 Sisters) and Niluka Perera (Youth Voices Count) from Asia Pacific joined the meetings and met with country missions in New York, including Australia in the week of the hearings.
- The final draft was agreed to on 8 June at the HLM, which is being held from 8-10 June at the UN Headquarters in New York.