UNAIDS serves as the leading advocate for global
action against HIV/AIDS. Its mission is to guide, strengthen and support
worldwide efforts to turn the tide against the epidemic. Such efforts
are aimed at:
• preventing the
spread of HIV;
• providing care
and support for those infected and affected by the disease;
• reducing the
vulnerability of individuals and communities to HIV/AIDS; and
• easing the socioeconomic
and human impact of the epidemic.
• In the early
years of the epidemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) assumed the
lead responsibility on AIDS in the United Nations (UN) and helped countries
set up crucial national AIDS programmes. By the mid-1990s, however,
the epidemic’s relentless and ruinous spread was making it clear that
a greatly expanded UN effort was needed.
• Rather than
assign to a single UN organization the multitude of actions required
to overcome the epidemic, it was decided to combine the special expertise,
resources and networks of various agencies. The UN opted for an innovative
approach. In 1996, it drew together six UN bodies in a joint and cosponsored
programme: the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS),
coordinated by the UNAIDS Secretariat in Geneva. Those original Cosponsors—UNICEF,
UNDP, UNFPA, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank—were joined in April 1999
• Working together,
and with the UNAIDS Secretariat, the Cosponsors extend the reach of
their work by striking strategic alliances with other UN agencies, national
governments, corporations, media, religious organizations, community-based
groups, regional and country networks of people living with HIV/AIDS,
and other non-governmental organizations.
• UNAIDS works
on the understanding that the struggle against HIV/AIDS needs to be
expanded constantly if the epidemic is to be halted and its impact reduced.
This expansion has two elements: improving the quality and scope of
ongoing prevention, care, support and impact-alleviation efforts; and
combining such efforts with actions that tackle the societal factors
that increase people’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS.
Activities at country
Although UNAIDS operates
globally, much of its most crucial work is done at country level.
• In developing
countries, it operates mainly through the locally based staff of its
seven Cosponsors. Meeting as the host country’s United Nations Theme
Group on HIV/AIDS, representatives of the cosponsoring organizations
share information, and plan and monitor coordinated action among themselves
and with other partners. They also decide on joint financing of major
AIDS activities that can support the country’s government and other
• Theme Groups’
activities are geared towards reflecting and supporting their host country’s
national strategic plans. In the absence of such a strategy, a Group’s
main task is to help the national authorities create one. Given this
emphasis on harmonizing activities to overcome the epidemic, the host
government is usually invited to join the Theme Group. Increasingly,
other partners (such as representatives of other United Nations agencies
and bilateral organizations working in the country) are also included.
more than 130 UN Theme Groups on HIV/AIDS are operating across 155 countries.
Most of them have set up special working groups that involve donors,
non-governmental organizations and associations of people living with
• In many cases,
the Theme Group includes a designated UNAIDS staff member—a so-called
Country Programme Adviser (CPA). Elsewhere, a staff representative of
one of the seven Cosponsors acts as the UNAIDS contact point for the
country. In addition to supporting the UN system, these staff support
and advocate for stronger national AIDS programmes, and provide information
and guidance to a range of host country partners, including government
departments, the private sector and community organizations.
• The UNAIDS
Secretariat works to spur and coordinate action on AIDS, rather than
serve as a direct funding or implementing agency. Its staff number about
130 professionals and it operates on an annual budget of US$ 70 million,
a tenth of which is earmarked for the International Partnership against
AIDS in Africa (IPAA).
• The largest
donors to UNAIDS are the United States of America, the Netherlands,
Norway, Japan, the United Kingdom and Sweden. UNAIDS also receives funds
from 25 other countries.
• UNAIDS is guided
by a Programme Coordinating Board made up of representatives of 22 governments
from around the world and of the seven UNAIDS Cosponsors. Five more
seats, without voting rights, are reserved for a balanced mix of non-governmental
organizations, including those representing people living with HIV/AIDS.
This makes UNAIDS the only UN institution to have non-governmental organization
participation on its governing board.
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