The 2008 High-level meeting on AIDS took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 10 - 11 June. It reviewed progress made in implementing the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the 2006 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS.
The meeting attracted high-level participation from UN Member States who, alongside representatives from civil society and UN agencies, funds and programmes reviewed progress made towards reaching the goal of providing universal access by 2010. Discussions focused on the progress made, challenges remaining and sustainable ways to overcome them.
The General Assembly President H.E. Srgjan Kerim in his closing statement said: “History will judge how effectively we rose to the challenge of AIDS.We must not lose the momentum of our global response."
The United Nations Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon presented the report on progress in implementing the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the 2006 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS. Mr. Ban said: “Our challenge now is to build on what we have started, bridge the gaps we know exist, and step up our efforts in years to come. We can do this only if we sustain and step up our levels of commitment and financing.”
The need for greater accountability, particularly in relation to funds spent by all stakeholders; the need to adapt HIV prevention programming to local contexts and the lack of effective programming directed to populations which are especially vulnerable to the disease, especially sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender populations and injecting drug users, and the continued criminalization of related behaviors were some of the challenges highlighted by countries and civil society.
The role of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in the response was recognized by countries as a critical element. Several emphasized the need for the UN system to ensure that national efforts are coordinated and complementary for progress towards the universal access goals by 2010 to move forward.
Countries called upon UNAIDS to strengthen HIV prevention programmes to better reflect local realities and provide support for scaling up treatment programmes. Many specifically highlighted the recent dramatic increases in numbers of people on treatment but recognized that if HIV prevention efforts were not stepped up these successes would be difficult to maintain. A point that UNAIDS Executive Director Dr Peter Piot made during the meeting, “We cannot treat out way out of this epidemic. For every two people put on treatment, five are newly infected with HIV. Unless we act now, treatment queues will get longer and it will become more difficult to get anywhere near universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support,” he said.
Participants also recognized AIDS as a public health as well as a development issue needing a multicultural response and stated that the scaling up the AIDS response helps to strengthen health systems. Human rights and gender issues were singled out as imperative to an effective response and leadership and political accountability were underlined as the most important part of the solution.
Meeting and panels summaries are now being finalized and the report on the civil society hearing is being prepared.