|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-seventh General Assembly
85th Meeting (AM)
More Concerted Action, Greater Urgency Could Make Eradication of HIV/AIDS
Possible, General Assembly Told as It Concludes Review
Delegates Deplore Gaps in Funding, Call for End of Pandemic-linked Bias, Stigma
The fact that AIDS was “no longer a certain death sentence” proved that by working together and scaling up urgency and commitment, the international community stood a chance of ridding the world of the epidemic, the representative of the United States said today, as the General Assembly concluded its implementation review of the Declaration of Commitment and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS.
“What a difference a decade can make,” she said, recalling that 10 years ago, AIDS had been “wiping out” people across the globe. At the time, hospitals were overwhelmed and patients could not receive the treatment and medicine they desperately needed. During those years, millions of parents had died from AIDS, leaving behind a generation of orphans, many of whom were unable to afford to attend school, a development that threatened the very foundation of society.
Since then, dozens of low- to middle-income countries had seen success in terms of providing treatment, and HIV/AIDS rates had declined drastically, she said, cautioning, however, that “we have not yet finished the job”. Progress was being reversed in many countries, and HIV remained the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age in low- and middle- income ones.
Indeed, Kyrgyzstan’s representative said, the number of infected people in his country had grown in recent years, the most affected groups being injecting drug users, women living with HIV and children born to HIV-infected mothers. Echoing that sentiment, Indonesia’s representative expressed concern that, although his Government had engaged civil society and taken steps to promote HIV prevention and treatment, the cumulative number of reported HIV infections in Indonesia had risen sharply over the last five years. The epidemic was concentrated among key affected populations and usually transmitted through sex and drug use. About 186,000 people were infected with HIV and 6.5 million were at risk, according to national estimates.
The representative of Trinidad and Tobago stressed that changing behaviour was a key factor in reducing the number of new infections. Women and girls faced a greater risk of infection due to gender-based violence, sexual abuse, early marriage, sexual partnerships with men who had sex with men, and prostitution. Therefore, further action was needed to address existing male gender norms that encouraged and even condoned high-risk behaviour, she said, emphasizing the critical importance of making the connection between sexual abuse and HIV programmes.
Several delegates stressed that, with affordable treatment for those already infected as well as education and preventative tools and services for vulnerable populations, the world could possibly create an “AIDS-free generation”. Brazil’s representative said that was why her country’s struggle against AIDS paid special attention to young people. Sexual and reproductive health was taught in schools, enabling and promoting discussion of such issues within entire communities, including students, parents, teachers and health officials. Many schools distributed condoms and other preventive and educational materials to enable young Brazilians to make informed decisions. It was discrimination, stigma and limited access to education and health materials that made populations vulnerable, she said.
Zambia’s representative said religious groups had been taken on board because they could play an important role in combating stigma, while programmes to raise awareness and tackle discrimination had been designed for school, college and university curricula, as well as for businesses. Despite acceptance of the notion that “if you are not infected, you are affected”, he acknowledged that some individuals still harboured negative attitudes to those living with HIV and AIDS.
Several delegates also stressed that people’s health was paramount, stressing that affordable medication and treatment was critical. Malawi’s representative, speaking on behalf of President Joyce Banda in her capacity as Co-Chairperson of the UNAIDS and Lancet Commission, said that access to treatment must change “from vertical to horizontal”, emphasizing that people in the global South should never die of AIDS when it had been reduced to a non-life threatening disease in the North.
Also speaking today were representatives of Myanmar, Argentina, Jamaica, and South Africa.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 12 June, to hold a thematic debate on culture and development.
The General Assembly met this morning to conclude its review of “Implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declarations on HIV/AIDS”.
TALAIBEK KYDYROV ( Kyrgyzstan) said his country still had a low prevalence rate, but in recent years, the number of infected people had grown. The most affected groups were injecting drug users, women living with HIV and children born to HIV-infected mothers. The Government had taken decisive steps, such as approving a State programme covering the period 2012-2016 to stabilize the epidemic and mitigate its socioeconomic consequences. Considerable attention was paid to strengthening the health system and, in that regard, a national plan for monitoring and evaluating implementation of the State programme had been adopted. Additionally, the objectives of the 2011 Political Declaration had been incorporated into the National Programme of Health Care Reform, 2012-2016, he said, adding that the latter’s main funding sources were the State budget and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis And Malaria. With coordination by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), non-governmental organizations had carried out a substantial part of the work, which accounted for 30 per cent of the funds allocated by the Global Fund.
KYAW TIN (Myanmar) said that tackling AIDS was a priority of his country’s National Health Plan, with a strategic plan in place for the period 2011-2015, having been formulated to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Three strategic priorities were preventing HIV transmission through unsafe sex or contaminated needles, comprehensive care for those living with HIV, and mitigating the effects of infection on people living with the virus and their families. While prevalence was declining, those who injected drugs maintained a comparatively high prevalence. More financial resources were needed to fill a major gap in the prevention programme, he noted. Myanmar sought new partners to help with that effort. If the country received sufficient resources to provide life-long antiretroviral medications for HIV-positive mothers, it would be possible to eliminate new infections in children, he said, adding that the National TB Programme would test 129,000 tuberculosis patients for HIV by 2016.
MELISSA ANN MARIE BOISSIERE (Trinidad and Tobago), associating herself with CARICOM, said her country was implementing a new national strategic plan to fight HIV/AIDS by focusing on five priority areas: prevention, treatment, advocacy, strategic information and policy management. Despite considerable progress there was still room for improvement, especially in terms of behavioural change, a key factor in reducing the number of new infections. Providing young people with access to comprehensive knowledge about HIV was critical in enabling them to make informed decisions and choices about sexual behaviour.
Turning to mother-to-child transmission, she said there had been an increase in the percentage of HIV-positive women receiving antiretroviral treatment from 68 per cent to nearly 86 per cent between 2006 and 2011, due to campaigns aimed at ensuring that women were tested during pregnancy. Women and girls faced a greater risk of infection due to gender-based violence, sexual abuse, early marriage, sexual partnerships with men who had sex with men, and prostitution, she continued. Further action was needed to address existing male gender norms that encouraged and even condoned high-risk behaviour. Making the connection between sexual abuse and HIV programmes was also critical, she said, underscoring the importance of sustainable financing to facilitate a continuing and effective HIV response, as well as the role of civil society and the private sector in identifying more efficient ways of using existing resources and creative means to attract new funding.
CHARLES P. MSOSA (Malawi), speaking on behalf of President Joyce Banda, Co-Chairperson of the new UNAIDS and Lancet Commission, said that body’s “battle cry” was moving the world from HIV/AIDS to sustainable health. To achieve that overarching goal required a concerted effort by all, he said, adding that access to treatment should change from vertical to horizontal. People in the global South should never die of AIDS when it had been reduced to a non-life threatening disease in the North. Developed countries should help to pool enough resources for the Global Fund, which had contributed much to making treatment available. Developing countries, in turn, should prioritize the health sector and fulfil domestic funding needs.
He said the Commission would explore cheap ways to manufacture antiretroviral drugs and make them available to resource-constrained countries, calling on the United Nations community to resoundingly welcome the new entity. Informed by a diverse group of HIV and health experts, young people, activists and political leaders, while drawing on insights gained from online crowd-sourcing and engagement with constituencies, the Commission would deliberate on strategies to ensure that the vision of zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths could be realized in the coming decades.
MARIA CRISTINA PERCEVAL ( Argentina), emphasizing that the right to health took precedence over commercial rights, and that intellectual property rights should not prevent access to health care, called for flexibility in the implementation of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) and the Doha Declaration on TRIPs and Public Health. There had been “significant progress” in tackling HIV/AIDS, including the provision of universal access to integrated health care for people living with it. Argentina hoped to improve access to medication, she said, describing how the first World Health Organization (WHO) Meeting of the Member State mechanism on Substandard/spurious/falsely-labelled/falsified/counterfeit medical products demonstrated the commitment of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) to provide safe, high-quality and affordable drugs to those in need.
COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), associating himself with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that since the implementation of a national strategy to combat the pandemic, the number of people with AIDS had risen by 17 per cent while deaths from the disease had dropped by 40 per cent. At the same time, the 12-month survival of persons initiating treatment in 2009 and 2010 was 86 per cent and 73 per cent, respectively. The number of HIV tests carried out annually had more than doubled, from less than 100,000 per year before 2004 to over 258,000 in 2011. Overall, the HIV profile had shifted from a generalized epidemic to one largely concentrated in key populations. The greatest progress had been made in reducing mother-to-child transmission and tuberculosis deaths among persons living with HIV, he said. However, closing the resource gap and eliminating stigma and discrimination required more focused intervention. Jamaica had initiated a multi-layered media campaign targeting youth, women and men as well as the tourism sector. Community-level interventions incorporated a multi-stakeholder approach so as to increase access to relevant public and financial services. However, that success was threatened by the high cost of treatment, which was primarily funded through international grants.
DESRA PERCAYA ( Indonesia) said his country was fully committed to achieving the 10 specific targets for 2015, as articulated by UNAIDS. For the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report, the agency had stipulated 30 indicators to measure progress in the response to HIV/AIDS. Additionally, the Government had engaged civil society as well as other key stakeholders and policy approaches for HIV prevention and treatment. Still, over the last five years, the cumulative number of reported HIV infections in Indonesia had risen sharply, he said. The epidemic was concentrated among key affected populations and usually transmitted through sex and drug use. According to national estimates, about 186,000 people were infected with HIV and 6.5 million were at risk. In response to those challenges, the Government had developed a plan to keep HIV/AIDS high on the national development agenda, but in order to get to zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero-AIDS related deaths, the global community must renew and sustain its commitment and solidarity, he stressed.
TERRI ROBL (United States) recalled that 10 years ago AIDS had been “wiping out” individuals across the globe amid overwhelmed hospitals and patients who were not receiving the treatment they needed. Millions of deaths had created millions of orphans, many of them unable to afford to go to school, which threatened the very foundation of society. “What a difference a decade can make,” she said, noting the approach of the tenth anniversary of former President George W. Bush’s emergency plan for AIDS relief (PEPFAR), the largest commitment by any nation to combat a disease. AIDS was no longer a certain death sentence, she said, highlighting successes in treatment and the significant strides made in dozens of low- to middle-income countries in which HIV/AIDS rates had been halved. That was proof that, working together and by scaling up urgency and commitment, the world could end the epidemic. However, “we have not yet finished the job”, she cautioned. Progress was being reversed in many countries, and HIV remained the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age in low- and middle-income ones. Creating an AIDS-free generation was a shared responsibility requiring the continued leadership of all countries as well as the active participation of the private sector and civil society. To achieve sustainable health systems, countries must be equipped to “turn the tide against” HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, she said, adding that the United States Government had pledged $1.6 billion to the Global Fund.
CLAUDIA ASSAF BASTOS REBELLO (Brazil) said the fight against AIDS in her country paid particular attention to young people. Sexual and reproductive health was taught in schools, enabling and promoting discussion of such issues within entire communities, including students, parents, teachers and health officials. Many schools distributed condoms and other preventive and educational materials to enable young Brazilians to make informed decisions. Discrimination and limited access to education and health materials made populations vulnerable to AIDS, she said, adding that the struggle against HIV/AIDS was also aimed overcoming the challenges of financial constraints in respect of public health. In that regard, she said people’s health and well-being must always prevail over financial interests, stressing that affordable medication and treatment was critical. Brazil supported horizontal cooperation that would enable developed countries to provide assistance to low-income ones. The recent budget challenges faced by entities dedicated to eliminating AIDS could only be resolved if the industrialized countries continued to keep pledged funds and resources flowing, she added.
JEREMIAH NYAMANE KINGSLEY MAMABOLO (South Africa), associating himself with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Group, said AIDS would remain a major global challenge and must be emphasized in the post-2015 development agenda. International and bilateral partnerships were vital, as were human rights protection and ending stigma and discrimination, such as the travel restrictions imposed by some countries. Boosting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls required the free exercise of reproductive rights and better access to quality health care and education. South Africa had strengthened and integrated its health-care systems and established social-protection systems to provide grants to people living with AIDS, he said. To reduce mother-to-child transmissions, pregnant women and their newborns had access to prophylaxis, and there had been significant increases in the number of health facilities providing antiretroviral drugs.
SILVESTER MWANZA (Zambia), associating himself with SADC and the African Group, said that fighting stigma was part of his country’s 2002-2005 Strategic Intervention Plan and the 2005-2010 National AIDS Strategic Framework. Religious groups had been taken on board because they could play an important role in combating stigma, while programmes to raise awareness and tackle discrimination had been designed for school, college and university curricula, as well as for businesses. Despite acceptance of the notion that “if you are not infected, you are affected”, he acknowledged that some individuals still harboured negative attitudes to those living with HIV and AIDS. However, he expressed alarm over the figures contained in the “People living with HIV stigma index” of a study carried out by UNAIDS, saying the information was “not a true reflection of the reality” in Zambia. The sample size raised questions about objectivity, representativeness and the overall validity of the study. He urged UNAIDS to work with the Government because exclusion would always lead to a “lopsided picture”. He also recommended the deletion of references to Zambia in respect of violence against people living with HIV and AIDS, saying he would write to UNAIDS to ensure that corrective measures were taken.
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