27 June 2001


Press Briefing


The International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO) endorsed the General Assembly special session's Declaration of Commitment, despite its failure explicitly to name homosexuals and sex workers as vulnerable groups, Richard Burzynski, the council's executive director said at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

Responding to a correspondent's question, he said ICASO would have preferred explicit language, but the absence of it would not slow the Council down.  "The entire world knows who vulnerable groups are.  Funders and donors in many countries who do not agree with this are still working with those populations", he added.

Mr. Burzynski said the topic became the most hotly contested issue of the special session.  Never before had there been a discussion and dialogue among countries vehemently opposed to explicit language having to defend their position before the whole world.  "We've been able to advance the discussion and we hope that 10 years from now it will have moved a little bit further ahead", he added.

But he noted that 10 years ago, the discussion would not have been possible.  "We wouldn't have seen some of the so-called progressive countries even being able to mention it", he said.  "It took a learning curve for progressive countries to get to this point, and there will be another learning curve for other countries with the kinds of constraints they have in front of them to get to that level."

Stu Flavell, acting international coordinator for the Global Network of People Living with AIDS, said that while the network was not yet prepared to endorse the Declaration formally, it supported the General Assembly's effort.  The network was committed to fostering the hope of HIV/AIDS-positive people regarding the special session process.

Mr. Flavell said the network was also committed to using the Declaration to advance concrete actions in service of the lives of people living with the disease, those of their families and their communities.  It would work to ensure accountability for commitments made during the session and to create a foundation for a real opportunity to turn the world towards confronting the epidemic.

Leslie Wright, representative of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts at the United Nations, stressed the need for a more tolerant approach to the backgrounds of all kinds of people.  It was vital to move forward in preventing further infections, whether among the gay population, young people or married women.

"We need to prevent that next case from occurring", she said.  "The real tragedy is the fact that the disease continues to spread and that we can't get the word out".  More than 50 per cent of people with AIDS were women and there was a very fast-growing population among young people.

Ms. Wright said her association was in favour of the Declaration, despite previous fears of a possible redrafting of the language on gender.  The organization would make the agreed language work for women and girls.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.