Press Conference on Outcome of General Assembly High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS

10 June 2011

Press Conference on Outcome of General Assembly High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS

10 June 2011
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Outcome of General Assembly High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS


Paul De Lay, Deputy Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) hailed the world body’s expected adoption later today of a comprehensive strategy charting the global response to the deadly virus, including a commitment to halving sexual transmission of HIV by 2015, and a broader pledge to work towards increasing funding to tackle HIV/AIDS to between $22 billion and $24 billion per year by that time.

“The world has rightfully reaffirmed that preventing HIV must be the cornerstone of the AIDS response,” Mr. De Lay said of the Political Declaration to be adopted at the conclusion of the General Assembly’s High-Level Meeting to review the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the 2006 Political Declaration, which opened at Headquarters on Wednesday and concludes later today.  (See also Press Release GA/11093)  “And by urging Member States to deploy treatment for prevention, the world is poised to reap the benefits of this game-changing prevention option,” he added.

The Deputy Director said the Meeting had brought together more than 3,000 people, including 30 world leaders, to chart the path of the global response to AIDS.  The Meeting had not only confirmed the essential role of the United Nations in that response, “[it] intends to bring us to the beginning of the end of AIDS”, he added, thanking the co-facilitators — the Permanent Representatives of Australia and Botswana — who had been instrumental in the drafting of the Political Declaration.  “United Nations Member States have committed to a set of clear, measurable targets.”

Citing several of the Political Declaration’s key points, he said Member States had agreed to reduce HIV transmission among people who inject drugs by 50 per cent by 2015; to ensure that no children would be born with HIV by 2015; to increase universal access to antiretroviral therapy; to get 15 million people onto life-saving treatment by 2015; and to reduce deaths from tuberculosis among people living with HIV by 50 per cent by the same target year.

The Declaration also outlined the urgent need to increase access to HIV services for people most at risk of infection, including men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, and sex workers, he said, expressing hope that its pledge to eliminate gender inequality, gender-based abuse and violence, and to empower women and girls would be fulfilled without delay.  Specifically on the commitment to eliminate new HIV infections in children by 2015, Mr. De Lay said that such a strategy called for leadership as well as stronger actions to protect women and children.  Reaching that goal would halt the 370,000 new HIV infections afflicting children every year and keep mothers alive, he added.

Another “momentous” event this week had been the Security Council’s unanimous adoption of a new resolution that recognized the impact of HIV/AIDS on international peace and security, he recalled.  “It is truly significant and will protect peacekeepers, protect the communities that they interact with and will end violence against women in conflict,” he said.  (See Press Release SC/10272)

Asked about the difficulties encountered during the negotiations on the Political Declaration, in light of Member States’ divergent views on religious, social and cultural values, including with regard to men who have sex with men, sex workers and injecting drug users, Mr. De Lay said the differences of opinion had “definitely” complicated the talks.  “The AIDS epidemic is unique in that it does deal with many areas that are considered controversial; that do affect cultural and in fact social norms.”

While discussions on the contents of the Declaration had begun more than a year ago and many of those issues and been “worked through”, the Deputy Director acknowledged that there had clearly remained some issues to be resolved this week, noting that negotiations had lasted until the “wee hours of the morning” over the last couple of days.  The issues in question included the most at-risk populations, the human rights aspect of the response to AIDS and ensuring access to services for people who were often excluded.  “The AIDS epidemic feeds off exclusion, unlike many other epidemics that we face in the world of communicable diseases,” Mr. De Lay said, adding that questions surrounding basic human rights, behaviours and risk reduction were among the issues with which some communities still had trouble.

Asked about the commitment to halve sexual transmission of HIV by 2015, he said that while the particulars of the pandemic might vary from one country to the next, “game-changing research” now showed that people on antiretroviral drugs and adhering to their treatment schedules were far less infectious than those not taking treatment.  Ultimately, there was a need to consider how to balance biomedical interventions, and how antiretroviral drugs could be used for prevention as well as treatment.

Responding to another question about controversial sticking points during the negotiations, including concerted efforts by Egypt, Uganda and the Holy See to remove specific language on reproductive health, adolescent sex and sexual education, Mr. De Lay said he had been working in the AIDS field since the early 1980s and it was filled with such controversies that really touched on people’s daily lives and values.  “It touches on religion, it touches on cultural values — it is controversial; it will always be controversial,” he added.  Overall, however, “we feel that it is an excellent document”.  The Declaration did indeed mention sexual education for youth, he said.  “Clearly it does not include every possible thing that we would like to see in it, but we feel that this is strong enough and comprehensive enough to truly take us forward for the next decade.”

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.