The UN General Assembly passed a resolution on June 8, 2016, that outlines the goals of the international effort to battle the global pandemic of HIV/AIDS over the next five years, as well as the long-term goal of extinguishing the virus and syndrome as a public health threat by 2030. The resolution, called the Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS, was passed under the GA’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at a high-level meeting at the UN running through Friday.
The conference joins together international organizations and civil society representatives, the private sector, heads of Government and State, ministers, scientists and researchers, and people living with HIV to collaborate and cooperate on how to meet the targets set out by UNAIDS’s (the Joint UN programme on HIV/AIDS) Fast-Track approach. One of the approach’s primary goals is to end all discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS and to bring new HIV infections under 200,000 worldwide by 2030.
According to Secretary General of the UN Ban Ki-moon, “We have made enormous progress. Since 2000 the global total of people receiving antiretroviral treatment doubled every three to four years, thanks to cheaper drugs, increased competition and new funding. Today, more than 17 million people are being treated, saving millions of lives and billions of dollars.” He added that new infections have declined by 35% since 2000 and that new infections in children have fallen 56 percent in the last 15 years, with Armenia, Belarus, Cuba and Thailand eliminating them completely. The Secretary General stressed that a radical change in policy must be undertaken in the next five years if the world wants to combat the estimated 17.6 million new infections and 11 million premature deaths that will occur between now and 2030.
Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé drew attention to the harmful effects of HIV/AIDS, gender, and sexuality discrimination that must be confronted in this new initiative. “One by one, we are breaking the bonds of stigma, discrimination, prejudice and exclusion. We should work to ensure that no one is left behind because of who they are or who they love,” he said. He continued, “The door of the UN should be open to all. We cannot afford to silence [victims of discrimination’s] voices as we come together to chart a course towards ending the AIDS epidemic.”
President of the General Assembly’s seventieth session Mogens Lykketoft said, “We have to deliver greater global solidarity, bring more resources and spend them more effectively. We have to bring even greater collaboration and partnership, building on the many excellent initiatives created these past two decades aimed at prevention, treatment, care and support.”
One of the new initiatives sponsored by Italy and Germany with the Global Fund, UNAIDS, and DREAM Programme, Community of Sant’Egidio presented their future efforts on June 9, at their side event during the GA’s high-meeting, “Efficient and Effective Responses to AIDS: the Role of (New) Donors, CSO’s and Partners for Sustainable Treatments.”
CSO of DREAM Programme, Community of Sant’Egidio Stefano Orlando explained in his slide show that to get results new projects must have long term planning with a reliable amount of resources. Orlando also underlined the importance of establishing universal test and treatment access to battle the current pandemic. Italy’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Mario Giro attended the event, speaking on behalf of Italy’s efforts against HIV/AIDS.
Giro also spoke at the Plenary Session of the GA high-level meeting, stating, “Working through programs supported by the Global Fund, with a total contribution of over 1 billion dollars to date, Italy, along with other partners, have supported programs to save 17 million lives and are on track to reach 22 million by 2016,” and (referring to Orlando’s presentation) that “Looking at prevention and treatment in a more integrated manner is another key element of our strategy.”
Minister Giro asserted that the SDGs will provide the opportunity of a “holistic and multidimensional approach.” Giro advises the international community to anchor itself on Goal 3 of the SDGs, to ensure healthy lives and wellbeing, but to undertand that addressing HIV/AIDS intersects with other goals such as greater access to education, inclusive growth and societies, fighting inequalities and poverty, and women’s empowerment.
Additionally, Giro addressed the difficulty of shortages of HIV/AIDS medicine: “Italy also recognizes the seriousness of the shortage and stock-outs of medicines especially for those who are most fragile. Broken supply chains, lack or insufficient control by civil society, poor indicators and unsatisfactory emergency response mechanisms are all issues to be addressed with additional emphasis.”
Despite the challenges ahead, Lykketoft left the high-meeting hopeful, highlighting the immensity and reality of the international community’s goal: “Ending the AIDS epidemic would be one of the greatest achievements of our lifetimes. It can be done and it must be done.”