International civil society denounce UN meeting on AIDS as a failure

By Henry Neondo

Civil society groups from around the world denounced the final UN
Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, released after marathon negotiations
during the UN High Level meeting on AIDS this week.

”Once more we are disappointed at the failure to demonstrate real
political leadership in the fight against the pandemic”, said The Most Rev.
Njongonkulu Ndungane, the Anglican Archbishop of Capetown.

“Even at this late stage, we call on the world’s political leaders to rise up and meet
the challenges that the pandemic presents and to set ambitious targets at
a national level to guarantee universal access to treatment, care, support
and prevention”.

UN Member States refused to commit to hard targets on funding, prevention,
care and treatment.

They rejected frank acknowledgement that some of the
today’s fastest growing HIV epidemics are happening among injecting and
other drug users, sex workers and men who have sex with men.

“The final outcome document is pathetically weak. It is remarkable at this stage in
the global epidemic that governments can not set the much needed targets
nor can they can name in the document the very people that are most
vulnerable”, said Sisonke Msimang of the African Civil Society Coalition.

”African governments have displayed a stunning degree of apathy,
irresponsibility, and complete disrespect for any of the agreements they
made in the last few months”, said Leonard Okello, Head of HIV/AIDS for
Action Aid International.

He added that the negotiation processes was guided by trading political, economic and other interests of the big and powerful countries rather than the glaring facts and statistics of the global AIDS crisis, seventy percent of which is in Sub-Saharan Africa.

African government delegations reneged on their promises in the 2006 Abuja
Common position agreed to by African Heads of State.

South Africa and Egypt, in particular, took a deliberate decision to oppose the setting of
targets on prevention and treatment, despite the fact that both participated in the Abuja Summit that endorsed ambitious targets to be reached by 2010.

“The continent that is most ravaged by AIDS has demonstrated a complete lack of leadership. It is a sad, sad day as an African to be represented by such poor leadership”, said Omololu Faloubi of the African Civil Society Coalition.

But the African governments were not alone. The United States was particularly damaging to the prospects for a strong declaration.

Throughout the negotiations they moved time and again to weaken language on HIV prevention, low-cost drugs and trade agreements and to eliminate commitments on targets for funding and treatment “death by diplomacy”, said Eric Sawyer, veteran activist and 25-year survivor of HIV/AIDS adding that “hour after hour, my government fought for its own selfish interests rather than for the lives of millions dying needlessly around the globe”,

There has however been a strong recognition in the declaration of the alarming feminization of the pandemic. Commitments were made to ensure that women can exercise their right to have control over their sexuality and to the goal of achieving universal access to reproductive health by

This progress was undermined however by regressive governments. “Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan and Gabon blocked efforts to recognize and act to empower girls to protect themselves from HIV infection”, said Pinar Ilkkaracan, President of Women for Women’s Human Rights.

“Their failure to commit to ensuring access to comprehensive sexuality education for
young people, and promote and protect sexual rights will undermine the
response to the HIV pandemic”.

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