Report from the UN AIDS meeting

This is an extract from a longer article by the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle on the recent UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDSs. Albert writes,

“Whenever AIDS is part of the equation, the United Nations is working to be part of the solution,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his remarks to the meeting. “Now we understand that UN troops and police are part of prevention, treatment and care.”

…Reaction to the Political Declaration on AIDS and three days of deliberations remains mixed. For many who attended the 2001 and 2006 UNAIDS Summits, this one lacked the urgency and optimism of the previous two.

The Global Fund for AIDS and significant measurable targets through the Millennium Development Goals were all created at these previous gatherings. The goal of providing “universal access” was inspirationally created by al 174 member states. By the time diplomats gathered in New York to reflect on what had been learned and data of the previous years analyzed, it was clear many of the issues that needed to be addressed at this years summit were seen as highly controversial i.e. dealing with care and prevention efforts for men who have sex with men (MSM), sex workers and IV drug users. Global South delegates felt this was a Global North (activist) agenda.

…Religious extremists also attempted to derail important civil society dialogue with the diplomats and politicians by submitting their own annotated forms of the draft Declaration.

In one case, the Arizona-based Family Watch International held a weekend retreat earlier this year for 30 delegations where all references to LGBT people and MSM were replaced by an their explicit emphasis on “behaviors” that needed healing. This is consistent with so called “ex-gay” therapy where the case is made for non recognition of LGBT issues that are only seen as manifestations of sexual illness. Fortunately, FWI’s recommendations were not incorporated into the final document.

…On the more positive side, the Declaration did set clear targets for reducing HIV by 50% by 2015 and the elimination of vertical transmission from mother to child.

The document also called for closing the gap between funds and needed resources, estimated to be $6 billion a year and greater Global “North South” cooperation as well as a distinctly new emphasis on “South -South” co-operation.

Leaders called on the need to strongly overcome stigma and discrimination, but did not go far enough to acknowledge the damage and insurmountable challenges that existing legislation and societal attitudes towards populations presently excluded from prevention education and health care delivery…..

The Declaration is a simply a photograph of who and where we are in 2011 and our reaction to it will determine the success or failure of our common struggle with AIDS. I am hopeful, as was the case 30 years ago, the Declaration will create millions of global activists, new civil society organizations to meet unmet needs and new partnerships with the religious community to “heal without judgment.”

Read the entire piece here.

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle

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