2008 United Nations High-Level Meeting on AIDS

(posted 07/07/2008)


2008 United Nations High-Level Meeting on AIDS took place on 10 - 11 June at the UN Headquarters in New York. The meeting attracted high-level participation from UN member states, who alongside representatives from civil society and UN agencies came together to review progress made towards reaching the goal of providing universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010. The United Nations Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon presented the report on progress in implementing the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the 2006 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS. During the meeting countries highlighted the significant progress made in the areas of resource mobilization, increased political commitment and participation of civil society in the response. The need for greater accountability, particularly in relation to funds spent, the lack of effective programming directed to populations which are especially vulnerable to the disease, and the continued criminalization of related behaviours were some of the challenges highlighted by countries and civil society. Many specifically pointed at the recent dramatic increases in number of people on treatment but recognized that if HIV prevention efforts were not stepped up, these successes would be difficult to maintain. UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot said: "For every two people put on treatment, five are newly infected with HIV. Unless we act now, treatment queues will get longer and longer, and it will become more and more difficult to get anywhere near universal access to antiretroviral therapy."

Representatives of civil society organizations addressed Member States and observers in an interactive hearing entitled Action for Universal Access 2010: Myths and Realities . Civil society speakers addressed issues related to achieving universal access from a number of different perspectives such as HIV and human rights, sex workers, sexual minorities, people who use drugs, women and girls, children, access to treatment, HIV-related travel restrictions, mobility and migration, workplace responses and civil society involvement and AIDS accountability.

Five panel discussions took place to examine critical linkages between the response to AIDS and long-term development, gender equity, financing of the response to AIDS and other issues. Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of UNODC gave a presentation in the panel "Challenges of providing leadership and political support in countries with concentrated epidemics". The panel focused on HIV and human rights and how to reach stigmatized, hard to reach and vulnerable populations.

Maret Maripuu, Minister of Social Affairs of Estonia gave a presentation in the panel "AIDS: A Multigenerational Challenge - Providing Robust and Long Term Response". In the statement to the high-level meeting the Minister reaffirmed Estonia's commitment to continue prevention activities, including harm reduction services, and to provide access to the best available ARV treatment.

AIDS Strategy and Action Plan (ASAP) service, hosted by the World Bank on behalf of UNAIDS organized a side-event Supporting Countries in Strengthening National AIDS Strategies. The objective of the meeting was to share experience in helping partners to prepare evidence-based, results-focused, costed AIDS strategies and action plans in order to enhance the effectiveness of their response to the epidemic. Signe Rotberga, UNODC Regional Coordinator for the Baltic States, presented UN experience in supporting the Government of Latvia in development of national HIV strategy.

More information about the 2008 UN High-Level Meeting on AIDS on the official website http://www.un.org/ga/aidsmeeting2008/

UNODC Project Office for the Baltic States supported participation of Igor Sobolev, a representative of the Estonian Network of People Living with HIV in the 2008 UN High-Level Meeting on AIDS.

Igor Sobolev:

Before and during UNGASS 2008 members of civil society collected signatures to a letter to the UN missions and Heads of State of countries that impose travel restrictions on people living with HIV. Members of civil society condemn such restrictions as discriminatory and in contradiction to the commitments made through the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the 2006 Political Declaration.

On the 9 th of June, Civil Society Task Force held a civil society pre-meeting and orientation. This meeting provided an opportunity for civil society participants to come together prior to the High-Level Meeting and strategize around key messages and issues to be raised at the High-Level Meeting on AIDS. Civil society caucuses were organized also on 10 - 11 June to share information and jointly strategize throughout the High-Level Meeting.

During Civil Society Hearing which took place on June 10 th civil society speakers made brief interventions. The remaining hour were spent for dialogue with governments and other civil society members.

An important side event took place on 9 th of June - the First HIV/TB Global Leaders' Forum at UN Headquarters, which attracted a packed conference room of country delegations, civil society and the private sector was a landmark event. This was the first time heads of government, public health and business leaders, heads of UN agencies and activists came together to seek a common way forward on confronting HIV/TB.

The Forum was convened by the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Stop TB, Dr Jorge Sampaio, and endorsed by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The Forum was opened by Dr Sampaio and Mr Srgjan Kerim, President of the UN General Assembly; the UN Secretary-General; and William J. Clinton, founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation and former President of the United States. Dr Sampaio urged participants to see The Call for Action on HIV/TB, circulated for comments in the weeks before the Forum, as a living document. In his closing remarks, he stressed the need for partnership and coordination. Partnership is needed at every level, he said, to save millions of lives. "The Forum's theme One Life - Two Diseases - One Response should serve as an inspiration to all of us. I firmly believe this Forum is a watershed event that will galvanize bold new leadership on HIV/TB."


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