Ending historic session UN Assembly adopts Declaration of Commitment on HIVAIDS

The 16-page Declaration, entitled “Global Crisis – Global Action,” addresses a wide range of issues: leadership; prevention; care, support and treatment; HIV/AIDS and human rights; reducing vulnerability; children; alleviating the disease’s social and economic impact; research and development; HIV/AIDS in conflict and disaster-affected regions; resources, and follow-up.”The HIV/AIDS challenge cannot be met without new, additional and sustained resources,” states the Declaration. It calls for reaching, by 2005, the overall target of $7-$10 billion annual expenditure on the epidemic in low and middle-income countries and those experiencing or at risk of rapid expansion. The text also supports the establishment of a Global HIV/AIDS and Health Fund “to finance an urgent and expanded response to the epidemic based on an integrated approach to prevention, care, support and treatment.” The Declaration calls for the adoption of national strategies and financing plans for fighting HIV/AIDS by 2003. Also by that date, HIV/AIDS priorities should be integrated into the mainstream of development planning. Prevention “must be the mainstay of our response,” the Declaration states. It calls for the establishment of national goals for reducing HIV prevalence rate among people aged 15-24 by 25 per cent by 2005. Prevention targets should be in place by 2003, as should universal precautions in health-care settings to prevent HIV transmission.The Assembly also pledges to ensure, by 2005, “that a wide range of prevention programmes which take account of local circumstances, ethics and cultural values, is available in all countries, particularly the most affected countries.” Those should include education encouraging responsible sexual behaviour, including abstinence and fidelity, as well as expanded access to essential commodities, including condoms and sterile injecting equipment.By 2005, at least 90 per cent of all young men and women aged 15-24 should have access to education and services necessary to develop “the life skills required to reduce their vulnerability to HIV infection.” Also by mid-decade, the HIV prevalence rate among infants should be reduced by 20 per cent. In addition, the Declaration calls for strengthening health care systems and addressing the affordability of HIV-related drugs, including antiretrovirals, by 2003. Concerning human rights, the text calls for legislation to eliminate all forms of discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS and members of vulnerable groups by 2003, and outlines a number of measures geared towards the empowerment of women.On vulnerable groups, the text calls for national strategies, by 2003, to help those at greatest risk to new infection, “as indicated by such factors as the local history of the epidemic, poverty, sexual practices, drug using behaviour, livelihood, institutional location, disrupted social structures and population movements.”In its section on children orphaned and affected by HIV/AIDS, the Declaration sets out a series of measures to help them, including counselling, school enrolment, access to food, shelter and social services, and protection from abuse.The socio-economic impact of AIDS should be addressed, according to the Declaration, through the implementation of national poverty eradication plans which deal with the impact of the pandemic on livelihoods, families and communities. “With no cure for HIV/AIDS yet found, further research and development is crucial,” the Declaration states, calling for increased investment in the search for a vaccine. It also advocates stepped-up research to improve prevention and treatment.Noting that conflict and disaster contribute to the spread of the pandemic, the Declaration calls for AIDS programmes for people destabilized by armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and natural disasters. On follow-up, the text calls for national periodic reviews of progress towards achieving the commitments set out in the Declaration. It also requires the Assembly to consider such progress for at least one full day during its annual sessions. “We recognize and express our appreciation to those who have led the effort to raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and to deal with its complex challenges,” states the Declaration. “We look forward to strong leadership by Governments, and concerted efforts with full and active participation of the United Nations, the entire multilateral system, civil society, the business community and private sector.”

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