Monday, July 10, 2006

The UN High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS: A Review and Discussion of Next Steps

Friday, June 16, 2006 9:30 AM – 11:00 AM

Moderator: Ellen Marshall, International Women’s Health Coalition
Speakers: Naina Dhingra, Advocates for Youth
Beri Hull, International Community of Women Living With HIV/AIDS
Michael Kink, Housing Works
Asia Russell, Health GAP

On Friday, June 16th, the UN Foundation sponsored “The UN High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS: A Review and Discussion of Next Steps.” The event hosted four representatives who actively took part in the UN High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS which was held over three days in early June. The meeting itself brought together the international community, civil society, NGOs, the government, and the private sector to the UN in New York on to review and discuss the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS. Their meeting discussed strategies towards achieving the targets set forth, revised certain implementation strategies in achieving these targets, and renewed political commitment to these goals.
The four representatives reviewing The UN High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS discussed the accomplishments and shortcomings of the meeting, as well as suggested strategies to continue working towards the goal of achieving universal access both domestically and globally. The main accomplishments that the representatives saw in the meeting were the opportunity that civil society had to impact the political declaration and to force political leaders to seriously address the necessity for universal healthcare. Through lobbying and media publicity, they were able to make some change in what they saw as an inefficient meeting that skirted around the controversial themes of HIV/AIDS, in forms of treatment, prevention, and care. While they all agreed that there was a heightened awareness by the end of the meeting within the political realm in seeing that HIV/AIDS is a huge epidemic that needs to be dealt with in concrete terms, there were still many problems that resulted from the meeting.
The primary issues were in each government representative’s lack of knowledge about the goals of each nation, the rampant spread of HIV/AIDS in each nation, the current state of HIV/AIDS in each nation, and the policies already set forth and agreed upon in the 2001 Declaration. The negotiators often had no background on the HIV/AIDS issue which made it all the more difficult for any new political declaration to be drafted. In the end, the different government had to go line-by-line through the entire political declaration drafted because of the widespread objections to specific clauses and wordings. This resulted in a watered down political declaration, much less impressive than the original 2001 declaration.
The representatives were especially frustrated with the US. The US weakened the document in many instances and their main priorities were in making sure that fiscal targets were not present in the final document and that drug companies would approve. The meeting was politically stratified and the US often allied with Syria and the Vatican on issues concerning prevention and care. This frustrated many of the NGO groups who were disgusted by the political motivations that developed.
The representatives were clear in their perspective that the final document wasn’t bad enough to walk out of, but wasn’t good enough to be pleased about. They did praise the UN for its ability to bring world governments together to address this important issue and in their allowance of civil society to attend the meeting. They were also particularly pleased with Kofi Annan’s presence in demanding a more concrete declaration than the initial draft.

by Rebecca Bonardi

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