100th Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 70th Session

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09-Jun-2016 03:19:52
Eradicating AIDS by 2030 requires balanced prevention, treatment, care policies, speakers say as High-Level General Assembly Meeting continues with 100th plenary of General Assembly 70th Session.

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With 20 Million Still Lacking Antiretrovirals, States Call for Continued International Support to Complement National Efforts.

With 2 million people newly infected with HIV/AIDS last year and more than 20 million still lacking antiretroviral treatment, eradicating the disease by 2030 would require the right mix of prevention, treatment and care policies, speakers in the General Assembly said today amid calls for continued international support to complement national funding.

As the high-level plenary meeting on ending AIDS moved into its second day, Government speakers from around the world shared their support for the “Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS: On the Fast-Track to Accelerate the Fight against HIV and to End the AIDS Epidemic by 2030”, adopted by consensus at the 8 June opening of the three-day meeting. The diverse and complex challenges demanded effective coordination of Government, civil society, the private sector and others, they said, as well as innovative financing solutions.

For many, those needs were greatest around the “90-90-90” goal — set by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) — to have 90 per cent of children screened, 90 per cent in treatment and 90 per cent viral suppression by 2020.

To make that point, Vu Duc Dam, Deputy Prime Minister of Viet Nam, introduced Lu Thi Thanh, a woman living with HIV, noting that the healthy birth of her daughter was a miracle made possible by an internationally financed project, in partnership with the local government and community. While Viet Nam had been the first country in Asia to commit to the 90-90-90 targets, it nonetheless required support and he urged delegates to respond with “100-100-100 per cent commitment”.

That call was echoed by a number of delegations, including Terrence Deyalsingh, Minister for Health of Trinidad and Tobago, who said the collapse of global energy prices had presented challenges for testing people in high-risk or stigmatized groups. The proposed “test and treat” model for achieving the 90-90-90 targets would require sustained funding and his country was counting on continued support.

Recognizing that the first “90” was essential to achieving the other two “90s”, Nila F. Moeloek, Minister for Health of Indonesia, stressed the need to expand services to hard-to-reach populations, such as men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, injection drug users, adolescents and young people. Indonesia’s harm-reduction programme, among the first in the region, had led to reduced HIV prevalence among injection drug users, to 29 per cent in 2015 from 42 per cent in 2011.

Francis Kasaila, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Malawi, while acknowledging many challenges, said various successes had given cause for optimism to reach the 90-90-90 targets, including the Option B+ programme for HIV-positive pregnant and lactating women and their partners. Malawi had also increased domestic resource investment for HIV programmes to 14 per cent in 2015 from 1.7 per cent in 2010.

Other speakers said resilient health systems were a prerequisite for ending AIDS. Bernice Dahn, Minister for Health and Social Welfare of Liberia, said the Ebola epidemic had shut down routine delivery of primary services, including for HIV/AIDS. Without resilient systems, disease-specific programmes would fail to withstand a crisis, she said.

“We need to think holistically about how to build health systems that will support and enable quality HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, instead of funding vertical programmes without sustainable foundations,” she asserted.

Abdourahmane Diallo, Minister for Health of Guinea, said the Ebola epidemic had revealed weaknesses in the health system, causing a drop in voluntary HIV/AIDS testing and prenatal consultations, during which mother-to-child transmission was identified. Technical and financial support was needed to meet the 90-90-90 targets, as was local funding for the production of treatment and research for a vaccine.

Still others focused on the “feminization” of HIV/AIDS, with Moumina Houmed Hassan, Minister for Women and Family of Djibouti, providing a national example that 4,900 of a total 9,900 citizens living with HIV/AIDS were women. She urged rethinking strategies with strict respect for social, cultural and religious values.

On that point, Omar Sey, Minister for Health and Social Welfare of Gambia, said his country had banned female genital mutilation and domesticated gender equality in line the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol). Women had better health-seeking behaviour than men, which had reduced the number of babies born with HIV. They also played a lead role in economic growth and could be an engine for ending poverty, which was a root cause of HIV/AIDS.

Often, different forms of inequality went hand in hand, said Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development and Cooperation of the Netherlands. Rape victims, for example, often were at higher risk of being HIV infected because they were often poor, as were their rapists, and likely to die from a lack of access to therapy. She urged placing women above cultural beliefs and recognizing their rights.

Nazira Vali Abdula, Minister for Health of Mozambique, stressed that the role of men was critical, as data had shown that few knew their HIV status or were receiving treatment. “We have to find ways for greater involvement of men in prevention, care and treatment,” she observed.

Also today, the Assembly held two panel discussions, the first of which was on the theme, “getting ahead of the looming treatment crisis: an action agenda for reaching 90-90-90”, and the second on the theme of, “leaving no one behind: ending stigma and discrimination through social justice and inclusive societies”.

Also speaking in the plenary debate today were ministers and other senior officials of the Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), El Salvador, Cyprus, Guyana, Benin, Myanmar, Angola, Malawi, France, Barbados, Senegal, Niger, Republic of Moldova, Papua New Guinea, Jamaica, Philippines, Nigeria, Malta, Antigua and Barbuda, South Africa, Suriname, Madagascar, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Saudi Arabia (on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council), Japan, Norway, United States, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Panama, Italy, Paraguay, Argentina, Switzerland, Poland, Ecuador, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Kyrgyzstan, Dominican Republic, Egypt, United Republic of Tanzania, Pakistan, United Kingdom, China and Chile.

The high-level meeting will continue at 10 a.m. on Friday, 10 June.
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