[with CART] (6th meeting) 2021 High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS (8-10 June 2021)

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10-Jun-2021 02:26:20
Current battle to end COVID-19 pandemic must not cost war against HIV/AIDS, speakers warn General Assembly on day three of high-level meeting.

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Elton John Urges Countries to Learn from Past, Not Let Fear of HIV/AIDS Discourage Science, Rights-Based Policies That Leave No One Behind

Warning that the international community must not let its current battle against COVID-19 cost its war against HIV/AIDS, world leaders detailed national efforts to tackle the threat to public health posed by one virus despite the shocks reverberating from the other, as the General Assembly continued its high‑level meeting on HIV/AIDS today.

Elton John, Founder of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, in a pre-recorded video address, said that, 40 years ago, HIV/AIDS was met with denial, fear and blame, consequently spreading unchecked across countries and continents. Advocating for science-based responses and rights-based laws and policies that leave no one behind, he called on world leaders to turn the high-level meeting’s Political Declaration adopted on Tuesday — which spells out measures to stop the disease in its tracks by 2030 — into bold, concrete action.

He also urged countries to “look beyond the fear that prompts us to judge or control others” and resist punishing people for who they love, encourage them to love safely and find the resources to make effective interventions universally available. While humanity focuses on stopping the COVID-19 pandemic, it must not give up its fight against HIV/AIDS.

“Let us learn the lessons of the past and not repeat them,” he stressed. Pointing to the imminent meeting between the Group of Seven (G7) countries, he called for investments in community-led organizations and health systems to defeat both AIDS and COVID-19 and better prepare for future pandemics.

In the debate that followed, health ministers and other senior officials from around the world championed the importance of science-driven approaches that respond to the needs of the most vulnerable in order to meet global targets for ending the threat HIV/AIDS poses to public health by 2030, despite the constraints imposed by COVID-19.

Olivier Véran, Minister for Solidarity and Health of France, warned that allowing the COVID-19 crisis to crowd out the global HIV/AIDS response would be catastrophic, calling for redoubled efforts to support the most vulnerable populations and defend human rights around the globe. The current pandemic has not only compromised the provision of critical medical services and deepened existing inequality — it has led to a “dangerous questioning of the scientific word”.

Governments can use lessons learned from addressing the AIDS epidemic to inform their response to the current crisis, said Mereseini Wakolo Rakuita, Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation of Fiji, directing national efforts to preserve confidentiality, ensure adequate testing and contact‑tracing and communicate risk appropriately. Despite Fiji’s progress in ending the AIDS epidemic, however, international support is needed as underlying drivers like inequality threaten national responses to both HIV/AIDS and COVID-19.

International support is particularly needed, stressed Guy Patrick Obiang Ndong, Minister for Health of Gabon, in developing countries, where the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has weakened national abilities to combat HIV/AIDS. While the Government works to provide critical health services and combat gender inequality, the global response to HIV/AIDS will ultimately determine the international community’s success in achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Other countries took the floor to stress that the Political Declaration must be sensitive to national concerns and priorities.

Alymkadyr Beishenaliev, Minister for Health and Social Development of Kyrgyzstan, said that some of the measures proposed in the Declaration are not in line with national policy on sexual relations or the family. While his country was the first in the Central Asia region to provide HIV services for certain vulnerable groups, the Government does not anticipate the legalization of sex work, drug use or same-sex marriage.

Abderrahmane Benbouzid, Minister for Health, Population and Hospital Reform of Algeria, concurred, urging that the important principle of State sovereignty be enshrined in all global agreements on HIV/AIDS. Algeria, for its part, works to strengthen its fight against HIV in line with its own laws and priorities, addressing the needs of affected populations with national specificity.

At the close of the meeting, the Assembly also heard summaries of four of the five thematic panel discussions it convened over the course of its high-level meeting, in which participants underscored the need to invest in health systems, promote community leadership, end gender inequality and restore HIV services interrupted by COVID-19.

The meeting was then suspended.

Also speaking today were ministers and other senior officials from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Bhutan, Slovenia, Republic of Korea, Ukraine, Nauru, Mauritius, Germany, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, El Salvador, Chile, Bahrain, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, India, the United States, Angola, Azerbaijan, Chad, Djibouti, Mexico, Marshall Islands, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Maldives, Sweden, Guyana, Canada and the Russian Federation.

The Assembly will reconvene in plenary at 10 a.m., on Friday, 11 June, to take up elections of non-permanent members of the Security Council and take up the Council’s report as well as the confirmation of the appointment of the Secretary‑General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

It will then meet at 3 p.m. to resume the general debate on HIV/AIDS and close its high-level meeting on the topic.

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