General Assembly: 77th Plenary Meeting (Resumed), 75th Session

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08-Jul-2021 02:46:57
Speakers detail national efforts to address HIV/AIDS epidemic, as General Assembly concludes high-level meeting.

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Raising Social Awareness, Strengthening Health Systems among Key Measures

The international community must increase efforts to address the inequalities driving the HIV/AIDS epidemic as the global response to that virus has been hindered by COVID-19 and other crises, Member States told the General Assembly today as it concluded its high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS after taking note of its President’s solemn appeal to observe an Olympic Truce during the upcoming Tokyo Games.

Through that text (document A/75/956), circulated on 6 July, the General Assembly President recalled the ancient Greek tradition of the ekecheira, or Olympic Truce, born in the eighth century B.C., and called upon all warring parties of current armed conflicts around the world “to boldly agree to true mutual ceasefires” for the duration of the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

The Assembly then concluded the general debate of its high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS, having previously adopted a Political Declaration (document A/75/L.95) on 8 June that detailed measures to end the disease as a threat to global public health by 2030. (For background, see Press Release GA/12333.)

In the discussion, Member States highlighted COVID-19’s negative impact on the global HIV/AIDS response, as the coronavirus strained health-care systems around the world — many already weakened by conflict or other crises — and interrupted medical supply chains. Many speakers detailed national efforts to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in light of this challenge, including measures aimed at raising social awareness, fighting discrimination and strengthening domestic health systems to provide necessary services to the most vulnerable.

Member States also stressed the need to tackle inequality — also exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic — as a critical part of the global HIV/AIDS response, which includes assisting key populations that suffer increased vulnerability not only to the virus, but also to the stigmatization associated with it. Many welcomed the language in the Political Declaration to this end, but others urged that the text must comport with national legislation, as well as religious and cultural values.

Like many others, the representative of Guinea pointed out that the COVID-19 crisis in his country — along with that of Ebola — highlighted the weaknesses of the national health system and hindered the domestic HIV response. While the Government has worked to strengthen health institutions, many challenges remain in the form of inequality, poverty and a dependence on external financing to purchase medicine.

“Ultimately, inequalities fuel the HIV pandemic,” emphasized the representative of the Dominican Republic, who noted that, while new HIV infections have been reduced to 1.7 million in 2019, this figure is more than three times higher than the international community’s original goal for 2020. In many countries, key populations still face increased vulnerability to the virus and discrimination based on economic status, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Papua New Guinea’s representative said that his country, for its part, has committed to work with those key populations — including sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people and prisoners — to reduce inequality in accessing health services. He also stressed the need for increased partnership with civil society, community and faith-based organizations and the private sector to strengthen the world’s ability to respond to pandemics.

The representative of Malta, speaking for the LGBTI Core Group, welcomed the United Nations inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in its AIDS-related endeavors, but expressed regret that these individuals, once again, were not explicitly included in the Political Declaration. Discriminatory laws and practices that reinforce intersecting and compounding forms of inequality across demographics must end, she urged.

Iran’s representative joined others in insisting, however, that the implementation of HIV/AIDS policies — including the Political Declaration — must be consistent with national legislation and respect various religious values and cultural backgrounds. He also pointed out that unilateral coercive measures — like those imposed by the United States on his country — are adversely impacting HIV/AIDS responses and health systems by hindering access to medical products and affordable technology.

The representative of Myanmar also pointed out threats to the global AIDS response that go beyond the COVID-19 crisis, stating that the 1 February military coup in his country hindered Government efforts to reduce the risk of HIV infection. Violent and inhumane acts by the military are threatening humanitarian services, and he called on the international community to act immediately to end the military’s brutal conduct towards civilians and health-care personnel.

At the outset of the meeting, the General Assembly observed a moment of silence for the late President of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse, who was killed on 7 July. A formal tribute in the Assembly will be convened at a later date.

Also speaking today in the HIV/AIDS debate were representatives of Sudan, Nepal, Uganda, Saudi Arabia, Panama, Qatar, Hungary, Mali, Kuwait, Lesotho, Belgium, Egypt, Japan and the Bahamas, as well as observers for the Holy See, the International Development Law Organization and the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Civil-society representatives from the United States People Living with HIV Caucus, the Kenya Legal Ethical Network on HIV/AIDS and Johnson and Johnson also delivered statements.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, 21 July, to discuss improving global road safety.
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