The United Nations General Assembly has slammed a statement calling for urgent action to end AIDS by 2030, noting “with alarm” that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequality and pushed back ‘access to medicines, treatments and the diagnosis of AIDS further.
The statement made late Tuesday contains targets for countries to reach 95 percent of those in risk groups with HIV prevention options and to provide 95 percent of those who know they have HIV with treatment.
It was adopted with 165 votes in favor and four against, following objections to the text from four countries: Russia, Belarus, Nicaragua and Syria.
“In the midst of the downfall of the COVID crisis, we may also see a resurgent pandemic,” Winnie Byanyima, executive director of UNAIDS, told the high-level meeting in New York.
“But an endless HIV pandemic is not our destiny,” he continued. “Despite all the odds, we can end AIDS as a threat to public health by 2030 as we promised, if the world unites.”
Russia has failed in its attempt to remove the language, it said it has pushed countries to decriminalize prostitution and drug use.
Russia told the General Assembly that under the “cover” of the fight against discrimination several paragraphs “attempt to directly interfere with national legislation by repealing so-called restrictive and discriminatory laws.”
“As seen by the global AIDS strategy from 2021 to 2026, UNAIDS considers that they include laws that in any way prosecute prostitution and drug use,” said Russian UN Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Chumakov.
Australian UN Ambassador Mitch Fifield – who led the talks on the declaration with Namibia – has spoken out against Russia, saying that “reform of laws and policies to ensure they are evidence-based and human rights is essential for an effective response to HIV. ”
The high-level meeting comes days after the 40th anniversary of the first report that brought AIDS to the public’s attention.
The statement called on the 193 member nations of the assembly to implement the 18-page document, including the reduction of new annual HIV infections to less than 370,000 and annual AIDS-related deaths to less than 250,000 by 2025.
It also calls for progress towards the elimination of all forms of HIV-related stigma and discrimination and for urgent work towards an HIV vaccine and treatment for AIDS.
Without a huge increase in resources and coverage for the vulnerable and infected, “we will not end the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” the assembly warned.
Contrasts in the fight against AIDS
He said the coronavirus pandemic has created returns in the fight against AIDS, “widening the fault lines in a deeply unequal world and exposing the dangers of underlying investment in public health, health systems and other public services essential to all and pandemic preparedness ”.
While the international investment response to the pandemic is inadequate, it is however unprecedented, the assembly said. The response to coronavirus from many nations has demonstrated “the potential and urgency for greater investment” to respond to pandemics, underscoring “the imperative to increase investment in public health systems, including responses to HIV and other advancing diseases, ”he said.
Shannon Hader, UNAIDS executive deputy director, believes it is key in the fight against HIV to allow more equitable access to medicines and services.
“One reason why there are disparities in the response to HIV may be that services are not provided in ways that are useful and accessible to people who need them most,” Hader told Al Jazeera.
“But other reasons may really be because the legal framework, violence, gender inequality are such that there are social barriers for people who are most affected, they also have access to services and are unable to take measures to prevent them. ‘HIV,’ he added.
It calls for accelerating innovation
Calling AIDS “one of the deadliest pandemics of modern times,” Byanyima said 77.5 million people have been infected with HIV since the first case was reported in 1981 and nearly 35 million have died from it. and AIDS.
She said COVID-19 has shown that science is moving “at the speed of political will” and has ordered the acceleration of spending on innovations for AIDS treatment, prevention, care. and vaccines “as world public goods.”
“HIV rates are not following the trajectory we have set together,” he said.
On the positive side, the assembly statement said that since 2001 there has been a 54 per cent reduction in AIDS-related deaths and a 37 per cent reduction in HIV infections worldwide, but he warned that “overall progress has been dangerously slow since 2016.”
The assembly expressed “deep concern” that in 2019 there will be 1.7 million new infections compared to the 2020 global target of less than 500,000 infections and that new HIV infections will increase in at least 33 countries since 2016