UNAIDS Unveils Plan on Global HIV/AIDS Response. 22/1/11

Revolution in prevention politics, policies and practices is critically needed


By Yinka Shokunbi
22 January 2011

As the world enters into the 30th year of the AIDS epidemic, the Joint Action Committee on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) is working to reposition its global response to the epidemic focusing on new environmental commitments.

Ten years after, the United Nations Special Session on HIV/AIDS and the landmark adoption of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, member states are equally preparing for the 2011 High Level Meeting on AIDS to review and renew future commitments for the AIDS response.

Towards achieving the objective of the new strategies, UNAIDS has launched a new five-year strategic plan (2011-2015) which aims to advance global progress in achieving country set targets for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support and to halt and reverse the spread of HIV and contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

According to the executive director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, "This strategy was developed through a highly inclusive and open process-reflecting the needs and opportunities ahead of us and it is about fundamentally transforming the global AIDS response."

The chief aim of the new strategy is to get to a zero level of infection in the world.

The global commitments include achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support; to halt and reverse the spread of HIV and contribute to the achievement of the MDGs.

Strategic directions to be advanced by UNAIDS include revolutionising HIV prevention. The vision of this strategy is to get to Zero New Infections by 2015.

According to the UN organ, more than 7000 people are newly infected with HIV every day. And a revolution in prevention politics, policies and practices is critically needed. This can be achieved by fostering political incentives for commitment and catalysing transformative social movements regarding sexuality, drug use and HIV education for all, led by people living with HIV and affected communities, women and young people.

It is also critical to target epidemic hot spots, particularly in megacities, and to ensure equitable access to high-quality, cost-effective HIV prevention programmes that include rapid adoption of scientific breakthroughs.

The body also intends to catalyse the next phase of treatment, care and support. The goal is to get to Zero AIDS-related Deaths by 2015.

It recorded that a total of 1.8 million people died from AIDS-related causes in 2009 and it is imperative that there should be access to treatment for all who need it and this can come about through simpler, more affordable and more effective drug regimens and delivery systems.

UNAIDS noted also that greater links between antiretroviral therapy services and primary health, maternal and child health, TB and sexual and reproductive health services will further reduce costs and contribute to greater efficiencies.

That enhanced capacity for rapid registration will increase access to medicines, as will countries' abilities to make use of TRIPS flexibilities.

Likewise, nutritional support and social protection services must be strengthened for people living with and affected by HIV, including orphans and vulnerable children, through the use of social and cash transfers and the expansion of social insurance schemes.

The body aims to advance human rights and gender equality for the HIV Response with the vision to get to get to Zero Discrimination by 2015.

It is concerned that social and legal environments that fail to protect against stigma and discrimination or to facilitate access to HIV programmes continue to block universal access. Therefore, it advocates that countries must make greater efforts: to realise and protect HIV-related human rights, including the rights of women and girls; to implement protective legal environments for people living with HIV and populations at higher risk of HIV infection; and to ensure HIV coverage for the most underserved and vulnerable communities. People living with and at higher risk of HIV should know their HIV-related rights and be supported to mobilise around them. Much greater investment should be made to address the intersections between HIV vulnerability, gender inequality and violence against women and girls.

Adopted by the Programme Committee Board in December 2010, the strategy will also serve as reference in the lead up to the UN High Level Meeting on AIDS.

"The High Level Meeting will be a major milestone in the history of the AIDS response. Only by working together to set our future course can we accelerate greater results for people," noted Sidibé.

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