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Talks on global AIDS plan near completion in advance of UN special session

Talks on global AIDS plan near completion in advance of UN special session

With talks on a draft global plan of action to fight AIDS set to conclude tomorrow, two of the chief negotiators said the text was near completion and should be ready for adoption by a General Assembly session next month.

Ambassador Penny Wensley of Australia and Ambassador Ibra Deguène Ka of Senegal said agreement remained elusive on certain key issues, including financing the plan of action, but both expressed hope that progress would be achieved before the expected conclusion of the talks on Saturday.

Ambassador Wensley said the negotiations -- which lasted for up to 12 hours a day since the preparatory session had begun on Monday -- had brought delegates "pretty well close to final agreement" on key sections of the text, including those dealing with leadership, children infected and affected by AIDS, research and development, and alleviating the disease's social and economic impact.

More remained to be done on sections dealing with prevention and with conflict-affected regions, she said, adding that differences on those subjects were not political, "but the texts are complex -- there's a lot of ideas, a lot of proposals and we have to get them worked through."

Ambassador Wensley said sensitivities arose over sections in the text on groups perceived to be vulnerable to HIV infection, including men who have sex with men, sex workers and their clients, injecting drug users and prisoners. "We have to respect those views, and we have to find a way to accommodate them."

Political differences also persisted over sections concerning financing, HIV/AIDS and human rights, as well as care, support and treatment, she noted. "There is nothing insuperable; with good will and determination we hope very much that we will be able to find the necessary middle ground that is essential when you are trying to get agreement among 189 Member States."

Ambassador Ka agreed the challenge was to forge a common position among so many countries. "When 189 members are around this document, you can imagine all the sensitivities" that arise, he said. As an example of the need to accommodate all views, he noted that the preamble had originally been comprised of 21 paragraphs, but as a result of the negotiations had grown to include 35.

The Senegalese Ambassador also stressed that negotiators had broadened the scope of the talks beyond just governments. "We didn't forget that we had to write this history also with the NGOs [non-governmental organizations]," he said, noting that two dialogue sessions with had been organized to hear their views.