Countries meeting at a United Nations summit in New York today adopted ambitious new targets to defeat AIDS, with the aim of ridding the world of a disease that has claimed more than 30 million lives since it was first reported three decades ago.
The High-level Meeting on AIDS brought together 3,000 participants, including 30 heads of State and government, along with senior officials, representatives of international organizations, civil society and people living with HIV, to chart a path for the future of the AIDS response.
“The momentum we’ve experienced here again confirms the essential role of the UN in the AIDS response,” Paul De Lay, Deputy Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), told reporters. “This meeting intends to bring us to the beginning of the end of AIDS.”
The declaration adopted by Member States of the General Assembly contains clear, measurable targets, including to halve sexual transmission of HIV by 2015, to reduce HIV transmission among people who inject drugs by 50 per cent by 2015, to ensure that by 2015 no child will be born with HIV, to increase universal access to antiretroviral therapy, to get 15 million people onto life-saving treatment by 2015, and to halve tuberculosis deaths in people living with HIV by 50 per cent by 2015.
“These bold new targets set by world leaders will accelerate our push to reduce the transmission of HIV,” said Assembly President Joseph Deiss. “The challenge that now remains is to implement these commitments and here leadership and mutual accountability are crucial.”
Member States also pledged to close the global resource gap for AIDS and work towards increasing funding to between $22 and $24 billion per year by 2015.
Dr. De Lay noted that the declaration clearly outlines the urgent need to increase access to HIV services for people most at risk of infection, including men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs and sex workers.
The pledge to eliminate gender inequality, gender-based abuse and violence and to empower women and girls must be fulfilled without delay, he added.
This week also featured a number of side events on issues such as women, girls and HIV; faith-based action to prevent HIV; and AIDS and disability.
Addressing an interfaith prayer breakfast this morning, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro stressed how important the voices of religious leaders are in tackling the epidemic.
“You more than anyone can be forceful advocates against stigma. You are natural activists who can change attitudes. You know that protecting lives is as important as saving souls,” she said, urging leaders to speak out, end marginalization and make it clear that their houses of worship are open to all people coping with AIDS.
One of the events that occurred this week that Mr. De Lay described as “momentous” was the launch of a global plan to eliminate new HIV infections in children by 2015, which is intended to stop the 370,000 new HIV infections in children which are currently happening every year and to keep mothers alive.
The other was the adoption by the Security Council of a new resolution that seeks to protect peacekeepers and the communities that they interact with, as well as help end violence against women in conflict.