Looking ahead to the 2021 UNGA HLM on HIV/AIDS

Looking ahead to the 2021 UNGA HLM on HIV/AIDS

By Marielle Hart, Head of Policy U.S. Aidsfonds 

The urgency is clear, and failure is not an option: Looking ahead to the 2021 UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS

The first important milestone on the road to the next UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS (HLM) taking place in June has been achieved. On Friday 23 April civil society organizations and other key stakeholders from across the world gathered virtually during the Multistakeholder Hearing that was held as part of the preparatory process for the HLM.  This meeting provided a critical platform for civil society and community representatives to make their voices heard and share their advocacy priorities for the upcoming UN Member States negotiations around the contents of the new Political Declaration to be adopted at the HLM.


Loud and strong virtual voices

Despite the virtual nature of the meeting, civil society voices came across loud and strong, stressing the urgency of a renewed commitment to ending AIDS and that failure is not an option. The President of the General Assembly,Volkan Bozkir, called on all Member States to make this year a decisive turning point in the response to the HIV epidemic and the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Winnie Byanyima, urged world leaders to get back on track to end AIDS and make sure that the 2021 Political Declaration is “ambitious, progressive, and innovative”.


Future of affected communities directly dependent on government actions

An impressive line-up of panellists representing diverse geographical, gender, identity and community realities, including people living with and affected by HIV, discussed the three strategic priorities of the Global AIDS Strategy 2021-2026 namely access to services, structural and social barriers, and funding for HIV and integration as well as overarching critical gaps and synergies.

Nothing could have set the scene for these panel discussions better than the powerful words of a young woman who has been living with HIV since she was born, Faith Obere Onuh from Nigeria during her opening remarks. She made clear that her own bright future and that of all affected communities directly depend on what governments will commit to in the upcoming HLM and on the actions they will take to end AIDS by 2039, repeal punitive laws, empower and fund community-led responses, and ensure a fair and just economic and global health transformation post-COVID.


Recurrent issues raised

Recurrent issues panellists were raising included:

  • The failure to ensure young people in all their diversity and key populations have their human rights met and can access services that respond to all their HIV and SRHR needs;
  • The critical importance of a person-centred and integrated response and a much stronger dialogue between HIV and other sectors;
  • The gaps in funding for and prioritisation of key population programmes, community-led responses and prevention;
  • And finally the issue of accountability and making sure that previous and future commitments made don’t just remain only on paper.


Five transformative actions needed

Mirjam Krijnen, Director for International Programmes at Aidsfonds highlighted in her panel intervention five transformative actions for the global community rally around to make the end of AIDS and achieving Universal Health Coverage a reality by 2030:

  1. Increase investments in key populations programmes to fill in the disproportionate gap in financing programs for men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers and people who use drugs.
  2. Increase investments in societal enablers to remove barriers of gender inequality, criminalization, poverty and discrimination for key populations and women.
  3. Increase investments in inclusive systems for health, including community systems to acknowledge the critical role of communities in vital service delivery and independent advocacy.
  4. Align these investments with the relevant WHO guidelines, abundant scientific evidence and universal human rights principles.
  5. Include and empower communities to engage with health governance and accountability mechanisms at global and national levels.

Join the movement!

In the run-up to the HLM, we will work with our civil society colleagues and partners across the world to call on governments to adequately include these priorities and other key issues in the Political Declaration. Going forward we need sound and united global leadership that is fully committed to addressing the HIV epidemic as well as other existing and new epidemics in a way that brings the world together and ends inequalities. COVID-19 has been devastating but it has also provided us with an opportunity to re-set the global health world and do it right this time.  As Faith Obere Onuh said, “we need to ensure that the post-COVID world is one that is just and respects the human rights of all people”. The urgency is clear, and failure is not an option.

Join the movement on social media: #WeAreHLM #HLM2021 #PressureON

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