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The UN Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS: A step in the right direction

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Friday, 11 June 2021: IAS – the International AIDS Society – welcomes the United Nations (UN) General Assembly’s adoption of the 2021 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS.

As outlined in the IAS Annual Letter launched at the start of the UN High-Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS, overcoming HIV requires a concerted scientific effort on a global scale. This means more evidence-based policy and the elimination of stigmatizing, discriminatory and criminalizing laws and measures. At the same time, the HIV response must ensure that diverse communities of people most affected by HIV are meaningfully and consistently included.

The declaration is a step in the right direction in the three areas required to succeed in the HIV response:

Promote Science by ensuring that effective and acceptable prevention technologies are widely accessible, optimizing treatment, and forging towards an HIV vaccine and cure.

The IAS welcomes the declaration highlighting the critical role of science and evidence-based approaches in shaping the direction of and accelerating the HIV response.

The IAS applauds the declaration’s commitment to reliable, detailed data that are disaggregated at a national level to best understand the health needs of priority populations.

Support Action by articulating laws and policies that are evidence based and person centred.

The IAS supports the inclusion of the 10-10-10 targets on removing societal and legal barriers to HIV services, which calls for an end to inequalities faced by people living with HIV and key and vulnerable populations.

The IAS welcomes the recognition of the contribution of the HIV infrastructure to the strong response to COVID-19, and highlights the opportunity to galvanize momentum from COVID-19 to strengthen the HIV response.

The commitment towards a fully funded HIV response is also imperative. Allocation of resources must be guided by data and evidence to ensure that they are used efficiently and effectively in the HIV response.

Empower People by ensuring that people most affected by HIV have agency and are included in all processes.

The declaration rightly acknowledges inequities that are the drivers of HIV transmission and disproportionately affect key and vulnerable populations. Communities must be front and centre of an effective HIV response.

The declaration’s commitment to support community leadership and ensure that an increased proportion of HIV services are community-led is critical. Over the past 40 years, the most remarkable victories have not been from HIV scientific breakthroughs alone, but from forming a common front that unites communities, scientific research and policy making.

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While the declaration made positive steps to promote science, support action and empower people, the IAS regrets that the declaration was not reached by consensus and weakened by some Member States’ choice to vote against it. Global solidarity in the response to HIV remains essential – for other pandemics, too – if we are to truly support action.

We at the IAS believe that bolder action on waiving patents and increasing flexibility on intellectual propriety rights could make life-saving drugs more available to millions of people – this is as true for HIV treatment as it is for COVID-19 vaccines. Stronger political leadership is required to go further than the agreement in the Political Declaration and more effectively open pathways to access life-saving medication for all.

The message is clear: UN Member States must follow the science. To advance the HIV response, Member States must move from adoption of an evidence-based political declaration to implementation of evidence-informed national responses.

ENDS

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