World leaders set new HIV/AIDS goals for 2015

-agree to increase funding to about US$24B, eliminate virus in kids

The Joint United Nations Pro-gramme on HIV/AIDS says world leaders have set a number of bold new targets regarding the virus, such as increasing AIDS-related spending and eliminating HIV infections among children by 2015.

According to a press release, the targets come at a time when international assistance for the AIDS response has dropped for the first time since 2001. At the recent United Nations General Assembly meeting held in New York, member states agreed to increase AIDS-related spending to between US$22 billion and US$24 billion in low and middle income countries by 2015. Leaders have also pledged to advance efforts towards reducing sexual transmission of HIV; half the HIV infection among people who inject drugs by 2015; increase the number of people on life-saving treatment to 15 million and to reduce tuberculosis related deaths in PLWHAs by half in the same time period.

These goals are set in the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS: Intensifying our Efforts to eliminate HIV/AIDS adopted by the Assembly. “This declaration is strong, the targets are time bound and set a clear and workable roadmap, not only for the next five years, but beyond,” Joseph Deiss, President of the UN General Assembly said. He noted that UN member states have recognised that HIV is one of the most formidable challenges of the century and they “have demonstrated true leadership through this declaration in their commitments to work towards a world without AIDS.”

The declaration notes that HIV prevention strategies inadequately focus on populations at higher risk; specifically men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs and sex workers, and it calls on workers to focus their response based on epidemiological and national contexts, the release said. “These are concrete and real targets that will bring hope to the 34 million people living with HIV and their families,” Executive Director of UNAIDS Michael Sidibe said. “Through shared responsibility, the world must invest sufficiently today, so we will not have to pay forever,” he added.

The declaration calls on UN member states to redouble their efforts to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2015, as a critical step towards ending the global AIDS epidemic. In addition, a pledge to eliminate gender inequality, gender based abuse and violence and to increase the capacity of women and adolescent girls to protect themselves from HIV infection was also made. The declaration recognises that access to sexual and reproductive health has been and continues to be essential to the AIDS response and that governments are tasked with providing public health services focused on the needs of families, particularly women and children.

Member states also agreed to review laws and policies that adversely impact on the successful, effective and equitable delivery of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support programmes to PLWHAs and persons affected by HIV. “With nearly 7000 new HIV infections each day, the declaration reaffirms that preventing HIV must be the cornerstone of national, regional and international response to the AIDS epidemic,” the release said. The statement also calls for expanding access to essential HIV prevention commodities, particularly male and female condoms; sterile injecting equipment and intensifying national HIV testing campaigns. The Declaration also urges countries to deploy new bio-medical interventions as soon as they are validated including earlier access to treatment as prevention.

Taking note of the UNAIDS strategy, the declaration commends UNAIDS for its leadership role on AIDS policy coordination and support to countries and urges the joint programme to revise indicators for success and support the UN Secretary General in providing an annual report on the progress made by member states in realizing the commitments made in the declaration.

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