A UN Message on HIV, What Advocates Say

June 15, 2021

Last week, UN member states approved the 2021 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS at the fifth High-Level Meeting on AIDS. On the face of it, this year’s Political Declaration, passed with overwhelming support, includes much to applaud: new ambitious targets for prevention, investment targets for treatment, and a financial and moral commitment to end gender inequality, stigma and discrimination. But the vote was not unanimous, various member states undercut the basic commitments to human rights and political divisions could well threaten the targets and the ultimate achievement of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

The COVID-19 response and last week’s Declaration make it clear that the biggest obstacle to overcoming HIV and other health threats is not money but laws and policies that affect access to prevention, treatment and care for all populations. Advocates can find resources and information to support their work on these issues at this dedicated page on AVAC.org, featuring:

  • A statement from more than 80 organizations, including many partners from AVAC’s COMPASS and Advocacy Fellows programs, raises the alarm that the Political Declaration does not address the harmful and hateful effect of criminalizing key populations, such as gay men and sex workers.
  • An editorial from AVAC’s Maureen Luba, published in Science Speaks, puts the Political Declaration in context and sharpens the focus on the need to eliminate punitive laws and structures that result in discrimination and stigma.
  • No Prevention, No End: The importance of Leadership for HIV prevention – How decisions can turn an epidemic
    AVAC’s Mitchell Warren and partners, Joyce Ouma and Lilian Benjamin Mwakyosi, discuss the role of leadership to achieve the HIV prevention targets by 2030. Check out the recording from the special session on HIV prevention convened by the Global Prevention Coalition.
  • Facts of Life: Youth, Sexuality & HIV
    A lively debate between young people, government representatives and other experts on what’s working, what isn’t and why in securing young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. Check out the recording.

UN Political Declarations come and go. But the first-ever UN High-Level Meeting on AIDS in 2001 was transformative—catalyzing the creation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and eventually PEPFAR, and establishing a truly global response to the epidemic. This year’s meeting and Declaration remind us that turning progress into lasting change depends on our collective action.