UNGASS 2011 – An Opportunity For Governments To Re-Affirm Their Commitment To The Fight Against HIV

AID FOR AIDS International (AFAI) is preparing for the U.N. High Level Meeting on AIDS, which will take place in New York June 8-10. In partnership with LA CCASO, the Latin America and Caribbean Council of AIDS Service Organizations, AFAI is calling for a gathering to network with the more than 70 activists from Latin America and Caribbean attending the event.
The specific agenda for the General Assembly meeting will be outlined during this preliminary get-together in the days before the official event.  However, a few general goals of the group are clear in advance. One is ensuring that all the high-level talk is backed by positive action.
“Every 2 years, the world community comes to UNGASS (the U.N General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS) and essentially repeats the same commitments,” explains Enrique Chavez, the head of AFAI’s Advocacy Department, one of the leaders of the Latin American and Caribbean contingent at this year’s meeting. “It sounds very good, but there are still few or no concrete mechanisms in place to monitor and evaluate the progress in meeting those commitments. Without some way of measuring results, it’s all just talk.”
Thus, one of the major goals of the LAC region group will be to have some evaluation mechanisms specified in the final Declaration of the member states.  “Perhaps in 2 years, when we come together again, we’ll have the data we need to set realistic goals and priorities,” says Chavez.
Another goal of the LAC contingent will be to ensure that universal access to treatment remains a core principle in the global fight against HIV. Previous statements, notes Chavez, have watered down the universal access provision, as articulated in the 2015 Millennium Development Goals. “Specifying a certain number of treatments as a goal for 2015 is not acceptable,” he adds. “There can be no compromise in the right of universal access.”
And, finally, Chavez says the LAC group will focus on the need for the 2011 UNGASS Declaration to recognize the differences among vulnerable populations – sex workers, women, children, transgender, etc. – and address the need for solutions tailored to each of those populations. “Having this spelled out in the declaration will make it possible for us to make the case to governments that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work…that programs have to be designed to reach different audiences. An effective approach for sex workers will not be applicable to children.”     
Overall, Chavez is looking forward to the bi-annual reunion of civil society organizations and activists, and to hearing how world leaders plan to respond to their demands.
“We’ll be listening to everything they say,” he says. “And we’ll do our best to hold them accountable for it.”