• June 14, 2011
  • News

Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) activists attending last week’s UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on AIDS came away from the 3-day session with mixed feelings.  Some major successes were tempered by deep disappointments.
The final UN Declaration represented a clear improvement over previous versions, but fell short on a number of critical levels, according to Enrique Chavez, head of AID FOR AIDS International’s Advocacy Department, which was part of the LAC activist contingent.
“Perhaps the most important improvement, from our point of view, was the identification of vulnerable populations,” noted Chavez. “For the first time, the final document recognizes the specific needs of sex workers, MSM (men who have sex with men), women, children, drug users and other vulnerable groups … but the failure of the declaration to mention transgender people contributes to the continuing stigma and marginalization that this population faces. This was especially disappointing to us.”
Chavez says that LAC group was generally satisfied by the UN’s stated commitment to bring life-saving drug therapies to 15 million people living with HIV/AIDS by 2015, which is double the number of people currently in treatment around the world. While this commitment falls short of the global goal of universal access, Chavez says it is still a significant step up from previously-stated commitments. According to UNAIDS, there were 33 million to 35 million individuals living with HIV or AIDS at the end of 2009, with about 2.6 million new cases reported each year.
The third major goal of the LAC region – specifying concrete mechanisms for measuring progress in meeting the declaration’s goals – went completely unrealized. “There was no mention in the final Declaration about progress measurements,” says Chavez.
Finally, Chavez says that one of the best things to emerge from last week’s conference was the impressive turnout of the LAC contingent and its growing commitment to holding governments in the region accountable for following through on the UN commitments. Of the 96 activists who traveled to New York, about half were representatives of national delegations, making it more likely that those governments will feel greater pressure over the next two years to produce concrete results.
“After all the high-level talk, the real work starts now,” concludes the AFAI advocate. “We’ve got a new starting point to work from, but, as always, it comes down to what happens at the grass-roots level. What happened at our regional meetings gives me hope that we’ll see more positive action.” 
If you wish to read the Declaration you can read it here: here