The NGO Delegation welcomes the vision portrayed in the update on the AIDS response in the post-2015 development agenda. We desperately yearn for a day when we can truly say we have ended the AIDS epidemic in every corner of the globe, and among every population. Even more, we yearn for the day when gender equality is real, when discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is ended, when people of all ages, races and cultural backgrounds, including indigenous people, migrants, sex workers, and people who use drugs, are able to live their lives with dignity, free from fear, free from marginalization, free from poverty and hunger, free to live lives of opportunity and promise, with all of their rights fully protected.
The realization of this vision will only come, however, if all of us are prepared to change the way we carry out our responsibilities such that we see our work in the context of global transformation, not just our specific responsibilities in the AIDS response. While much of our focus has been on HIV-specific interventions, the reality is that these alone cannot achieve that vision. So we are pleased that the Social Development Goals require a cross-cutting perspective. We are also pleased that the Joint Programme has actively engaged in the SDG process and has leveraged these goals in the proposed Updated Strategy and in all of its activities.
Specifically, we are delighted, following on the Decision Points that stemmed from thematic on drugs, that the Joint Programme has actively engaged in preparations for the UNGASS on the World Drug Problem and has actively promoted a public health approach to addressing drugs. We would urge that human rights be included as well, as these are key lessons learned from the AIDS response. As we heard in the Thematic on People Who Inject Drugs, government actors, including but not exclusively law enforcement, routinely violate the rights of people who use drugs, deterring access to both prevention for people who are HIV- and treatment and care for people who are HIV+.
Last December, the PCB approved Decision Points that, if implemented, would put multi-sectoral responses to the cross-cutting social drivers of HIV poverty and inequality at the heart of the AIDS response. Certainly, this is the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals. While these Decision Points are not reflected as clearly as we would like in the proposed updated Strategy, we urge the Joint Program to strongly advocate for inclusion of a commitment to address the social and structural drivers of AIDS epidemic in the political declaration resulting from the High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS in 2016.
The truth is that, even if we had unlimited resources, all of the bio-medical interventions in the world will not end the AIDS epidemic unless we address the conditions that put marginalized people at risk and that keep people living with HIV out of care and unable to maintain viral suppression. We don’t have unlimited resources in the AIDS response, so this should compel us to seek out intersectoral partnerships that rely on mutual interest. Otherwise, our language regarding “leaving no one behind” will remain nothing more than words, and our communities will indeed be left behind.