Agenda 1.3: Report of the Executive Director
By Erika Castellanos
Thank you, Chair.
The NGO delegation welcomes the report of the Executive Director and appreciates the efforts of the Executive Director in ensuring that HIV remains a priority despite the numerous competing global priorities. Isolationism, mass migration, exclusion and inequality might be seen and are frequently addressed in silo; but we must remain conscious that these very same factors affect the behaviour of the epidemic globally. We need to look at these issues holistically and keep HIV prevention, care and treatment as a priority. We know many actors in the Joint Programme try to address various barriers and we feel it is as important to continue to work on reducing these barriers as it is to ensure access to treatment and prevention services.
The current global funding crisis has greatly impacted the Joint Programme and while it has made tremendous efforts to mitigate the effects through cost saving and efficiency measures the leadership of UNAIDS remains as strong and visible as ever. In spite of these strengths, we can’t continue to ignore that budget shortfalls have impacted on the implementation of the strategy will continue to do so if we fail to identify necessary resources. We have developed a robust, comprehensive strategy but without the required resources for its implementation the Strategy loses its value and at the same time we will lose lives, in deaths that are preventable.
We will also see new and increasing HIV infections and the targets that guide the work of our partners, regions and countries will not be attained. This is not the time to let down our guard but rather the opposite; now is the time to escalate our efforts to end the epidemic.
We must also recognize that despite the challenging environment the Joint Programme has obtained some positive results progressing towards the 90-90-90 targets and in other areas but we remain concerned about the realities of specific regions, countries and populations which are far from acceptable.
On World AIDS Day, while everyone was making posts on Facebook about their journey in HIV advocacy, about their achievements in the response and about the number of people on treatment, I was crying. I was crying because I could not make such happy and positive posts. In my country in Belize on World Aids Day, we did not have ARVs for less than 50% of people living with HIV that are on treatment. On December 1st, it was three weeks that many of my peers had not been able to take their medications. In the LAC region, five other countries had stock outs of at least 1 ARV on the same day. This is not a management issue. It is not a procurement or supply issue … it’s a life and death issue.
We have come a long way but there is much more to do and we need to see a renewed commitment to expand on protection for those that are criminalized, intensify the efforts to remove laws that criminalize key populations and hinder access to Ty+Px for those most affected. In these scenarios, the critical role of UNAIDS is urgently needed to continue working with governments providing information and guidance, to create environments politically and legally supportive for preventing new infections and protecting the health and well being of all people living with HIV.
We have the tools for an adequate response in our Strategy; let’s put our words into actions. And let’s stop looking at the reports of new infections, of deaths or of the numbers of people living with HIV with a numeric value only. Each of these numbers has a face; a family. Every one of these deaths is a mother, a father, a child, a brother, a sister, a spouse, a partner, a friend. We are not just numbers and it is our lives that are at stake here.
Lastly, we have concerns about the situation for communities in Tanzania. Can you give us an update of the work UNAIDS is doing in Tanzania.