Sunday, 22/9/2019 | 11:51 UTC+0
Libyan Newswire

General Assembly on HIV/AIDS

Note:  A complete summary of today’s General Assembly meeting will be available after its conclusion.

Opening Remarks

MOGENS LYKKETOFT (Denmark), President of the General Assembly, said it was hard to believe that some 34 million people had died from AIDS-related diseased and that 14 million had been orphaned as a result.  It was harder to believe that approximately 6,000 new HIV infections occurred daily and that some 36.9 million people were living with AIDS.  That was unacceptable in a world of incredible possibility.  “Today is the moment, therefore, that collectively, we signal our intentions to strike out for victory, to fast-track efforts over the next five years and to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” he said, emphasizing the impact of HIV/AIDS on development, economic growth and conflict and post-conflict situations.  He also noted how the epidemic had affected women and girls more than any other group, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and had an impact on young people, those who injected drugs, sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people and prisoners.

In recent years, he said, there had been strong progress towards the goals and targets set out in 2011.  While reflecting on that progress and preparing for the next five years, the high-level meeting would identify best practices and lessons learned while determining how to overcome obstacles, plug gaps and address evolving challenges and opportunities.  “If we want to reach our 2030 target,” he said, “all stakeholders must now step up to the plate”, with greater global solidarity, more resources and greater collaboration and partnership.  More attention needed to be paid to equality, inclusion and the empowerment of women and girls by ensuring that key populations were included in AIDS responses and services were made available to them.  Ultimately, he said, there needed to be accountability for commitments made.  “Ending the AIDS epidemic would be one of the greatest achievements of our lifetime,” he said.  “It can be done and it must be done.”

BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that a decade ago, AIDS was devastating families and communities.  In many low-income countries, treatment had been scarce.  In 2007, only 3 million people – one third of those in need – had access to life-saving antiretroviral drugs.

Enormous progress had been made, he said.  Since 2000, the global total of people receiving that treatment had doubled every three to four years because of less expensive drugs, increased competition and new funding.  Today, more than 17 million people were being treated, saving millions of lives and billions of dollars.  Moreover, the world had achieved Millennium Development Goal 6, to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, and had halted and begun to reverse its spread.  New HIV infections had declined by 35 per cent since 2000, while AIDS-related deaths had fallen by 43 per cent since 2003.

He said such success could not have happened without the leadership of people living with HIV and civil society partners, who had broken the silence and shone a light on discrimination and intolerance.  Investment in the AIDS response had strengthened health systems, social protection and community resilience.

Yet, AIDS was far from over, he went on to say.  In the next five years, there was a window of opportunity to “radically change” the epidemic’s trajectory and end AIDS forever.  “If we do not act, there is a danger the epidemic will rebound in low- and middle-income countries,” he said.  Action now could avert an estimated 17.6 million new infections and 11 million premature deaths between 2016 and 2030.  Such successes would require commitment at every level, from the global health infrastructure to all Member States, civil society and non-governmental organizations, and to the Security Council, which had addressed AIDS as a threat to human and national security.

“I call on the international community to reinforce and expand the unique, multisector, multi-actor approach of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS),” he asserted, and ensure that the annual target of $26 billion in funding, including $13 billion over the next three years, was met through the Global Fund’s fifth replenishment.  That required continued advocacy and approaches that promoted gender equality and women’s empowerment.  It also meant removing punitive laws, policies and practices and providing access to HIV services without discrimination.

The future of people with HIV/AIDS must be central to every decision, he said.  Indeed, the AIDS response was a source of innovation and inspiration, showing what was possible when science, community activism, political leadership, passion and compassion came together.

MICHEL SIDIBÉ, Executive Director of UNAIDS, said today’s important Political Declaration would open a new door for ending AIDS.  “We, the peoples, have broken the trajectory of the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” he declared, highlighting that the number of new infections and related deaths had significantly been lowered and results had been delivered on the 2011 Political Declaration.  Recalling that in the General Assembly Hall, in 2001, someone had stated that treatment could not be provided to the poor, as it would be too expensive, he pointed out that at that time, treatment for each individual had cost $15,000 annually whereas today, that figure had dropped to less than $100 per person per year.

Providing some concrete results, he said it was the first time in history of HIV/AIDS that Africa had reached the “tipping point”, with more people on treatment than being newly infected.  While that was truly amazing, West Africa and Central Africa had been left behind, he said, urging leaders to mobilize energy to triple the initiation rate of treatment within three years.  It was important, after all, not to have a “two-speed” approach to the disease on the continent.

In addition, he said, the once distant dream to end mother-to-child transmission and create an AIDS-free generation was becoming a reality.  Cuba had eliminated such transmission and, yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) had certified that Thailand, Belarus and Armenia had done the same.  Many other countries would follow, he said.

Continuing, he said that four years ago, more than 58,000 babies in South Africa had been born with HIV/AIDS.  Today, there were less than 6,000 such cases.  Further, more than 80 countries had shown they would soon achieve the goal, as they had less than 50 babies born each year with HIV.  One by one, the bonds of discrimination and exclusion were being broken, he said, underlining the importance of including prisoners, migrants, people with disabilities, men having sex with men, people who used drugs, sex workers and transgender people.

“The door to the United Nations should be open to all,” he stressed.  “We cannot afford to silence their voices, as we come together to chart a course towards ending AIDS.”  The rights to health and dignity must be universal, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter.  The AIDS response had always been about partnership, innovation and social transformation and had produced unprecedented results:  8.8 million deaths had been averted.

But, those gains were fragile, he said.  Women were being raped, exploited and infected at the same rates as 20 years ago.  Adolescent girls remained “shockingly” vulnerable, with discrimination still pushing people into the shadows and preventing them from accessing life-saving treatment.  A prevention revolution was needed that placed young people at its centre.  It was unacceptable that 20 million people continued to die because of a lack of access.

“AIDS is not over,” he stressed, emphasizing that the next five years would be critical in placing countries on the “fast track”.  Testing should be normalized and the 90 million people who did not know their status must be reached.  “If we do not act now to break the backbone of the epidemic, once and for all, the world will never forgive us,” he said.  “We can do it.  We must do it.”

LOYCE MATURU, from Zimbabwe, described how in 2002 she lost her mother and brother to tuberculosis and AIDS and how, two years later, at the age of 12, she learned that she too had the same illnesses.  “It was the most depressing moment for me,” she said.  “I cried.  I thought I was going to die, but here I am today.”  In 2010, facing emotional and verbal abuse from a family member, she tried to kill herself with an overdose of medication.  After going to the hospital and receiving “massive counselling”, she told herself she would live to make sure that peers living with HIV became confident, healthy and hopeful for the future.  She said that today, she was thankful to be among 17 million people who represented the success of HIV treatment, but she was tired to see others with HIV die every day.

Identifying access and availability of treatment as a major challenge, she went on to emphasize the need for Governments not to exclude such persons as sex workers, those who inject drugs, prisoners and migrants.  While HIV treatment might be free, most clinics charged administrative fees that many could not afford.  Stigma remained a big barrier that had led to adolescents being denied jobs and scholarships, she said, appealing for investment in support mechanisms and advocacy for adolescents and young people with HIV/AIDS.  Without training for health-care workers on providing client-friendly treatment services, the next generation would face the same problems as the current one.  Noting that ending the epidemic would require teamwork, she said the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS must take advantage of the upcoming International AIDS Conference to start drawing a road map towards that objective, and for the Global Fund to End AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to be fully funded.  She concluded by urging participants to trust and believe adolescents and young people in their countries to help shape the way society thought about HIV/AIDS.

NDOBA MANDELA, a grandson of former President Nelson Mandela, from South Africa, recalled the death of his father from AIDS.  Citing his grandfather’s determination that his only son would not die in vain, he said the former president had prompted a national dialogue on AIDS in South Africa and global action around the world.  Given those efforts, he asked that participants at the high-level meeting continued Madiba’s legacy and ensured that none of the 34 million people who had died with AIDS did so in vain.  Going forward, “90-90-90 by 2020” should be a milestone for every country.  Yet, the epidemic would not be ended by treatment alone.  It would be a crime for the tools that stopped HIV infections were not used fully and immediately, he said, asking participants to ensure that persons at risk were able to live unafraid of arrest, physical danger or discrimination simply because of who they were or who they loved.

“Bigotry and fear do nothing but spread the [HIV] virus,” he said, asking the 35 countries with travel restrictions on foreigners living with HIV/AIDS to lift them immediately.  Echoing the call of his mentor, Michel Sidibé, he called for the end of AIDS to be the first target of the Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by his generation.  Asking that all high-level meeting participants get tested for HIV, he said “always carry two condoms — one for you to use without fail and another to give to someone who isn’t carrying their own”.  Doing so did not cost much, but its impact would be priceless.  Lives would be saved and it would be the best down payment on ending AIDS.  The eyes of millions of people living with HIV were on the high-level meeting and they were counting on delegates to make an unprecedented commitment to end AIDS and for promises to be kept.

Action

A number of delegations took the floor before the vote on the draft resolution titled “Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS:  On the fast-track to accelerate the fight against HIV and to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030” (document A/70/L.52).

The representative of Argentina, speaking also for Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Croatia, Czech, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay, welcomed gains achieved in addressing HIV/AIDS.  At the same time, he acknowledged critical gaps, reaffirming the commitment to full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the International Conference on Population and Development and its Programme of Action and the outcomes of their review conferences, and the previous HIV/AIDS political declarations.

He strongly reaffirmed the commitment to end new HIV/AIDS infections by 2030, including in conflict, post-conflict and other humanitarian crises.  Through evidence-based policies, he reaffirmed all human rights for all without distinction, with an emphasis on addressing structural inequalities for those who were living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.  He called for enhancing health-care systems and capacities for broad public health measures, condemning discrimination, stigma and violence, including hate crimes, against people living with, presumed to have, at risk of and affected by HIV, including by strengthening legal protections.  He committed to respecting the full enjoyment of sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, expressing grave concern that AIDS was the second leading cause of death among adolescents globally.

The representative of Cuba said he had joined consensus on the Political Declaration, recognizing with concern that some challenges it contained should have been reflected more clearly.  The right to health must prevail over material, technological or intellectual ownership.  No legislation or practice should limit universal access to treatment, he said, stressing that it was unacceptable that price limited such access.  Comprehensive sexual education was essential to working with young people and adolescents, requiring resources to transfer the best technologies without conditions, under the auspices of the WHO and UNAIDS.  Realization of the right to development would ensure victory over HIV/AIDS, he said.

The General Assembly then adopted draft resolution “L.52”.

Speaking in explanation of position after the action, the representative of Iceland said he had joined consensus on the text and aligned with Argentina’s statement, reiterating the commitment to end the AIDS epidemic.  Iceland was against the term “sex worker”, as it was an incomplete reference to a key population group.  Thirty-five per cent of women globally would experience sexual and intimate violence in their lifetimes.  Bold actions were needed through a health system response and a multisectoral approach.  Also, Iceland qualified prostitution in all its forms as sexual violence, as the act of buying sex was incompatible with human dignity.  Iceland’s approach supported access for those who sold sex to health commodities.  The term “sex work” implied that selling sex was legalized, which was not the case in a large majority of countries.  In that context, it was important to recall the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women referred to prostitution, rather than “sex work”.  When referring to “sex workers”, there was a risk that those who did not sell sex for a profession were not covered by that term.  It excluded those forcibly sold into the sex industry.  UNAIDS had defined the sale of sex of those under 18 as “sexual exploitation”.  The term also excluded people younger than 18 years old.

He proposed that “people who sell sex” was a more complete reference to those vulnerable to HIV as a result of selling sex.  It was the term UNAIDS had used for those under and over the age of 18 years, and had allowed for variation among countries that had different legal frameworks, such as his own, which criminalized only the buyer.  Nothing in the text gave UNAIDS a mandate to advocate for the legalization of sex work.  The aim was to focus on the equitable deliver of treatment, care and support to those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

The representative of Singapore reaffirmed her country’s commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS.  While joining consensus on the Political Declaration, she said the reference to “harm reduction” in paragraph 43 called on States to consider ensuring access to such approaches.  However, a range of approaches should be available to States.  It was not useful to attempt to prioritize strategies at the global level.  In Singapore, harm-reduction strategies were not relevant, since it had only a few cases of transmission through drug use.  Singapore took a balanced approach to drug policies, with effective enforcement, rehabilitation and community partnerships to facilitate reintegration.

The representative of Canada said his delegation would have preferred that the Political Declaration had contained a call to end stigma, discrimination and violence against key populations.  Canada strongly supported evidence-based harm-reduction measures and called upon Member States to consider their implementation.  Going forward, Canada would continue to work in close partnership with civil society and those at risk of infection.

The representative of Sudan, expressing a number of reservations, said the Political Declaration included several not-agreed-upon terms, such as “sexuality”, which ran counter to the legal frameworks of several countries, and “comprehensive education”, which meant comprehensive sexual education, a notion that violated the United Nations Charter and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  “Key populations” referred to a few groups and other parts of the Political Declaration included principles that contradicted several traditions and religions.  Sudan supported the principle of sovereignty, which was every Member State’s right, and renewed its commitment to ending the proliferation of HIV/AIDS.

The representative of the United States said that while the Political Declaration was necessary step, it was far from perfect and its language could have been stronger with regard leaving no one behind.  Despite medical advances, there had not been so much progress on preserving human rights and preventing stigma, discrimination and violence against those living with HIV/AIDS.  Comprehensive services needed to reach the most vulnerable populations and it was imperative to measure and change the dynamics driving stigma and discrimination, she said, adding that AIDS would not end without the protection of sexual and reproductive rights.  She went on to express a number of reservations, including the United States’ concern regarding the right to development, which had no internationally agreed meaning.

The representative of Australia called the Political Declaration “a milestone” in the fight against HIV/AIDS, placing a human rights approach to ending HIV at its core, and recognizing the need empower women and girls, including their sexual and reproductive rights, as central to ending HIV.  She urged States to see it as a minimum starting point to ending AIDS.  The Political Declaration should have gone further to include key populations.  Australia’s HIV/AIDS response was informed by “evidence of what works”, which included engaging key populations with services that delivered a high impact at lower cost.  Disappointed the text did not call to end stigma violence facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and transgender people globally, she condemned any efforts to interpret HIV/AIDS transmission as a criminal issue.

The representative of Djibouti underscored a national determination to implement non-discriminatory policies to eliminate AIDS by 2030.  Emphasizing the importance of leadership and national ownership in those efforts, she welcomed paragraph 4 for reaffirming States’ sovereign rights and the need to implement the Political Declaration in line with federal laws, development priorities and different cultural, religious and other values.  For Djibouti, key and vulnerable populations were women and young people.  References to sexual and reproductive health should not be interpreted as an appeal for people living with HIV/AIDS to interrupt their pregnancies, she said.  National efforts on that issue consisted of eliminating mother-to-child transmission and she urged continued support for those initiatives.  Djibouti ensured access to sexual and reproductive health services for all women under commitments made at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo.  Paragraphs 14 and 61 of the Political Declaration did not imply a reinterpretation of the Cairo Programme of Action and could not be interpreted as a guarantee of uncontrolled access to sexual and reproductive health services.

The representative of Trinidad and Tobago recognized the importance of paragraph 4, noting that health-care services, including in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care, were provided to all citizens.  The provision of pre-exposure prophylaxis, however, went against his country’s post-exposure prophylactic policy.  Such an approach could give a false sense of security and encourage risky behaviour.  He was pleased to join consensus and pledged to implement the Political Declaration in line with national priorities.

The representative of Indonesia said the most effective way to eradicate HIV/AIDS was outlined in paragraph 57, through differentiated responses based on national ownership, local priorities, drivers, vulnerabilities and aggravating factors.  Paragraph 42 emphasized that each country should define vulnerable populations.  For its part, Indonesia recognized that such populations included those at a higher risk of HIV transmission.  On paragraph 39, he supported reducing risk-taking behaviour.  Stopping the virus required encouraging avoidance behaviours, such as abstinence and fidelity, which were the most effective ways to stop transmission.  Any reference made to adolescents should be interpreted as a reference to a “child”.  He was concerned at the use of “people who use drugs” as it had a different meaning than the agreed term.  More broadly, he said terms used in the Political Declaration would not serve as precedents for future decisions in other fora.

The representative of Egypt said his country had joined consensus on the Political Declaration, despite that it contained controversial points that did not reflect consensus on social, cultural and religious diversity.  His Government would implement its commitments as part of international and regional strategies to combat HIV/AIDS.  He dissociated himself from paragraphs 42, 62 (e), (g) and (h), as well as 61 (n) and (j), expressing concern at the multiple terms used, such as “people at high risk”, “key populations”, “high-risk populations” and “populations at risk because of epidemiological evidence”, which were not in line with Egypt’s values.

The representative of Iran said his country was committed to providing the widest possible access to care, treatment and support to people living with HIV/AIDS.  It was a public health issue and Governments were obliged to ensure the highest attainable health and well-being standards for all citizens.  It was expected that the Political Declaration would have avoided discriminatory approaches, but it was unacceptable that it had avoided appreciating risk-avoiding measures, such as fidelity and abstinence.  He expressed a reservation to any part of the Declaration that contravened Iran’s legal framework or religious and cultural values.  He reserved Iran’s position on de facto definitions, in paragraphs 42 and 62 (e), as they disregarded national circumstances.  Also, any reference to “children and adolescents” would take into account the roles and responsibilities of their parents.  He expressed concern that such misplaced terms as “people who misused drugs” were being used in the context of HIV/AIDS.

The representative of Saudi Arabia, on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, reiterated States’ sovereign right to implement national programmes that were in line with legislation and religious, ethical and cultural values.  He expressed reservations about paragraphs 42 and 62 €, which used “key populations”, 60 (h) and 62 (g), which discussed “vulnerable populations”, as well as paragraph 61 (l).  Forced and early marriage was a crime under various conventions, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  He expressed a reservation about the term “sexual rights”, as it was important to consider national and regional specificities, cultural values and other aspects.

The representative of Mauritania said it was clear that AIDS was a serious danger and a huge challenge.  However, the Political Declaration included principles with which he could not agree, he said, expressing reservations about all concepts that ran counter to national legislation.

The representative of Libya echoed the view expressed by some other delegations that the Political Declaration ran counter to national legislation and Muslim traditions.  However, his delegation had joined consensus, mindful of the need to address the illness.  Once his country had achieved stability, it would contribute to eliminating the illness so that Africa could enjoy sustainable development by 2030.

The representative of the Russian Federation said there was no doubt about the need to step up efforts to combat the spread of HIV infections.  However, she said, the main responsibility for protecting populations from infections rested with the States themselves.  She expressed disappointment that, unlike the 2011 declaration, the focus had shifted from real measures to help countries to end the epidemic to other questions that did not enjoy a large consensus.  She expressed a number of reservations, including the obligation to reform national legislation with respect to infected populations and the language regarding key groups and sexual education.  In her country, implementation would be carried out only in line with national policies and traditions.

The representative of Yemen, echoing concerns that had been raised by some of his counterparts, expressed reservations about terminology that ran counter to national legislation.

The representative of the Holy See said that, in combating discrimination and stigmatization, a difference needed to be made with measures to prevent risk-taking behaviour.  The only safe and reliable method of preventing the sexual transmission of AIDS was abstinence before marriage and respect for fidelity in marriage.  The Holy See did not consider abortion as a dimension of reproductive health.  Regarding contraception and condom use, he reaffirmed his support for the family planning methods that the Catholic Church considered morally acceptable.  Among other reservations, he said his delegation understood the term gender as referring to persons born male or female.

Statements

ROCH MARC CHRISTIAN KABORÉ, President of Burkina Faso, said the fourth national HIV response document covering 2016 to 2020 was part of national strategic plans that prioritized high-impact methods.  In turn, the strategic national framework was part of international efforts to end HIV/AIDS by 2030.  Citing gains, he said Burkina Faso had lowered and stabilized HIV/AIDS prevalence, increased access to treatment and was seeking innovative ways to mobilize resources.  Prevalence had fallen to 0.9 per cent in 2014 from 1.2 per cent in 2011, with priority given to reducing mother-to-child transmission.  The Government had been providing free antiretroviral treatment to people with HIV/AIDS since 2010, he said.

Urging more needs-based adaptions of strategies, including for vulnerable and high risk groups, in order to control transmission, better target interventions and strengthen both the gender and human rights aspects of care and support, he said additional efforts were needed to reduce new infections among women and young people and from mother-to-child with a view to achieving the 90-90-90 objective by 2020.  For its part, Burkina Faso was also determined to improve budget allocations to fight HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections, he said.

ROXANA GUEVARA, Vice-President of Honduras, said intelligent investments were needed to reduce new HIV/AIDS infections and related deaths, stressing the strategic importance of prevention and guaranteed access to key populations, with an emphasis on adolescents and young people.  Condemning the assassination of a well-known leader of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and/or intersex community of Honduras, a crime that had had homophobic characteristics, she stressed that the Government had ordered an investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice.  Honduras was limited by resources, but had the will to enhance care, treatment and support for people living with HIV.  She appealed to donors to continue their support and to others that had withdrawn their assistance to restore it.  Violence and discrimination persisted, she said, urging that barriers to testing and care be dismantled.  Emphasis must be placed on young people and their rights.  Resources must also be used to target key populations, people of African descent, indigenous peoples, migrants, women, men, adolescents and young people, she said, calling for the allocation of resources, increased availability of diagnostic tests, promotion of responsible sexual conduct and the protection of the lives of the unborn.

TIMOTHY HARRIS, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the region had made great strides between 2006 and 2015.  The HIV prevalence rate had been halved and the estimated number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy had increased from 5 to 44 per cent.  Despite progress made, the region was second to sub-Saharan Africa in its prevalence rate.  The vast majority of people living with HIV were concentrated in three countries, where prevalence among the key risk groups could be as high as 32 per cent.

Expressing support for the global and regional leadership of UNAIDS, he noted that the organization had demonstrated what could be achieved through coordinated policies.  As the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provided new challenges and opportunities, CARICOM placed greater emphasis on capacity-building, lessons learned, universal health-care coverage and affordable medicine.  In 2002, the region had become the first to negotiate and sign an agreement with six pharmaceutical companies, reducing drug prices by about 85 to 90 per cent.  Turning to the Political Declaration, he recognized that it provided useful guidelines, but stressed the need to take into consideration cultural, political, social and economic circumstances.  On the financing required to end AIDS, he decried the calculations of contributions based on gross domestic product (GDP) alone because it had failed to include other factors that were impeding small economies.

BARNABAS SIBUSISO DLAMINI, Prime Minister of Swaziland, expressed his country’s hope to end AIDS by 2022.  That meant accelerating efforts in reducing new infections and eliminating all forms of stigma and discrimination.  It would require greater involvement of people living with HIV and of men as strategic partners, he said, underscoring the need to address the vulnerabilities of young women and girls.  He then went on to stress that HIV treatment must be extended beyond the health-care system by strengthening the role of communities.  That would improve adherence to life-long treatment, create efficiencies in service delivery and reduce new infections, he pointed out.

While his country remained committed to financing the HIV/AIDS response, he said it was crucial that global development fora prioritized discussions about sustainable financing.  The agenda for ending the epidemic by 2030 would be accomplished through the improved collaboration within regional blocs, he said, noting that it would create efficiencies in areas including HIV research.

RUHAKANA RUGUNDA, Prime Minister of Uganda, said national strategies had attached great importance to fast-tracking the fight against HIV and ending the AIDS epidemic.  In partnership with development partners, the private sector, civil society, religious and cultural leaders and local communities, Uganda had made significant strides in combating that epidemic since 2011.  The focus of national efforts had been to implement high-impact structural, behavioural and biomedical interventions on a sufficient scale and intensity.

Sharing the outcomes of some of those initiatives, he noted that the number of new HIV infections had declined to 83,265 from 162,000, and prevalence among HIV-exposed infants had fallen to 3 per cent from 19 per cent in 2007.  Furthermore, the number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy had increased to 834,931 in 2015 from 588,039 in 2013.  Regarding efforts to achieve the 90-90-90 targets, he noted that 65 per cent of the HIV-infected population had been diagnosed and given access to care.  In that regard, Uganda’s population HIV impact assessment survey, which would begin in July, would provide the Government with better and current estimates.  Despite those achievements, challenges remained in order to fast track the response, he said, expressing concern that only 55 per cent of Ugandans had ever been tested for HIV and 43 per cent of those eligible for antiretroviral therapy were not receiving treatment.

MOTHETJOA METSING, Deputy Prime Minister of Lesotho, said his country had one of the highest adult HIV prevalence as there were an estimated 52 new infections and 26 deaths each day.  Although the epidemic had been stable over the years, the level was too high to realize the target of 90-90-90.  Lesotho had adopted the WHO 2015 HIV testing services and prevention, care and treatment guidelines and the Prime Minister had launched a “test and treat” strategy in April.  “We are focusing on innovative targeted community-based HIV testing services,” he said, emphasizing that the aim was to reach key populations, such as sex workers, people with disabilities and tuberculosis patients.  To ensure that no one was left behind, the international community must do more to reach the most affected populations.  While Lesotho was on the right path, existing testing and treatment were not enough and the global community must provide support through increased and innovative funding, he concluded.

PAUL BIYOGHE MBA, Deputy Prime Minister of Gabon, said that HIV in Africa remained a major public health threat, like malaria and non-transmittable diseases.  Gabon had not escaped its multiple devastating effects and despite enormous efforts, the struggle against HIV/AIDS was far from being won.  More needed to be done, he said, emphasizing the impact of the economic and financial crisis on developing countries.  Progress that had been made so far on HIV/AIDS would be in vain if some countries, including middle-income countries like Gabon, were excluded from international aid.  Only greater solidarity and the intensive mobilization of meaningful financing would enable a fast-tracked response to HIV/AIDS, he said.

-->