Don’t Leave Communities Behind

By January 28, 2015 Advocacy

We are civil society groups and communities of sex workers, people living with HIV, people who use drugs, men who have sex with men, transgender people, key affected women and girls, migrants, people with disabilities, young people and adolescents, people in prison, indigenous peoples, orphans and vulnerable children and ageing population, and other communities.

We are here today to tell governments that the road to universal access is paved with communities that have been left behind. We welcome the gains made by governments that seek to fulfill their commitments, but we need to remind ourselves that ending AIDS is impossible if the exclusion of key populations and vulnerable communities continues.

Ending AIDS is impossible if governments continue to commit to Universal Access, without committing to decriminalize sex work, homosexuality, or drug use; or creating laws to recognize the rights of young people and transgender people. Ending AIDS is impossible if the commitment to increase domestic funding only increases resources for the politically acceptable parts of the HIV response, and leaves behind programs that prevent infection among key populations and communities.

We are here today to remind governments that ending AIDS is only possible with a holistic approach that truly leaves no one behind.

Universal Access is impossible without us

We appreciate the Member States that have undertaken national reviews and multisectoral consultations, and offer our partnership to the member states that have not yet undertaken them.

The Commission resolutions 66/10 and 67/9 and 2011 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS call for political leadership to advance human rights through amendment or removal of laws, policies and practices that fuel stigma and discrimination. This region has shown global leadership in the adoption of these landmark resolutions.

That leadership should not waver because Asia and the Pacific has seen an overall reduction in new infections since 2011. But, growing epidemics are concentrated in major cities and within key populations, including young people, men who have sex with men, people who use drugs and transgender people.

We call on decision makers to scale-up rights-based, community-led and gender-responsive HIV treatment, care and support interventions, including people of sexual diversity, and young people from key populations.

>The Policies and Laws that Address the HIV Response are Leaving us Behind

We also recognize recent favourable policy and legal developments in our region – such as the recognition of third gender in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. We applaud Fiji for the recognition of sexual orientation and gender identity issues in their constitution, as well as Palau’s recent decriminalization of consensual same sex behavior. But these are the exceptions. Our region still faces a wall of legal and policy barriers, including: parental consent, marital consent, age restrictions, mandatory HIV testing, travel restrictions, criminalization and detention of drug users, sex workers, gay men, and transgender people. These must end.  Some countries still use the death penalty for drug related crimes.  All these must immediately be abolished.

Key affected women and girls and people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity, in particular continue to face multiple layers of discrimination and violence. All forms of violence, stigma and discrimination, including gender based violence and sexual violence, must be eradicated. Religious and cultural values should not hinder the HIV response.

We call for the improvement of accountability mechanisms to uphold and fulfill the health and human rights of all people. We offer our partnership with the UN state and non-state actors to make this a reality for the region. This cannot be achieved without guaranteeing political space for civil society.

Ending HIV is no longer a dream. It is now an achievable reality. By the end of this three day meeting, 2,877 people from our region will have been newly infected. Let’s make this IGM count. Let’s do our job. Let’s bring the number to zero. Don’t leave communities behind.

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