UN High-Level Meeting Fails Key Populations, Leaving Asia-Pacific Behind

By June 10, 2016 Newsroom

9 June 2016, New York – APCOM, together with other civil society and community of key populations affected by and at risk of HIV, rejects the final text of the agreed Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS under Fast Track to accelerate the fight against HIV and to end AIDS by 2030 adopted by Member States during the High Level Meeting on 08 June 2016.

APCOM is extremely disappointed on the final approved language of the Political Declaration as it does not address the needs of the key populations who are affected by and at risk of HIV epidemic in every sense. The Declaration also fails to use inclusive language on key populations so as to include Men who are having sex with Men (MSM), Transgender people, people who use drugs, and sex workers. At this point, APCOM highlights that it is indispensable, imperative and critical to acknowledge and identify the key populations as defined by UNAIDS and World Health Organization as the drivers of the epidemic as all evidence now available shows.

Not identifying the Key Populations, the 2016 Declaration is a step backwards to the more progressive language compared to 2011 Declaration. In addition, Asia Pacific member states has shown commitment in the ESCAP resolutions 66/10 67/9 to HIV and key populations. In this regard, APCOM has expected that Asian member states would push the 2016 Declaration to be even more inclusive and respectful to the  human rights of key populations.

It is appalling that the Political Declaration has damagingly removed Asia and the Pacific from the context of the current HIV epidemic. This again goes against all available evidence in which the region is presented as heavily burdened by the HIV epidemic especially among key populations and MSM in particular. Also, the situation among young key populations is completely ignored. APCOM views this as a detrimental set back of the HIV response in our region.

It is appalling that the Political Declaration has damagingly removed Asia and the Pacific from the context of the current HIV epidemic.

On the rights perspective, the Political Declaration is not grounded on the human rights of the key populations. It disregards any commitments to end stigma and discrimination by creating an enabling legal environment for the key populations including lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons. The Member States overlooked their duties to respect, promote, and fulfil human rights by not including a commitment to remove punitive laws criminalizing key populations in their respective countries. And the Declaration fails to commit to support and funding to civil society organisations and community-led interventions in the HIV response.

These critical failures in the Final Declaration will have as a result that the HIV epidemic will not end in 2030. The universally made commitment to do so is broken through the acceptance of this Declaration.

These critical failures in the Final Declaration will have as a result that the HIV epidemic will not end in 2030. The universally made commitment to do so is broken through the acceptance of this Declaration.

In addition, it is immensely worrying that the final text of the Declaration provides a glaring chance to Member States to translate global commitments to end AIDS into country implementation consistent with observed customs, traditions and religion. Concretely, it will mean that key populations will not be targeted in these countries in national HIV programmes and, thus, are deprived of prevention, treatment and care under the excuse of religious practices and cultural customs.

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APCOM is further extremely concerned how key population and community organisations were not meaningfully involved in the process of finalizing the text of the Political Declaration. The exclusion of a large group of civil society organisations to the meeting and the limited engagement with civil society at the meeting by country delegations sets a dangerous and painful precedent for future High Level and other meetings at the UN-level and in other international, regional and national forums. The future, our future, as affected populations is at stake and APCOM will fight in close cooperation with all allies that we have to reverse the damage done to the HIV-response for key populations in this High Level Meeting and its Final Declaration.

Members States should see stronger community-led and rights-based responses as assets to the sustainable development and health response towards their most marginalized and neglected people. Only by working in respectful collaboration can the dream of ending AIDS come true.