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June 2011
Global ID
UN AIDS Declaration Sets Ambitious Goals, Falls Short in Some Areas

Earlier this month, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly set several ambitious HIV/AIDS goals—including putting 15 million people on lifesaving antiretroviral therapy in low- and middle-income countries by 2015 (about twice the number currently on therapy) and halving the number of tuberculosis-related deaths among people with HIV. But advocates also noted some weaknesses in the UN declaration, adopted following the UN High-Level Meeting on AIDS in New York City, related to human rights and other issues.

“The declaration does call for member states to reduce transmission of HIV among injecting drug users by 50 percent by 2015, but UNAIDS is already on record calling for a reduction to zero infections, so this seems to be a step back,” Zoe Hudson, senior policy analyst at the Open Society Policy Center, told Science Speaks, the blog of the Center for Global Health Policy. “These provisions are further weakened by a paragraph that only requires member states to ‘give consideration’ to harm reduction programs. Every other prevention intervention is embraced outright.”

The declaration also addressed the recent HPTN 052 trial findings, which show that starting antiretroviral therapy earlier among HIV-infected individuals reduces sexual transmission of HIV to their uninfected partners by more than 96 percent. The declaration calls for intensifying national HIV testing campaigns and urges countries to deploy new biomedical interventions as soon as they are validated, including earlier access to treatment as prevention, according to a press release from UNAIDS. The HPTN 052 study results have emboldened many advocates to call for additional action to finally end the pandemic.

The UN agreement also makes a commitment to investment in accelerated basic research, specifically including female-controlled prevention methods, such as microbicides and other new prevention technologies.

In addition, UN member states agreed to increase AIDS-related spending to between $22 billion and $24 billion in low- and middle-income countries by 2015. During the UN meeting, representatives of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program, along with UNAIDS, also announced a goal of virtually eliminating mother-to-child transmission of AIDS by 2015 (see related blog post). For more coverage of the UN meeting, visit the Center’s blog, Science Speaks.
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