Sex workers distribute red ribbons at a rally on World Aids Day in Mumbai.(HT Photo)
Sex workers distribute red ribbons at a rally on World Aids Day in Mumbai.(HT Photo)

The UNAIDS declaration on eradication is a half-done job

The world body must strengthen its fight against AIDS, because its victims face social stigma and are up against oppressive legal systems
By JVR Prasada Rao
PUBLISHED ON JUN 23, 2016 09:11 PM IST

The high-level meeting on AIDS, convened at the United Nations, New York, started on June 8 and virtually ended in a few hours. The Political Declaration, which was being negotiated for the past couple of months, was unanimously adopted on the first day without any discussion, leaving the large number of civil society participants and community groups in disbelief.

The 25-page declaration, which runs into 79 paragraphs, contains commitments addressing all sections of society vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, women, young people and adolescent girls, migrant populations, and poor and marginalised communities. But nowhere in the last 27 paragraphs, which contain various global targets and commitments, is there any mention of the key affected populations — sex workers and their clients, people who use drugs and the LGBT community. Evidence exists on how countries have not adequately invested in preventing new infections among these groups and how a large proportion among them are still denied access to anti-retroviral treatment (ARV) because of deep-rooted stigma and oppressive legal systems.

Read: Muslim nations block gay groups from UNAIDS conference

The reasons for this are not difficult to seek. The UN system operates on the principle of consensus and has to accommodate conflicting policies and cultures to arrive at a commonly acceptable position on issues. It is quite clear that some countries in West Asia, and East and Central Asia are generally opposed to prevention efforts aimed at sex workers, gay men and people who use drugs. These two regions still see sharply increasing rates of new infections among these very populations who are criminalised and stigmatised by national laws, policies and practices. In hammering out a draft resolution acceptable to divergent shades of political opinion, the co-facilitators of the meeting had to accommodate every aspect of AIDS response into it. In the process, the sharp focus that is needed on prioritising prevention, treatment and care for the key affected populations is missing in the Declaration.

Read: UN chief calls for end of AIDS by 2020

Even in countries that have been able to report a drastic reduction of new infections, evidence has shown rising rates of new infections among sex workers, people who inject drugs, and the LGBT communities. This is true even in the hyper-epidemic countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Global public opinion has, therefore, been looking for a strong resolution sharply focusing on the main issues and how they should be prioritised for the next five years to achieve the ambitious targets set for 2020.

Read: Work on inequalities to get rid of AIDS: UN

On the positive side, the Declaration has successfully set quantitative targets the world community has pledged to fulfil by 2020 and later by 2030. These relate to committing financial resources for treatment programmes to fulfil the 90-90-90 targets (by the year 2020, 90% of HIV-infected people will get to know about the disease; 90% of them will receive “antiretroviral cure”; 90% of those receiving “antiretroviral cure will have viral suppression”), overseas development assistance to reach the agreed 0.7% of GDP for developed countries, and spending a quarter of the AIDS budgets on prevention. The commitment to put 30 million people on treatment is a commendable objective, which is expected to save the lives of 11 million people in the next 15 years, and stop a further 16.5 million people from getting infected by HIV.

The looming crisis of funding AIDS programmes because of a sharp reduction of external assistance from sources such as the Global Fund for AIDS TB and Malaria (GFATM) for middle-income countries was also identified as a challenge. Thirty-six countries that were identified as accounting for about 90% of the new infections are mostly from the middle-income group. While bio-medical interventions like treatment can be progressively integrated into general health systems, the threat of closure of prevention programmes for key populations cannot be underestimated. There is understandable anxiety among community members about the stoppage of funding from both external and domestic sources for prevention and treatment programmes targeting them. No firm assurance was forthcoming in the Declaration to clear such apprehensions.

Read: How we label a crime says a lot about our own priorities

India’s health minister, in his plenary address, made a passionate appeal for ending AIDS by 2030, and put forward a five-point action plan for achieving this objective. He assured the world body of India’s commitment to apply the TRIPs-related flexibilities for manufacturing affordable ARV generic drugs. Despite a disabling legal system, India’s national programme has managed to extend the benefits of prevention and treatment programmes to key populations in the last 15 years.

With no important world event planned for the next five years concerning HIV/AIDS and with ambitious targets set at the meeting, it is hard and determined work that lies ahead for countries to fulfil the commitments they have made at the meeting. Five years is not a long period in the global fight against AIDS but the next five will determine whether ‘Ending AIDS by 2030’ is an achievable goal or will remain a distant dream.

JVR Prasada Rao is a former Union health secretary

The views expressed here are personal

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Approximately half of the countries use population for delimitation, while another third use registered voters. Nowhere is it based on area and for good reasons (HTPHOTO)
Approximately half of the countries use population for delimitation, while another third use registered voters. Nowhere is it based on area and for good reasons (HTPHOTO)

J&K delimitation: Go by the population rule

By Haseeb Drabu
PUBLISHED ON MAR 01, 2021 06:39 PM IST
Having already decided on the number of electors as well as the number of elected, the only part of delimitation that has been left to the Commission is the electoral cartography — the redrawing of boundaries and enclosing people within the constituency framework. Notwithstanding these debilitating infirmities in the context of J&K, the redrawing of the constituencies is an extraordinarily complex and highly contentious exercise. It can potentially alter the electoral demographic balance.
Close
Representational image. (AFP)
Representational image. (AFP)

Congress needs to worry more about rebels than opponents in Puducherry

By Abhishek Jha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 22, 2021 06:32 PM IST
The only time the Congress has lost Puducherry, it has been because of a rebel. The Congress and DMK together have won over 50% seats in every assembly elections in Puducherry since 1980, except in 2011
Close
At a January meeting to review projects, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed displeasure at the process-driven bureaucracy (ANI)
At a January meeting to review projects, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed displeasure at the process-driven bureaucracy (ANI)

Behind PM Modi’s stinging critique of the IAS, a Jan meeting holds the clue

By Shishir Gupta, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 17, 2021 09:35 AM IST
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given bureaucrats an earful at a January meeting of the country's top officials and underlined the price that India paid for their slow pace.
Close
PM Narendra Modi was emotional while giving a farewell to Ghulam Nabi Azad from Rajya Sabha.
PM Narendra Modi was emotional while giving a farewell to Ghulam Nabi Azad from Rajya Sabha.

Salute to Ghulam Nabi Azad underlined PM Modi’s personal ties with rivals

By Saubhadra Chatterji | Edited by Abhinav Sahay, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2021 03:37 PM IST
  • Leaders from the Congress and other Opposition parties have many stories to show that the Prime Minister has maintained personal rapport with leaders cutting across political boundaries.
Close
Officials carry out search and rescue operation at Tapovan Tunnel, after a glacier broke off in Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district causing a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river on Sunday. (File photo)
Officials carry out search and rescue operation at Tapovan Tunnel, after a glacier broke off in Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district causing a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river on Sunday. (File photo)

Not just climate change, Chamoli disaster was human-induced

UPDATED ON FEB 08, 2021 12:15 PM IST
Stone quarrying, blasting of mountains and digging of tunnels in the base of the mountain system for two dams on Rishi Ganga and Dhauli Ganga rivers played havoc with the local ecology
Close
In this file photo, a man hangs on to pole holding a Sikh religious flag along with a farm union flag at the historic Red Fort monument during a farmers protest against new farm laws in New Delhi(AP)
In this file photo, a man hangs on to pole holding a Sikh religious flag along with a farm union flag at the historic Red Fort monument during a farmers protest against new farm laws in New Delhi(AP)

Perception is the truth in information warfare over farm laws

By Shishir Gupta, New Delhi, Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON FEB 04, 2021 01:42 PM IST
  • The Chinese were among the first to recognise the role of information warfare to weaken the adversary from within
Close
Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman. (Ajay Aggarwal /HT PHOTO)
Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman. (Ajay Aggarwal /HT PHOTO)

A new confidence about India reflects in a bold Budget 2021

By Monika Halan
UPDATED ON FEB 01, 2021 09:59 PM IST
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has chosen to spend on generating future income using the higher capital spending, which has gone up by 35.4% over the previous year
Close
Shaibal Gupta also made a pioneering contribution in explaining the historical roots and the evolution of Bihar’s politics, which have today become the staple of everyday political analysis. (FACEBOOK)
Shaibal Gupta also made a pioneering contribution in explaining the historical roots and the evolution of Bihar’s politics, which have today become the staple of everyday political analysis. (FACEBOOK)

The life and times of a Patna intellectual

UPDATED ON JAN 31, 2021 06:20 AM IST
Shaibal Gupta was rooted and cosmopolitan; idealistic and pragmatic; and an insider and outsider — all at the same time. Patna’s public life will not the same without him.
Close
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar's address on India-China ties is a reminder to Beijing that the bilateral relationship between the two Asian powers is not a one-way street.(AP/File)
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar's address on India-China ties is a reminder to Beijing that the bilateral relationship between the two Asian powers is not a one-way street.(AP/File)

Jaishankar yellow-cards China for violating pacts, spells out the India way

By Shishir Gupta, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 29, 2021 03:02 PM IST
  • S Jaishankar’s speech on India-China ties signals India’s determination to continue to stand up to Xi Jinping’s expansionist plans for Asia as an equal and makes it clear that nothing that Beijing does against India will be overlooked, or allowed to go unpunished.
Close
Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of China's Alibaba Group, in Chiba, Japan, June 18, 2015 (REUTERS)
Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of China's Alibaba Group, in Chiba, Japan, June 18, 2015 (REUTERS)

Jack Ma story: China’s deep strategic ambition

By Manoj Kewalramani
UPDATED ON JAN 29, 2021 04:50 AM IST
This statist vision of the future is very different from the government creating a level-playing field for private capital to compete and the market to do its job. It is about the State guiding capital and private entities towards what it believes are national strategic priorities, rather than allowing them to simply focus on generating greater revenue.
Close
A Nihang Sikh aboard a horse inside Red Fort on Tuesday.(Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
A Nihang Sikh aboard a horse inside Red Fort on Tuesday.(Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)

Republic Day raid was pre-meditated, planned well in advance

UPDATED ON JAN 28, 2021 02:17 PM IST
With Delhi Police under firm orders not to open fire, the armed Nihang Sikhs provided the cover for the tractors to roll towards Red Fort.
Close
A video of an unruly tractor moving waywardly towards police personnel at ITO emerged on Tuesday as farmers protesting against farm laws deviated from their route and moved inside the Capital.
A video of an unruly tractor moving waywardly towards police personnel at ITO emerged on Tuesday as farmers protesting against farm laws deviated from their route and moved inside the Capital.

How unruly farmers tried to embarrass India on Republic Day

UPDATED ON JAN 27, 2021 02:09 PM IST
The tractor-borne unruly farmers were minutes away from India Gate when they were blocked by New Delhi Range police.
Close
How do we address this cyclical pattern of hailing and rubbishing financiers? It is time for an honest review of the entire issue (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
How do we address this cyclical pattern of hailing and rubbishing financiers? It is time for an honest review of the entire issue (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The policy landscape around digital and physical micro-lending

By Amol Agrawal
UPDATED ON JAN 25, 2021 06:08 AM IST
In 1870s, a similar backlash emerged in Poona and Ahmednagar districts of the Bombay presidency. The agriculture boom in the early 1860s led farmers to take loans from moneylenders
Close
A tiny tax on stock market transactions can help fund India’s vaccination drive without burning a hole in the wallets of stock market investors and give the government headroom for other expenditure to help save lives (AFP)
A tiny tax on stock market transactions can help fund India’s vaccination drive without burning a hole in the wallets of stock market investors and give the government headroom for other expenditure to help save lives (AFP)

Vaccinating all Indians, for free

By Praveen Chakravarty
UPDATED ON JAN 25, 2021 06:08 AM IST
The markets are at an all-time high. Impose a Covid-19 surcharge on transactions and use it for vaccination
Close
Why is it that, despite the government displaying its willingness to take a step back, the matter was not resolved? (PTI)
Why is it that, despite the government displaying its willingness to take a step back, the matter was not resolved? (PTI)

Farm protests: The costs of a prolonged standoff

By Shashi Shekhar
UPDATED ON JAN 25, 2021 06:08 AM IST
The government has extended an olive branch. The farmers must respect this and reciprocate. The tone set on Saturday should pave the way for a permanent solution.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP