AIDS 2006: The UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS)

Five years ago, the United Nations General Assembly held a special session on HIV/AIDS.  This was the first time all UN members had convened under the auspices of the General Assembly to address a specific health issue.   In view of the staggering nature of the pandemic, the member states adopted in 2001 a 10-year plan, known as the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS – to guide international effort to stem the spread of the disease and care for those infected by it.   From May 31-June 2, the international community will convene once again to take stock of progress in implementing the action plan, evaluate successful and unsuccessful efforts, and chart a course for the future.  

Preparations for the upcoming meeting have been extensive, involving a wide range of civil society actors and national assessments, by more than 100 nations, of progress and obstacles to stemming the pandemic.   In recent weeks, country representatives have been negotiating a political declaration, to be endorsed on June 2, 2006 in New York.  Because many governments are falling short on meeting the targets agreed to in 2001, this will be an important occasion to identify challenges still being faced, identify what needs to be done differently and recommit to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS. 

RH Reality Check will be covering the upcoming HIV/AIDS meeting live on the ground in New York with a coalition of bloggers, including youth delegates from Advocates for Youth.  We will be focusing on whether world leaders are heeding empirical evidence and addressing forthrightly some of the key issues in the fight to staunch the pandemic. 

These include: 

  • The overemphasis on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs rather than addressing the range of realities in people’s lives.
  • Developing HIV/AIDS response strategies that work for women, necessary because now nearly 50% of all those infected with HIV are women.
  • Establishing that women are now among “high risk” groups for HIV infection.
  • Promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights as a key prevention strategy because they are a well-established entry point for young people and women and don’t require the costs or carry the stigma of setting up separate HIV/AIDS services.

For more information about all that is surrounding the UNGASS, visit UNAIDS.  ICASO has more useful information about this event, and IWHC has great information about the broad-based coalition promoting sexual and reproductive heath and rights.

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