H.E. Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, President of the General Assembly
H.E. Ms. Patricia Mwaba Kasese-Bota, Co-facilitator, High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS
H.E. Mr. Jürg Lauber, Co-facilitator, High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS
H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations
Mr. Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director
We, the undersigned civil society organizations from around the world, are writing to you to express our profound outrage at the exclusion of a significant number of civil society organizations from the list of organizations published today, accredited to attend the upcoming High Level Meeting on AIDS on June 6th to 8th 2016.
This exclusion is unacceptable, and we call on you to use your fullest influence and understanding of UN processes to work with the General Assembly to reverse this egregious decision.
Whether by intention or omission, community organizations from populations most directly affected by HIV have been excluded, namely Men Who Have Sex With Men, Transgender People, People Who Use Drugs, People Living with HIV, Positive Youth Groups, as well as several major global and regional civil society networks. We cannot on one hand talk about Key Populations and on the other hand exclude their voice from the highest level forum in the global response to HIV.
This decision goes against the principles of inclusivity and solidarity that both the President of the General Assembly and the Co-Facilitators clearly stated at beginning of the process:
“Also with regard to stakeholder engagement, delegations will recall that on 30 March, I circulated the list – of NGOs, civil society organizations, academic institutions and the private sector who applied to attend the High-level meeting in June – for consideration of Member States on a non-objection basis. Given the important contribution of civil society, private sector and other stakeholders in the AIDS response, and in order to ensure an inclusive and participatory HLM, I call on Member States to extend their full support to stakeholder participation and approve this list as soon as possible.” (1)
“… No member state can deny that it is legally bound to ensure that all people enjoy their human rights without discrimination – and this includes discrimination against those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.” (2)
This decision is also a direct rebuff to the Secretary General’s own advocacy to strengthen the rights of and engagement with LGBTI communities around the world: “And I say to members of the LGBT community: the United Nations will always stand with you in your fight for recognition, respect and rights.” (3)
Further – and perhaps most critically – the draft Political Declaration is itself underpinned by the clear evidence that involving vulnerable populations most affected by HIV – particularly Men Who Have Sex With Men, People Who Use Drugs, Transgender People, and Sex Workers – is essential to mounting an effective response to end AIDS, and helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Is this not the fundamental purpose of holding this High Level Meeting? Does this foreshadow what civil society can expect from UN Member States in the final Political Declaration?
By excluding organizations from these communities, the General Assembly is sending a terrible message to the world that it is prepared to let discrimination and prejudice yet again hamper our collective efforts to end AIDS. It also signals a disregard for communities most affected by HIV worldwide and Member State intentions to weaken the outcome of the High Level Meeting through exclusion and subsequent omission.
We appreciate that your offices have been and continue to advocate for inclusivity and equity in our efforts to reach the SDGs. Moreover, we understand that the challenges faced in mounting an effective AIDS response may continue to be sensitive for some governments. However, we urge the General Assembly to show moral and political leadership. June’s High Level Meeting on AIDS is an occasion of great importance to all who work to bring the global HIV epidemic under control. We cannot afford to fail.
We therefore call upon the GA to reverse and reconsider the exclusion of the groups so far excluded from the accredited list of civil society organizations, and work with us to ensure a powerful, inclusive outcome in June that will drive the world’s effective response to AIDS over the next fifteen years.
Bravo to our colleagues in the WHO HIV Department! Pangaea strongly supports WHO's "Treat All" Recommendation that anyone infected with HIV should begin ARV treatment as soon after diagnosis as possible.
Now, the hard work begins making this a reality - and Pangaea will be at the forefront of efforts to promote the development of more effective and affordable treatments for all - including those in middle income countries.
Ben Plumley, CEO Pangaea Global AIDS
The global AIDS epidemic is one of the greatest challenges of our generation. Borrowing the words of Pangaea's partner, the MSM Global Forum on HIV & AIDS which held a packed meeting in the UN in New York yesterday, AIDS is "unfinished business".
We have made huge progress since 2001, when the UN General Assembly held its first Special Session on AIDS. Billions of dollars invested, an array of new life saving treatments developed, 16 million people now on treatment, and medications to prevent infections now being rolled out around the world.
But the last fifteen years have witnessed a lack of meaningful progress in HIV prevention. The number of new infections globally has barely budged since 2008.
Now, we run the very real risk of running out of steam, losing the political momentum, intellectual drive, and righteous passion that has gotten us so far. This, sadly, is clearly reflected in the most recent projection of needed investments calculated by the UN Programme on HIV/AIDS. Based on untested assumptions, it proposes reducing the total need of new funding by 2020 by 3.8 billion dollars to 26.2 billion, and that, after 2020, investments can be reduced significantly further.
But perhaps the most grievous gap is the absence of any reference to the critically needed investment for innovation in technology and health service delivery.
It was to address this gap, that Pangaea's CEO Ben Plumley moderated a panel on Innovation at the Civil Society Hearing of the UN General Assembly High Level Session on AIDS today. He emphasized that:
"AIDS will not end in 2020: we need to invest now in new technologies in HIV prevention, testing and treatment, as well as creative new ways to deliver urgently needed health services - particularly for communities most affected by HIV, including girls and women, men who have sex with men, injection drug users and sex workers. The costs of this investment are known to us and have been clearly set out in reports like the UNAIDS Lancet Commission.
"So we are calling on the UN Member States as they negotiate their final political declaration, to commit to a major long term campaign of research and development - we aren't expecting governments to fund this alone: the private sector and foundations need to be part of this multi-disciplinary campaign, engaging affected communities right from the start, so that humanity's most inspired creativity can identify and deliver innovations in prevention, testing and treatment to the people who need them most around the world."
Over 2 years blood, sweat and tears have brought us to this exciting day in Beijing where HIV and breast cancer movements have united to advocate for strengthened screening, treatment and support services in China.
The All China Women Federation launches today The Pink Alliance – a new Chinese public private initiative to scale up community-led breast cancer early detection, support and access to treatment. The Pink Alliance is the result of two years of program development and piloting by V-Med, the implementation agency of AIDS Care China and Pangaea, with funding and technical assistance from Susan G. Komen. Over a decade of expertise from China's HIV community mobilization has been the foundation of our strategy that mobilizes and empowers networks of breast cancer survivors to strengthen early detection and treatment through advocacy, peer support, linkage to health services and workplace-based education.
ACWF Vice President Zhen Yan said "Using ACWF's unrivaled network of national' women's affiliates, the Pink Alliance has already provided for over 6500 women to receive education awareness and information about access to early detection services in Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Guangzhou and Zhongshan."
Judy Salerno, CEO of Susan G. Komen, added, "Like ACWF, we believe that all women can live healthy and productive lives – free from the threat of breast cancer – when they can have ready access to breast cancer screening, and that the outcomes for women with breast cancer are improved significantly when they can have access to the best treatment, but also access to the support networks of other breast cancer survivors. "
V-Med Women’s Health Director, Tina Lyo said, “ As a woman who has benefited personally from early detection, I passionately believe that all women, regardless of where they live, must have access to regular breast cancer screening and supportive treatment services.
Thomas Cai, V-Med's CEO, Pangaea adviser and founder of ACC added, " Solidarity with HIV shows unquestionably that health services must be rooted in the communities they serve to be most effective and sustainable. Furthermore, both people living with HIV and breast cancer can face terrible stigma and discrimination which have to be faced directly."
New HIV prevention data for women
Two studies presented at CROI today, ASPIRE and the Ring Trial, show the promise of a new prevention technology for women - the dapivarine vaginal ring. Both trials showed similar findings – with the ring reducing risk of transmission by approximately 30%. Efficacy was substantially higher among women older than 21 years who appeared to keep the ring in consistently throughout the month. As with previous trials, adherence appeared to be lower among adolescent women, which may explain the lower levels of efficacy in those under 21 years.
Pangaea strongly supports calls for investment in further evaluation of the dapivirne ring, and in Microbicides more broadly.
Dr Megan Dunbar, Pangaea’s Senior Vice President of Research and Policy commented, "Women need to be at the center of decision-making about future research and implementation of the ring. Open label studies designed with women’s full input must move forward to answer if and how real-world use may lead to greater adherence and improved efficacy, particularly for those in younger age groups.”
The other key message from today is that we need to move rapidly forward on scaling up PrEP for women, which is currently the only proven ART-based prevention intervention.
In April this year, Pangaea will convene an expert meeting of policy and community leaders, advocates and researchers to determine key priorities for advancing research to roll-out of prevention innovations for young women, including PrEP and the vaginal ring.
For more information about the dapivirne ring, please visit the AVAC website at www.avac.org http://www.avac.org/