The High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS (HLM) took place from 7th to 10th of June 2016 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. A political declaration titled “On the Fast Track to Accelerate The Fight Against HIV And to End AIDS Epidemic by 2030” was adopted by member states which is supposed to spell out the commitments of members states to end the AIDS Epidemic by 2030.
The activists and advocates all around the world expressed grave disappointment and resentment at the adoption of this political declaration which does not recognize key population in the context of their human rights. Sexual rights have been removed and vague reference are made to comprehensive sexuality education.
The political declaration states that young people count for over one third of HIV new infections yet fails to recognize that it is mainly among young key populations. As the epidemic tends to get younger it is critical that young key populations are specifically focused in the HIV response. Leaving young key populations behind will only fuel the epidemic further.
YVC took an active role since the release of the zero draft of the political declaration in April advocating for the inclusion of MSM and transgender people, young key populations and concerns of Asia and the Pacific region along with APCOM, Global Platform to fast track the HIV and Human Rights response to gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men (the platform), MSMGF and other organizations.
The zero draft of the political declaration was released early April 2016. Along with APCOM, YVC provided initial comments to the zero draft focusing on the commendable aspects, what is missing and what needs to be strengthen. YVC, took a separate effort analysing the zero draft from a young MSM and young transgender perspective providing our members a bite size easy to access document highlighting the concerns of young MSM and young transgender people. The document intended to facilitate advocacy by our members with governments and country delegations.
APCOM and YVC along with AFAO also released a special brief titled “UN General assembly zero draft political declaration” focusing on the key concerns of MSM and transgender communities in the region for the High Level meeting on HIV.
Youth Voices took part in the side event organized by the MSMGF and The Platform titled Unfinished Business: HIV Among Gay, Bisexual Men and Other Men Who Have Sex With Men to the High Level meeting on HIV. The goal of the Side Event was to ensure the outcomes of the United Nations High Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS include and even prioritize gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men.Sitting at the panel 2 of the side event titled, Models for collaboration between MSM‐ led organizations and governments across the HIV prevention and treatment continuum of care, YVC expressed the importance of community engagement in service provision for MSM.
Hands On with Permanent missions
A group of global activists and advocates from 30 countries gathered in New York from 16-20 May 2016 to engage in a “Lobby Week”. Youth Voices Count has been part of this energetic group of people and Asia and Pacific was represented by 7 Sisters, Center for Advocacy on Stigma and Marginalization (SANGRAM), Scarlet Alliance and Asia Pacific Sex Workers Network, Youth Voices Count (YVC) and Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM). Youth Voices Count has been strongly advocating with the missions to recognize “young key populations” as a key priority group in the global HIV response as the current draft of the declaration only recognizes young people in general.
The High Level Meeting
The High Level meeting took place from 8-10th June 2016 and was co-facilitated by Switzerland and Zambia. The political declaration was adopted soon after the opening plenary of the meeting leaving no room for country delegations for further negotiations. Number of countries including Holy See, Iran, Belarus and Russia delivered country statements opposing language on key populations. Unites States, Australia and canada among other supportive countries expressed their continued support for the inclusion and focus on the key populations during their country statements.
As the gavel was slammed with the adoption of the political declaration soon after the opening plenary of the HLM, civil society walked out of the UN general assembly hall to demonstrate their disapproval of the weak political deceleration. Following the walk out to demonstrate the disappointment and anger at the Member States for adopting a weak political deceleration that will not result in expected outcomes to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, the civil society representatives organized a protest in front of the United Nations Headquarters. The civil society representatives marched with slogans and banners which said “our blood is in your hands, act now end AIDS”. YVC also made a press release stating YVC’s stance on the political declaration. These demonstrations will be continued at the International AIDS conference taking place in Durban, South Africa from 18- 22nd July.
Written by Niluka Perera, Projects Officer of YVC