Young key populations left behind in the Political Declaration of the High Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS
9th June, New York – The Political Declaration of the High Level meeting to End AIDS 2016 titled “On the Fast-Track to accelerate the fight against HIV and to End the AIDS Epidemic by 2030” was adopted by the members states at the General Assembly at the United Nations Head Quarters on 8th June after the opening plenary.
Despite the self-appraisal of the member states and the United Nations itself on their achievement, the civil society walked out of the General Assembly signifying their deep dissatisfaction of the Political Declaration which has blatantly left communities behind in spite of an abundance of data which prove that key populations – gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender women and people who inject drugs should be in the forefront of the response. A demonstration was organized outside the United Nations by the Civil Society representatives to show their outrage on the adoption of a Political Declaration to “Not end AIDS”. A civil society political declaration titled “Civil Society and Communities Declaration to End HIV: Human Rights Must Come First” was developed and endorsed by over 80 organizations across the world.
In a 20 odd pages document with over 14,000 words key populations are mentioned only twice in the context of “risk”. Addressing criminalization of these communities as a major barrier to reaching the bold targets set forth in the Declaration itself has barely been touched or not at all. “Comprehensive Sexuality Education” is not mentioned whereas in the document a vague reference to CSE is made. The rights aspect of sexuality and sexual and reproductive health has been limited to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.
Despite the reference to young people accounting to over one third of the new HIV infections across the world in paragraph 39, young key populations have been left out of the Political Declaration making them invisible yet again. It is crucial that young key populations are specifically recognized as the most affected within the cohort of young people and a specific political commitment is made to fast track the response to them.
Globally the estimated number of new infections among young gay men and other MSM in the age group 13-24 years increased by 22% from 2008 to 2010. Young transgender people are 18 times more likely to acquire HIV with unprotected anal intercourse. Research among young transgender populations in the US and in Thailand shows also high rates of suicide, sometimes as high as 45%. And 20-40% of female sex workers enter sex work as adolescents, with a median age of 16 years. This is associated with greater risk of physical and sexual violence and a two- to four-fold increase in risk of acquiring HIV. The age of onset to injecting drugs is getting younger everywhere in the world. For example, in Central and Eastern Europe, 1 in 4 people who inject drugs are now under 20 years of age.
Youth Voices Count, as a network representing young gay men and young transgender people from Asia and the Pacific is profoundly concerned of young key populations being entirely left behind by a Political Declaration that is supposed to fast track the HIV response for the next five years. It is crucial that we are recognized and brought to the forefront of the HIV response in order to end AIDS by 2030. The vitality of comprehensive sexuality education in capacitating young people to make informed choices about their lives must be recognized. The indispensability of sexual and reproductive health and sexual and reproductive rights as an integral component of the HIV response especially for young people and young key populations need to be recognized, promoted and protected.
The AIDS epidemic will never end with a Political declaration that has deliberately left the key populations behind and most of all has left young key populations behind, the most vulnerable group in which the epidemic is now concentrated.
–Niluka , Project Officer, Youth Voices Count–