The High Level Meeting on HIV (HLM) will be taking place in June 2016 where member states will adopt a political declaration outlining their commitment to ending AIDS. It is crucial that this political deceleration is a way forward from the political deceleration that was adopted during the High Level Meeting on HIV in 2011 to ensure that we end AIDS by 2030.
With an ambitious intention to lobby the permanent missions to the United Nations based in New York for a progressive political declaration, a group of global activists and advocates from 30 countries gathered in New York from 16-20 May 2016 and Youth Voices Count has been part of this energetic group of people. 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 Heath (APCOM).
Key populations, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Comprehensive Sexuality Education, Age of Consent , Human Rights, TRIPs and HIV Financing are some of the contentious issues within the political deceleration that requires strong advocacy and lobbying to ensure their retaining in the final political declaration. 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.
It is absolutely crucial that the political deceleration recognizes key populations and young key populations as those who are most affected by the epidemic. It should present a human rights framework to ending the epidemic by 2030 recognizing that decriminalizing of key populations as one of the most impactful interventions. The intrinsic link between sexual and reproductive health and rights should be highlighted along with the clear correlation of gender based violence and HIV especially in case of women and girls. Comprehensive sexuality education must be identified as an integral means of empowering all to make informed decisions with regards to their lives that would have a vital impact on HIV prevention. Member states must commit to financing the HIV response both globally and domestically making sure that civil society is duly supported and engaged.
The political declaration that will come out of this HLM on HIV may not be legally binding to the member states. However it would largely contribute to fashion the global, regional and local HIV response in the next 5 years. It would largely impact and influence the distribution of resources to the HIV response and hence will decided on the ending or further continuation of the epidemic beyond 2030. Hence it is crucial that as civil society and communities who are affected by the epidemic to make our voices heard right now so that we will not be left behind tomorrow.
.Written by Niluka Perera, Project Officer of Youth Voices Count