An estimated 6 million people are living with HIV in Asia and the Pacific and only 33 percent of them are receiving treatment, often due to legal and policy barriers in accessing HIV services. Against this backdrop, some 30 countries from the region pledged this week to accelerate the pace of change and committed to ending the AIDS epidemic in the region by 2030 during the Asia-Pacific Intergovernmental Meeting on HIV and AIDS.
Organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in cooperation with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and other United Nations entities, the three-day meeting in Bangkok reviewed progress toward implementing transformative reforms on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support agreed to by national governments in 2012.
Government delegates and civil society organizations reviewed measures to enhance financial sustainability and effectiveness of the region’s HIV response and to strengthen regional cooperation. They focused in particular on addressing legal and policy barriers to accessing services for key populations at higher risk of HIV and persons living with HIV, which include discrimination in employment, health care, education, travel and insurance.
Opening the meeting United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary, Dr. Shamshad Akhtar said: “We must promote laws, policies and practices that are evidence-based and firmly grounded in human rights. We must continue to identify and remove legal and policy barriers to universal access to HIV services. ”
“I believe that Asia and the Pacific can, if effectively mobilized, be a pathbreaker in meeting the commitment to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.”
The new regional framework of cooperation for ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 seeks to fast-track the HIV response with specific actions.
Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS said: “Asia and the Pacific is moving the world forward into new frontiers of development. You have all the right tools in your hands, beginning with political commitment. I challenge you to be the first region to end the AIDS epidemic.”
The President of Fiji and chair of the intergovernmental meeting, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau highlighted: “In the Pacific, a more robust human rights-based approach to HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights is urgently required. In the 21st century countries must adopt legislation that recognizes sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The AIDS response in Asia and the Pacific has witnessed some of the world’s greatest successes. Nevertheless, the course of the HIV epidemic in the ESCAP region shows that current efforts need to be refocused to ensure that all countries are able to meet the commitments made at regional and global levels.
Responding to these commitments, the regional framework for action on HIV and AIDS beyond 2015 endorsed today builds upon the ESCAP roadmap endorsed in 2012 and seeks national reviews and consultations on barriers to accessing HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.
The framework includes a move towards sustainable financing of AIDS response and ensuring affordable access to life-saving medicine and diagnostics. By September, governments will decide on a new set of sustainable development goals (SDGS) for the period after 2015, as the Millennium Development Goals come to an end. The regional framework will provide important input to the global review of progress and help shape the future of the HIV response worldwide post 2015.
“Let us remember that the true test of a humane and inclusive society is marked by its commitment to protecting the most vulnerable,” said Nicholas Rosellini, Director of the UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub.
“As we move towards the Post-2015 Development era, let us reaffirm our common commitment to Leaving No One Behind.”