HIV remains one of the most formidable challenges facing the human family and we ignore this challenge, literally, at our own peril.
At our own peril, huh? Wow. But not to worry. Fortunately for all of us, a bunch of really, really important people recently took charge, jumped in and took forceful, direct and positive action. They held a United Nations conference that issued a report nobody’s going to either read or give a crap about.
This is clear from the final declaration agreed by the U.N. General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS that met June 8-10 in New York.
Leaders agreed to advance efforts towards reducing sexual transmission of HIV by 50 percent and to push towards eliminating new HIV infections among children in the next five years. Transmission of HIV from mother to child can disappear, if we want it to and are prepared to pay for it.
They also pledged to increase the number of people on life-saving treatment to 15 million and to reduce tuberculosis-related deaths in people living with HIV by half by 2015.
So it was a good and productive meeting then? Absolutely, says Ogle. But it would have been a whole lot better if all those fundie buzzkills hadn’t been there.
Yet reaction to the declaration and the three days of deliberations remains mixed. For many who attended the 2001 and 2006 UNAIDS Summits, this one lacked the urgency and optimism of the previous two. The Global Fund for AIDS and significant measurable targets through the Millennium Development Goals were all created at these previous gatherings. The goal of providing “universal access” was inspirationally created by all 174 member states. By the time diplomats gathered in New York to reflect on what had been learned and data of the previous years analyzed, it was clear many of the issues that needed to be addressed at this year’s summit were seen as highly controversial, i.e. dealing with care and prevention efforts for men who have sex with men (MSM), sex workers and IV drug users. Global South delegates felt this was a Global North (activist) agenda.
You wouldn’t believe the stupid crap those people proposed.
Religious extremists also attempted to derail important civil society dialogue with the diplomats and politicians by submitting their own annotated forms of the draft declaration. In one case, the Arizona-based Family Watch International held a weekend retreat earlier this year for 30 delegations where all references to LGBT people and MSM were replaced by an explicit emphasis on “behaviors” that needed healing. Fortunately, FWI’s recommendations were not incorporated into the final document.
If I don’t have sex with people I don’t know, the chances that I’ll contract whatever disease anyone who might want to pay for my sexual services may have are pretty much nonexistent. If I refuse to shoot meth or smack, it is impossible for a tainted needle to give me AIDS.
And if Monica Lewinsky moves in next door, we become friends but I do not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky, the only disease I might catch from my famous neighbor is the flu.
Although Roman Catholics were reluctant to talk publically about condom and gay issues, there was a real concern from grassroots civil society organizations that the religious community had a responsibility to open up dialogue between HIV grassroots organizations and political and religious leadership. This is particularly needed in countries where there is little awareness about the harm certain laws and religious attitudes may be having on effective HIV prevention.
“The harm certain…religious attitudes may be having on effective HIV prevention,” Gracie? Really, Al? Do you really want to go there? Pointing out the safest, cheapest and most effective ways not to get AIDS is harmful?