New York -- MSMGF deeply regrets to report that the political declaration adopted today at the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS (HLM) inexcusably fails to meaningfully address the HIV epidemic among key populations, including gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who use drugs, and transgender people. The final declaration's many failures include repeated omissions, exclusions, and misrepresentations of which groups constitute key populations, lack of explicit commitments to support and finance comprehensive prevention, care, and treatment services for key populations, and failure to address the legal and policy frameworks that stigmatize and criminalize key populations worldwide. While the political declaration opens with a sweeping "commitment to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030," MSMGF and many of its global civil society allies contend that today's political declaration will on balance set back rather than advance efforts to end the AIDS epidemic, particularly among key populations.
As MSMGF reported yesterday, the Russian delegation briefly reopened negotiations on the political declaration, offering one final opportunity for member states to propose changes to an unacceptably weak document. However, by this morning, the Russian delegation withdrew their concerns, and the final declaration was adopted during the HLM opening plenary meeting.
Immediately following adoption, numerous delegations including those from Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Indonesia, and the Holy See made statements condemning the explicit mention of key populations in the declaration, and expressed dismay that the 2016 declaration no longer called for abstinence and fidelity to be included in HIV prevention programs, as occurred in the 2011 declaration. Several member states, including Australia, Canada, Honduras, and the United States, expressed disappointment that the final declaration did not go further in committing to the provision of services for key populations, and to addressing legal and policy frameworks that stigmatize and criminalize key populations including LGBT people.
What MSMGF Is Doing in Response
MSMGF is taking immediate action to express outrage in response to the adoption of a weak political declaration. MSMGF has joined with over 80 civil society organizations in communicating profound dissatisfaction with the political declaration through a Global Civil Society Organization Declaration that will be published today. The Global CSO Declaration firmly states that "we are especially outraged with language that highlights victimization and blames key populations and fuels discrimination. Euphemisms have no place in evidence-based HIV responses, and leave the door open for HIV responses that are driven by ideology, rather than informed by evidence and rights-based obligation."
In addition, our Executive Director, Dr. George Ayala, is a member of the official U.S. Delegation to the HLM and continues to actively urge his delegation to take stronger leadership to include key populations in HIV programming supported by the United States, including through the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund.
MSMGF also commits to hold governments worldwide to account in the few areas where key populations are addressed in the political declaration, including that men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who inject drugs, and transgender people are key populations globally affected by HIV (paragraph 42), and that there is a need to "promote the development of and access to tailored HIV comprehensive prevention services" for key populations (paragraph 62e). MSMGF furthermore notes that numerous countries went beyond the political declaration in expressing statements of support for key populations programming and to address the legal and policy frameworks that stigmatize and criminalize key populations, and will forcefully advocate that these countries put these words into action in the coming years.
How Allies Can Help Now
- For allies in New York City, raise your voices with MSMGF and other civil society groups at rallies, protests, and side events outside the UN this week
- Use social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) to express outrage at UN delegations approving an unacceptably weak political declaration today. Suggested tweet: .@UN #AIDS Political Declaration=FAILURE #HLM2016AIDS #keypopulations exclusion (Other hashtags include #WeAreTheEpidemic, #HIVbold)
MSMGF is in New York City all this week and will continue to provide updates from the HLM. For additional guidance or to provide feedback, please contact Nadia Rafif, Director of Policy, at email@example.com.