At UNGASS, Countries Debate Draft of Final Declaration
U.N. member states attending the U.N. General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS in New York City on Thursday had a "heated" debate over the draft of a declaration to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (Hewitt, AFP/Yahoo! News, 6/1). The meeting aims to update a 2001 declaration that "provided the momentum for a worldwide campaign" to fight HIV/AIDS, according to London's Guardian (MacAskill, Guardian, 6/2). The 2001 declaration laid out several goals, including the specific amount of money that should be spent on HIV/AIDS in developing countries in 2005, the percentage of pregnant women who should be receiving drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV and the percentage of HIV-positive people with advanced stages of the disease who should be receiving antiretroviral drugs. Most of the goals in the 2001 declaration were not met, but a goal to spend $8.3 billion on HIV/AIDS in developing nations was met. The declaration is not a binding document (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/1). In the debate over the 2006 document, several countries -- including the U.S.; some Islamic countries such as Egypt; and other "conservative" countries in Africa and Latin America -- oppose a declaration that includes references to condom distribution, needle-exchange programs and vulnerable groups, according to the Guardian (Guardian, 6/2). Rights for girls and women and sex education also have been subjects of dispute (Leopold, Reuters, 6/1). Countries also were conflicted about whether to allow developing nations to produce low-cost generic versions of patented antiretroviral drugs and about funding levels for each country, which some countries say should be determined by "good governance," AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 6/1). In addition, although UNAIDS wants to increase annual funding for HIV/AIDS from $8 billion to $22 billion by 2010, the U.S. wants individual countries to set funding targets, rather than following targets set by the United Nations (Guardian, 6/2). UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot at the conference on Wednesday said that global HIV/AIDS programs need at least $22 billion annually by 2008 to curb the pandemic. Delegates at the U.N. session plan to draft a new plan to provide universal access to HIV/AIDS services by 2010. In 2006, $8.9 billion is expected to be available to fight HIV/AIDS in developing countries, short of the $14.9 billion that is needed, according to UNAIDS. The agency projects that the need for resources will rise to $22.1 billion by 2008, including $11.4 billion for prevention (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/1).
Civil Society Groups
Some civil society groups attending UNGASS on Thursday accused negotiators of reneging on HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and funding targets set in the declaration drafted at the 2001 U.N. General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS (Wadhams, AP/Houston Chronicle, 6/1). "The latest draft (UNGASS) declaration looks really bad from a civil society perspective. It's a regression compared with the 2001 document," Fatima Hassan, an advocate with South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign, said (Independent Online, 6/1). Negotiations on Thursday became so intense that some civil society groups threatened to walk out of the meeting (AP/Houston Chronicle, 6/1).
Reports of Progress
Despite the debate, some U.N. officials close to the negotiations said progress had been made toward agreement on several issues, according to AFP/Yahoo! News. The draft document on Thursday made several references to "vulnerable groups," the officials said. One of the officials added that while the group did not list to whom the term referred, the inclusion of the term represents a defeat for countries who oppose it, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. The official said that Thursday's draft also mentioned the need for access to male and female condoms, a provision that some countries oppose because they feel it promotes promiscuity, according to AFP/Yahoo! News. Thursday's draft of the declaration is "much stronger" than previous versions, Piot said (AFP/Yahoo! News, 6/1). The Washington Post on Thursday reported that some delegates fear the 2006 declaration might be significantly weaker than the declaration drafted at the 2001 general assembly (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/1). The declaration is expected to be adopted on Friday (AFP/Yahoo! News, 6/1).
U.N. Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis at a press conference said an additional $5 billion this year and $8 billion next year would be needed to reach the target of universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment by 2010. In addition, he said that many countries attending UNGASS, including the U.S., oppose setting funding targets (McCarthy, Globe and Mail, 6/2). According to people familiar with the negotiations, the U.S. -- which in 2005 contributed more money to the fight against HIV/AIDS than any other country -- is concerned that if specific targets are defined, it will be held more responsible than other countries for possible funding shortfalls (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/1). However, Lewis said, "Without targets, everything is a miasma of distraction" (Globe and Mail, 6/2). HIV/AIDS advocates on Thursday on the sidelines of UNGASS said that developed countries are not living up to commitments made on HIV/AIDS-related funding at the 2005 summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations. In addition, Richard Burzynski of the International Council of AIDS Service Organizations said the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is facing a funding shortfall of $2.1 billion for this year and next year. The Global Fund had hoped to disburse at least $2.8 billion in grants for treatment in 2006 and $2.7 billion in 2007, but so far has received pledges of $1.9 billion for 2006 and $1.5 billion for 2007, according to Burzynski (Reuters UK, 6/2).
PRI's "The World" on Thursday featured a discussion with Lewis about UNGASS and about progress since the 2001 meeting (Werman, "The World," PRI, 6/1). The complete segment is available online in Windows Media.
Product Branding, Business Investments Might Be New Source of HIV/AIDS Funding
Delegates at UNGASS also discussed how certain methods -- such as product branding, taxes on airline tickets, investments by corporations working with countries most affected by the pandemic and increased spending on HIV/AIDS services by hard-hit countries -- could become the main sources of funding for HIV/AIDS, according to the Washington Post. For example, Product RED is a project that aims to raise money for the Global Fund by donating a portion of profits from a range of branded products (Brown, Washington Post, 6/2). Irish musician Bono in January at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, announced Product RED. American Express, Converse, Giorgio Armani, the Gap, London's Independent and Motorola are partners in the program (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/16). In addition, France in July will begin levying taxes on airline tickets that will go toward HIV/AIDS funding (Washington Post, 6/2). Twelve countries -- Brazil, Britain, Chile, Cote d'Ivoire, Congo, Cyprus, Jordan, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mauritius, Nicaragua and Norway -- earlier this year agreed to join France in imposing the tax, which also will help fund tuberculosis and malaria programs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/2). Another strategy for raising funds is "debt conversion," under which developed countries forgive the debts of developing nations, which must agree to transfer funds in the amount of the debt to organizations such as the Global Fund to finance HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention. In addition, several African nations are urging that the UNGASS declaration include a requirement that developing countries allocate at least 15% of their health budgets to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment (Washington Post, 6/2).
Trade Unions Seek Support for Permanent HIV/AIDS Working Group
Trade unions attending the special session are seeking support for the creation of a permanent HIV/AIDS working group by the G8 to track and facilitate delivery of G8 HIV/AIDS policy commitments, IRIN/AllAfrica.com reports. Alan Leather, coordinator of the international trade union delegation to UNGASS, said that civil societies, business groups and unions since February have lobbied G8 governments to create a working group. G8 leaders last year in Gleneagles, Scotland, agreed to set up a means of ensuring advancement on policy commitments, but have yet to do so, IRIN/AllAfrica.com reports (IRIN/AllAfrica.com, 5/31).
Webcasts of select UNGASS sessions are available online at kaisernetwork.org.