General Assembly: 80th plenary meeting, 76th session Implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the political declarations on HIV/AIDS
09 Jun 2022
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the African Group.
The African Group takes note of the Secretary General’s report “Tackling inequalities to end the AIDS pandemic” and of its recommendations.
Today, we are gathered here to undertake a review of the progress achieved in realizing the Declaration of Commitment on HIV and AIDS and the “Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS: Ending Inequalities and Getting on Track to End AIDS by 2030”, which focuses on inequalities, a year after its adoption, and, to share accelerated efforts for action and best practices to ensure that the global goal of ending AIDS as a public-health threat by 2030 is a reality. It is important to assess the comprehensive universal and integrated response to HIV and AIDS and investments in the next 8 years towards this endeavor. We must put all people living with HIV on treatment. It is our duty to protect future generations from acquiring HIV. We must eliminate new HIV infections; advocacy and education to stop people to engage in risky behavior should be promoted and continued. We should strengthen initiatives that prevent mother to child HIV transmission. We should empower youth, men and women equally and ensure their access to HIV related health-care services they need. It is important to leave no one behind, particularly the furthest behind
The African Group commends and fully supports the African Union Road map on shared responsibility and global solidarity for AIDS, Malaria and TB. In this regard, the African Group recalls the pledge made during the special summit of July 2013 in Abuja, “Abuja actions toward the elimination of HIV and AIDS, TB and Malaria in Africa by 2030” and renews its commitment to allocate 15% to individual national AU state budget to health sector. The actions demonstrate clear and strong African political will to strengthen ownership, accountability and partnerships and to accelerate progress to achieve clear deliverables through financing, access to medicines, treatments and diagnostics and enhanced governance, in order to help countries build long-term and sustainable solutions.
The African Group is concerned that until now, the AIDS pandemic is responsible for more than 13,000 deaths every week, undermining efforts to achieve universal health coverage, particularly global health targets and the Sustainable Development Goals. AIDS pandemic is also colliding with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic as the world fails to address the underlying barriers to equitable access to health care services and remains dangerously underprepared and under resourced to confront the pandemics both emerging and existing. This is against the main goal of the 2021 HIV and AIDS Political Declaration which Member States of the United Nations committed to urgently take transformative actions, to among others, end social, economic, racial, as well as restrictive and discriminatory laws, policies and practices, stigma and all forms of discrimination and manifestations, and to achieve targets that will reduce annual new HIV infections and annual AIDS-related deaths with set targets by 2025.
The African Group applauds the achievement of efforts to provide HIV testing within antenatal settings and to achieve viral suppression through antiretroviral therapy before pregnant women living with HIV deliver their babies which results in greatly improved health outcomes for mothers living with HIV and reduced HIV infection among children by more than half (54 per cent) between 2010 and 2020. Again, HIV testing and treatment coverage among pregnant and breast-feeding women living with HIV is higher than the global average. An estimated 85 per cent women globally were receiving antiretroviral therapy in 2020 to prevent vertical transmission and stay healthy.
However, the Group is alarmed that treatment gaps continue to be large within many countries in West and Central Africa, which is home to more than half (57 per cent) of pregnant women with HIV and are not receiving antiretroviral therapy, with substandard public health systems, the ongoing imposition of user fees for basic health care services, and persistent stigma and discrimination.
In addition, the African Group is concerned that until now, the Sub-Saharan Africa remains the worst affected region, the HIV cases are increasing in North Africa, again, AIDS response continue to fail children and young people in Africa. According to the Secretary General report, six countries in sub-Saharan Africa accounted for nearly two thirds of children acquiring HIV aged 5 to 14 years, these children are unaware of their HIV-positive status until their immune systems weaken and they become ill. The single biggest pediatric treatment challenge is finding and linking to care the children who are not diagnosed at birth or during breast feeding. Unfortunately, AIDS continue to be the leading cause of death for adolescent girls and women aged between 15 and 49 years.
The African Group underscores that Universal access to HIV and AIDS life-saving treatment, testing, care, support and cure remain paramount in the global response strategies and constitutes a fundamental human right. Advances in HIV treatment contribute to longer lifespan. The Group agrees with the Secretary General report that equity, quality and affordability are among the building blocks of universal health coverage. Key health system functions, especially at the primary care level, that should be strengthened to support the effective delivery of HIV health-care services, including access to safe, affordable, efficacious and high-quality medicines, diagnostics, and other health commodities, technologies and innovations. In this vein, the African Group believes that innovation is required to produce better, optimized and long lasting formulations of antiretroviral medicines, vaccine and cure including effective and affordable treatment for common infections such as TB, STIs and hepatitis. We are of the view that ending AIDS epidemic will need the availability of the innovative and effective tools without delay. Capacity should be built to countries to access health technologies when availed. In the same vein, global trade and other policies should support health goals and to respond to health emergencies, with a particular focus on developing countries. In this regard, the Group is with the view that more efforts should be geared towards a lasting solution to HIV including strengthening efforts to HIV vaccine innovation before 2030.
The African Group applauds that Pre-exposure prophylaxis, a valuable additional HIV prevention option for people who are at high risk of acquiring HIV, its global uptake continues to expand slowly in recent years, despite the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, unfortunately, much of the scale-up of pre-exposure prophylaxis is still highly concentrated in a small number of countries. The total number of people using this prevention option in 2020 was just 8 per cent of the 2025 target of 10 million people at substantial risk of infection. The Group appeals that it is important that this pre-exposure prophylaxis prevention is available and affordable to all countries including those in Africa.
Exceptional action is required at all levels to curb the devastating effects of this epidemic. The African Group believes that emphasis should be placed on prevention, advocacy and education on healthy lifestyles. Treatment and Innovation of new medicines including vaccine should be at the core of our efforts. The African Group reaffirms the need for technology transfer, capacity building, market access and the support to make use, to the full, of existing TRIPs flexibilities including by simplifying and strengthening health regulatory procedures. The Group recognizes that poverty and unemployment exacerbate HIV and AIDS.
The African Group therefore calls for the increased resources devoted to HIV and AIDS health-care responses across sectors, including the implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and fulfilling all respective official development assistance commitments, including the commitment of many developed countries to support national strategies, financing plans and multilateral efforts aimed at combating HIV and AIDS and strengthen health systems especially of the most affected countries in this regard.
The African Group is concerned that stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS continue to prevail, which undermine effective AIDS response. People living with HIV continue to face challenges in all regions of the world, discriminatory laws, policies and practices that violate human rights and maintain structural conditions that leave patients without access to HIV health-care services. In some instances, people with disabilities are at higher risk of HIV infection because they are vulnerable to violence, sexual abuse and stigma and discrimination. While there are increasing numbers of people living with HIV in older ages, many HIV health-care services are not equipped to address the needs of ageing population.
Furthermore, displaced persons affected by humanitarian emergencies face heightened exposure to HIV vulnerability risks and limited access to quality health care and nutritious foods. On the other hand, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers living with HIV may face discrimination from States that restrict their entry, enforce mandatory HIV testing or forcibly return them. In some countries, people living with HIV are criminalized, denied health care services and family planning measures, in some instances, they are forced to or coerced sterilization or abortion including facing sexual and gender based violence, while in others, they are being refused employment and those in prison and or in closed settings are denied HIV treatment. These discriminatory laws and practices undermine efforts to bring HIV treatment to all who need it.
The African Group recognizes that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated and that the international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, as such, the Group strongly appeals and urges that people living with HIV and AIDS should be treated fairly and equally and should be protected from stigma, discriminatory practices and related intolerance. The African Group extends its appreciation to States that have enacted laws and uplifted travel restrictions on people living with HIV and AIDS. The Group is also grateful to States that offer employment opportunities and HIV treatment to migrants, regardless of their migration status, refugees and asylum seekers.
As part of combatting new HIV infections, the Group believes that more emphasis should be on efforts, including counseling and other means, to encourage people to refrain from using opioids. In Africa, drug use and abuse remain a critical legal matter.
In conclusion, the African Group reaffirms its commitment to fight HIV and AIDS. We believe that zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS deaths are possible and achievable even before the set deadline. The true outcome of this vision rests on its implementation.
I thank you.