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UN urges action to end Aids epidemic by 2030

The UN General Assembly's declaration said the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities and pushed access to Aids medicines, treatments and diagnosis further off-track
Edith M Lederer, Associated Press Reporter

The UN General Assembly has overwhelmingly approved a declaration calling for urgent action to end Aids by 2030, noting “with alarm” that the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities and pushed access to Aids medicines, treatments and diagnosis further off-track.

The declaration commits the assembly’s 193 member nations to implement the 18-page document, including reducing annual new HIV infections to under 370,000 and annual Aids-related deaths to under 250,000 by 2025.

It also calls for progress towards eliminating all forms of HIV-related stigma and discrimination and for urgent work towards an HIV vaccine and a cure for Aids.

Without a huge increase in resources and coverage for those vulnerable and infected, “we will not end the Aids epidemic by 2030”, the assembly warned.

It said the coronavirus pandemic has created setbacks in combating Aids, “widening fault lines within a deeply unequal world and exposing the dangers of under-investment in public health, health systems and other essential public services for all and pandemic preparedness”.

While the international investment response to the pandemic is inadequate, it is nonetheless unprecedented, the assembly said.

The response to the coronavirus crisis by many nations has demonstrated “the potential and urgency for greater investment” in responding to pandemics, underscoring “the imperative of increasing investments for public health systems, including responses to HIV and other diseases moving forward”, it said.

The assembly adopted the resolution at the opening session of a three-day high-level meeting on Aids by a vote of 165-4, with Russia, Belarus, Syria and Nicaragua voting no.

Before the vote, the assembly overwhelmingly rejected three amendments proposed by Russia.

They would have eliminated references to human rights violations that perpetuate the global Aids epidemic and a “rights-based” collaborative approach by UNAIDS, the UN agency leading the global effort to end the Aids pandemic.

They would also have dropped references to reforming discriminatory laws, including on the age of consent, on interventions to treat HIV among intravenous drug users including “opioid substitution therapy”, and on “expanding harm reduction programmes”.

UNAIDS executive director Winnie Byanyima welcomed the declaration’s adoption and told the assembly it “will be the basis of our work to end this pandemic that has ravaged communities for 40 years”.

Calling Aids “one of the deadliest pandemics of modern times”, she said 77.5 million people have been infected with HIV since the first case was reported in 1981 and nearly 35 million have died from Aids.

“HIV rates are not following the trajectory that we together promised,” she said. “Indeed, amidst the fallout from the Covid crisis, we could even see a resurgent pandemic.”

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