UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
11 June 2012
Plenary Meeting: Agenda Item 10
Implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS
Statement by H.E. Gary Quinlan
Ambassador and Permanent Representative
of Australia to the United Nations
Twelve months ago I had the great honour to work with my colleague Ambassador Ntwaagae of Botswana as co-facilitator of the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS.
The Declaration is bold and ambitious, reflecting a commitment by political leaders to a world where those with HIV are treated with dignity and respect.
A world where those who are at risk of HIV are given support and resources to prevent infection.
Where those living with HIV can lead full and productive lives, and where there is universal access to anti-retroviral treatment.
Where mother to child transmission of HIV has been eliminated.
And where ground-breaking scientific advances in HIV prevention and treatment are leveraged to reduce new infections and HIV related illness and deaths.
The Political Declaration moves us firmly in the direction of an AIDS-free world.
The targets which were adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2011 offer, for the first time, quantified, achievable targets - targets which are based on current realities. But without an immediate change in the way we work, these targets risk becoming yet another set of targets that we fail to reach. As the Secretary-General’s Report notes, we are not on track to achieve the targets. And each target missed means more deaths. During our three-hour session this morning around 900 people will be newly infected with HIV. Over 600 will have died. And the rate of infection still outpaces the access to treatment.
We need courage to change our approach to HIV prevention and treatment, and stop doing things for which there is little or no evidence of effectiveness.
I am – frankly - alarmed to find that very few countries have started the process of formally - and fully - incorporating the commitments, targets, actions and timelines of the Political Declaration into their national HIV strategies and financing plans. Yet the Declaration promises that member states will complete this process by the end of 2012. My own country needs to do much better.
Without urgent action, we place at risk this historic opportunity we now have to turn the tide of the HIV epidemic. We encourage UNAIDS to take additional measures to assist countries to fully incorporate the Declaration’s elements into their national HIV plans by mid 2013, at the latest.
And we must, as evidence tells us - take an investment approach to the HIV response. Investments that are informed by data analysis, and aligned to where they will directly benefit HIV outcomes. We must expel wastage on ineffective programming and governance architecture.
An investment approach must be based on a solid, realistic results framework - using the Political Declaration targets as the foundation - where results are identified and investments funded – not simply aspired to.
We commend the leadership of UNAIDS and Kenya in developing a new Investment Framework – a tool to promote efficiency and maximise results for the HIV response.
This should bring us savings that allow us to reassess the current funding shortfall. The fact is, of course, that the estimated shortfall will still remain immense. As the Secretary-General notes, in 2010 we experienced the first ever decline in HIV funding. To reach the targets in the Political Declaration will require a roughly 50 per cent increase over current outlays.
Australia encourages countries to recognise HIV prevention and treatment services as their core responsibility and allocate their budgets accordingly, especially for populations at higher risk. As the Declaration states, these populations are men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, and sex workers. And, of course, women and young people.
All partners in the response need to align to the new investment approach and support countries to use their resources more effectively. This includes the Global Fund as the biggest partner for the HIV response.
Countries need guidance and tools to make the changes needed in their specific context.
They need to understand when, and how, to integrate the HIV response and what this means in concentrated, generalized or low-level epidemics.
Recent scientific advances, including new clinical guidelines, offer powerful approaches to HIV prevention, care and treatment. This must give us the confidence to scale up prevention and treatment programs. And to lower the cost of medications.
We must also support the enabling environment so vital to the response – including through legal, social and economic frameworks. A human rights-based approach to the HIV response is a necessity. Punitive laws against people living with or at risk of HIV must be repealed. This is fundamental to HIV prevention.
We need political resolve to follow-through on the commitments of the Political Declaration. We need to re-ignite the leadership that we Member States demonstrated ourselves a year ago.
The Special Event on MDGs in 2013 is one opportunity to review progress - and lessons - of the HIV response. We must work much harder between now and then to deliver a good story. We must also ensure the HIV response receives the attention it needs in the development of a post-2015 development agenda.
In concluding, I would like to thank UNAIDS and all agencies supporting the implementation of this landmark Declaration and mainstreaming the HIV response across programs. We must all get behind them. Australia is attempting to do so, including through multi-year core funding to UNAIDS.
For the first time since this epidemic exploded over us, we have the ability to beat it. But we won’t without far more effective effort to reach the targets we ourselves have set.
My own country re-endorses those targets today. We endorse the Secretary-General’s recommendations in his report. And we support the draft decision presented for adoption by the General Assembly.