By Ricardo Baruch and Lindsay Menard-Freeman
For the fourth time in history, the 71st Session of the General Assembly of the UN will put AIDS on the table and discuss what is needed in order to respond in a better way to one of the most terrible epidemics in history.
Adolescents and young people are one of the most affected groups by HIV globally, but there are many governments that have not yet recognized their needs and their rights. Several countries still deny the right to sexuality education, access free condoms, or even to recognize the basic human right to life of LGBT people.
In 2001, the General Assembly of the UN had a Special Session about HIV called UNGASS (or the United Nations General Assembly Special Session). That was the first time that a single health issue was being discussed at the maximum level of decision-making of the United Nations, due to the emergency that AIDS represented at that point.
As a result of that meeting, the Declaration of Commitment (DoC) was created in order to guide the global strategies that determined the global HIV response. Another result of that meeting was the creation of The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. In 2006 and 2011 there were subsequent High Level Meetings in New York to revisit the situation and 2 other key documents were created: the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS 2006 and 2011.
Unfortunately, despite those commitments, countries are still facing a huge number of challenges in their response to the HIV epidemic among young people. In some places, particularly in Africa, the number of new HIV infections among people 15 to 24 have decreased but in most parts of the world, the epidemic is still affecting adolescents and youth, particularly young people from key populations including men who have sex with men, sex workers, drug users and transgender people.
Another key event that will take place this year is the UN High Level Meeting on Drugs. This meeting is also relevant for the global response to AIDS because the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world is the one concentrated among injected drug users, especially in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Asia-Pacific. If you think discussions around HIV are difficult at the UN level, discussions around drugs are even more heated because there is no consensus around the world about what is needed from a public health perspective.
So, as you can see, 2016 will be an important year for UN meetings on HIV. Soon, we will share with you some tools that you can use in order to get involved because young people’s voices need to be heard.
Views and opinions expressed in these blogs are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent those of the organizations that support this initiative, nor is the publishing of these blogs an endorsement. This space is provided for youth advocates to freely express their views on issues that affect them and relate to their work.