Asia-Pacific nations agree on roadmap to accelerate progress towards global AIDS commitments

Bangkok (UN ESCAP Strategic Communications and Advocacy Section) – Asia-Pacific governments have concluded three days of high-level talks here by endorsing a road map based on greater regional cooperation to fast-track progress towards meeting global commitments on the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS and the Millennium Development Goals.

The action plan calls for increased collaboration between government ministries, including health, justice, public security, police and drug control in genuine partnership with civil society and key affected populations including people who buy and sell sex, men who have sex with men, transgender populations and people who use drugs.

Representatives from 33 Asia-Pacific countries met at the 6-8 February Asia-Pacific High-level Intergovernmental Meeting on the Assessment of Progress against Commitments in the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS and the Millennium Development Goals convened by the United Nations to find ways to speed up progress towards an AIDS-free region, including by removing legal and policy barriers that hamper access to HIV services.

The meeting, organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and other United Nations cosponsors also called for the development of regional accountability mechanisms and financing modalities to enhance Asia-Pacific’s capacity to reach HIV targets and commitments.

The regional meeting was the first major intergovernmental meeting of its kind anywhere in the world after the historic adoption of the Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS by world leaders in June last year.

The meeting reviewed strategies to move from a punitive to a more rights-based approach with regards to legal and policy barriers impeding access to HIV services. It also emphasised the importance of protecting the manufacture, export and import of life-saving generic medicines.

“I have been impressed with the quality of discussions, wealth of expertise and cooperation among delegates. The multi-sectoral participation, which is unique, has enabled us to consider multi-dimensional perspectives and reach consensus on how to work together more closely to accelerate our [efforts] in the Asia-Pacific region,” said H.E. Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, President of Fiji at the close of the meeting.

United Nations Secretary General’s Special Envoy on HIV, Dr. Nafis Sadik told delegates: “This is Asia-Pacific at its best – showing leadership, fore-thinking and spirit of collaboration, underlining the powerful force of this region.”

The meeting marked the first time that officials from national health, justice, law enforcement, social development and drug control agencies in the region came together at a single forum and were joined by people living with HIV as well as representatives from populations most affected by HIV – including sex workers, people who use drugs, men who have sex with men and transgender people - to review the region’s progress towards international commitments on AIDS.

Participants reported significant progress in a number of areas including reduction of new HIV infections, increase on numbers of people receiving anti-retroviral treatment and expansion of programmes to reach key affected populations most at risk.

Examples from a number of countries illustrated that scaled-up services coupled with intensive engagement of key affected populations, have led to declining epidemics.

“It has been inspiring to take part in this intergovernmental event, side by side with senior delegates and it shows us that our voices are really being considered,” said Thaw Zin Aye, Coordinator of Youth LEAD, the regional network for young HIV key affected populations. “Young people are taking ownership of the AIDS response and we are committed to carrying on the legacy. We urge governments to continue taking action with us.”

The roadmap emphasizes the need to share good practices and lessons learned in implementing the measures and commitments related to HIV. Asia-Pacific countries also requested ESCAP, UNAIDS and other cosponsors to support implementation of the road map.