UNDP Administrator sees stronger role for lawmakers in eradicating AIDS

22 Jul 2014

Melbourne, Australia – Tackling HIV requires courageous and committed policy-makers and law-makers said the UN’s development chief at the 20th International AIDS Conference.

“Parliamentarians have an indispensable role to play in building the coalitions for action to change bad laws which entrench exclusion, and to ensure that services are available to risk groups often shunned by society," said United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark. “You can also advocate for gender equality, women’s empowerment, and action against sexual and gender-based violence to lower the disproportionate risk of HIV infection faced by women and girls.”
 
The bi-annual international AIDS conference brings together HIV experts, high-level policy makers, persons living with HIV, and other individuals committed to ending the pandemic. Helen Clark made her remarks while addressing Parliamentarians at the event highlighting the role they can play in addressing AIDS.
 
UNDP is the world’s largest implementer of parliamentary development programming, and is currently doing this work in 68 countries.  
 
“UNDP aims to build the capacity of parliamentarians to work on crucial issues – of which HIV is clearly one,” she said. “HIV/AIDS can trap families, communities, and nations in poverty - the world won’t eradicate poverty without tackling this epidemic decisively.”  
 
“Fighting the spread of HIV often means politicians and officials being prepared to go well beyond their personal comfort zones to ensure access to services for those on the margins of society,” she continued. “In doing this, it helps to have a conducive legal and policy environment.  Wherever there are bad laws, effective responses to the HIV epidemic are much more difficult to implement.”
 
The UNDP-led Global Commission on HIV and the Law found that changes in the law and policy, combined with other interventions, could lower new adult HIV infections globally to an estimated 1.2 million by 2031. This compares to an estimated 2.1 million new infections under business as usual. The accelerated effort demands stronger adherence to human rights principles and actions to promote access to health for all, particularly among key populations, such as men-who-have-sex-with-men, sex workers, transgender people and people who use drugs.
 
Ms. Clark was also a key note speaker at a special plenary session on ‘Beyond the MDGs: HIV and the Post 2015 Development Agenda’ today. This special Session was co-chaired by Dr. Nafsiah Mboi, Health Minister for Indonesia and Chair of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria, and Philippe Meunier, French Ambassador for the fight against HIV/AIDS and communicable diseases.
 
One of the important lessons from the MDGs implementation is that inequities in health should be addressed through an inclusive, sustainable, human rights based, and multisectoral approach. Human development in the 21st century cannot be achieved without addressing HIV and health. HIV and health is central to sustainable human development.
 
“Because of the inter-dependent relationship between health and human development, efforts to end the AIDS epidemic can have positive spill-over effects, accelerating progress towards other development goals, including ending poverty. In turn, efforts to reduce inequality and poverty can create the conditions for reducing the spread of HIV and ending the epidemic.  In the resource-constrained environment of today, understanding how to harness these synergies, and introduce cross-sectoral action will be key.”
 
The Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals is currently deliberating on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The proposed health goal is “attain healthy lives for all”, and the proposed HIV target is “by 2030 to end the epidemics of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and neglected tropical diseases”.  
 
“If member states are united in pursuing the end of AIDS, that would represent a significant increase in the level of ambition on HIV from that expressed in the Millennium Development Goals. The international community would be stepping up its expectations from halting and reversing the epidemic to ending it. While caveats in the small print qualify the notion of ‘ending’, the technical case for the feasibility of ‘ending AIDS’ has been compellingly laid out. The obstacles, as so often is the case, are financial and political” Helen Clark said.
 
Robert Carr Award
In addition,  joint research conducted by UNDP, UNFPA and the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers titled “Violence against Sex Workers – Understanding Factors for Safety and Protection” has won a Robert Carr Research Award. The ceremony was held at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre on July 21st, 2014 during the International AIDS Conference. The  research results will be available at the end of the year.
 
About UNDP
As a leading co-sponsor of UNIADS, UNDP works with countries to understand and respond to the development dimensions of HIV and health, recognizing that action outside the health sector can contribute significantly to better health outcomes. UNDP supports countries to integrate attention to HIV in national planning, gender equality and MDG efforts; promote enabling human rights and legislative environments to reduce vulnerability to HIV and strengthen governance and coordination of national responses; and strengthen implementation of complex, multilateral and multi-sectoral funds and programmes including those financed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
 
About 20TH International AIDS Conference
The 20th International AIDS Conference will be held in Melbourne, Australia from 20-25 July 2014 and is themed “stepping up the pace.” According to the organisers, the title of this year’s AIDS conference is an acknowledgement that the AIDS response is at a critical juncture. The organisers intend to use the Melbourne AIDS conference to keep HIV at the top of the global health agenda, particularly post-2015.
 
Information on UNDP’s Work on HIV/AIDS
UNDP provides evidence of what works in HIV responses – drawn from our wide experience as a Principal Recipient of Global Fund money for HIV prevention and treatment in many countries, and from the role we play within the family of UNAIDS co-sponsors on rights-based approaches to HIV.