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AIDs in Pacific: Knee Deep in UN hopes & concerns

Highlights from UNGASS+5 - Report #1

(or Knee Deep in UN hopes and concerns)

The review of UNGASS+5, the 2006 Declaration on the Commitment to HIV is scheduled to begin in 6 hours, but already great concerns exist about the outcome of the political declaration.

The draft committee made of member states, UN staff and the Civil Society Task force has had tense negotiations in the lead up to the actual United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS.

"I am angry tonight", said UNAIDS Executive Director, Peter Piot addressing the Ford Foundation's hosted reception for the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS.

"The negotiations are terrible," he said before warning the audience that he is deeply concerned that we end up with weaker statements than that of 2001 when we – member states – should really intensify our commitment and actions.

One area of concern is that the USA, Canada and some other nations are opposing language in the Declaration that refer to specific "most vulnerable groups" such as sex workers, injecting drug users and men who have sex with men. By removing these words or “watering down” these terms, other countries and delegates worry it will greatly weaken the Declaration.

“HIV/AIDS was a health issue, then it was a security issue. Will it manage to reflect what it is really: "a people" issue?” asks Maire Bopp, the CEO of Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation, an UN-accredited NGO for UNGASS.

“Will diplomats care for the sufferings that they don’t see or feel at the moment, but for which they could be greatly responsible if they do not put their self inflicted taboo-words and political games aside?”

Another concern, from the civil societies perspective, is that civil society representatives from around the world will not have any further input in shaping up the Declaration. This worries many because these civil societies have the strongest grasp of the realities of HIV/AIDS and now the world is in the hands of the Diplomats on this issue.

"Doing less than UNGASS 2001 would be irresponsible; but the key factor is the ability of diplomates this week to think with the head and speak with their heart," says Bopp.

“Any less than that will seriously jeopardise the progress made to date and the hope of our people that we ; Member-States diplomates have to show that they care for all their people- without discrimination of race, social, cultural, economic and health conditions; that they care for the present and the future; It is not just the future of the World population that is at stake, but also the future of the UN, the ideals of 'unity, peace and hope' that it represents," says Bopp.

There is a lot at stake and a lot of uncertainties about the upcoming UNGASS meeting. Still it is not a hopeless situation.

"It is not doom and gloom. For the first time, we are able to show some concrete results; a kind of return of our investment; this is the time to intensify our efforts; not to let go," said Peter Piot in a UNAIDS statement to set the tone and expectations of the week.

Will the possible, but unlikely, happen in the next 24 hours? Will the UN Declaration on HIV/AIDS grow stronger as it needs to, as it must, in order to respond to this pandemic?

By June 2nd, the answer will be revealed to all.

FOR MORE INFO ON UNGASS GO TO: http://www.pacificaids.org/news

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