The UN General Assembly adopted on Friday an ambitious declaration with the goal of treating 15 million HIV-infected people with anti-retroviral drugs and eliminating mother-to-child transmissions of the virus, by 2015.
The 192-nation assembly’s adoption of the 17-page declaration without a vote concluded three days of intense debate on ways to advance the global fight against the AIDS epidemic, which since 1981 has killed nearly 30 million people.
Despite preventive measures against mother-to-child transmissions, an estimated 370,000 infants were born infected with HIV in 2009.
The declaration commits governments to demonstrate the political will to achieve the goals by 2015. One of the goals calls for halving HIV transmissions among people who inject drugs.
The declaration aims to intensify global efforts to eliminate HIV/AIDS and promote “continued political commitment and engagement of leaders in a comprehensive response at the community, local, national, regional and international levels and reverse the HIV epidemic and mitigate its impacts.”
“We believe that by 2015, children everywhere can be born free of HIV and their mothers can remain healthy,” said Michel Sidibe, director of UN-AIDS. Sidibe said the new goals are “realistic and achievable.”
The disease was first diagnosed on June 5, 1981 in the United States.
Governments also pledged in the declaration to intensify efforts that would increase the life expectancy and quality of life of all people living with HIV.
The World Health Organization provides the guidelines for eligibility for HIV treatment, mostly aiming at infected people in low- and middle-income countries.
The declaration said there was “deep concern” that funding for HIV/AIDS programmes is still far below the magnitude of those suffering the disease. Spending stood at 16 billion dollars in 2010, up from 1.8 billion dollars in 2001.
The UN said the international community would need 10 billion dollars a year by 2015 in order to achieve the declaration’s goals.
It said the world’s financial crisis has had a negative impact on anti-AIDS programmes and funds provided by donors had levelled in 2008 and 2009.
The declaration said AIDS has killed “nearly 30 million people” in the past 30 years. Despite progress, in health care and society’s acceptance of HIV patients, AIDS-related deaths and infections have continued.
Currently, an estimated 34 million people are living with HIV, 16 million children have been orphaned because of AIDS, and more than 7,000 infections, including 3,000 people aged 15 to 24, occur every day, most of them in poor countries.
For the first time, a UN document on HIV/AIDS mentioned same sex partners. The declaration said some national HIV prevention strategies have inadequately focused on high-risk populations with HIV/AIDS such as “men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs and sex workers.” It said the national responses to the epidemic should define the specific populations that “key to its epidemic and response, and based on the epidemiological and national context.” The declaration said also that “less than half of people living with HIV are believed to be aware of their infection.”