Implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
I want to acknowledge from the start the leadership of Michel Sidibe and all his dedicated colleagues at UNAIDS. They are instrumental to our efforts.
I had the great honour to work with my colleague Ambassador Charles Ntwaagae of Botswana as co-chair of the negotiations for the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS.
We are twelve months from the deadline we ourselves all set for the ambitious targets for a world free of AIDS. But the challenges facing us are still stark.
The recommendations in the Secretary General’s report reflect the action we need to take to deliver on the promise and commitment of the Political Declaration.
The report speaks about the need to use lessons and evidence of what works to scale up our efforts and build on our successes.
With this in mind, I am frankly alarmed to see that the distribution of condoms has declined by over a billion between 2011 and 2012, and that the number of AIDS-related deaths for adolescents has actually increased.
This is a damning indication that we are not doing what we know works.
We need to ensure that HIV and AIDS programs are targeted to, and appropriate for, young people.
Australia is particularly committed to expanding access to comprehensive sexuality education, including for adolescents.
Fifty adolescent girls contract HIV each hour – that means 150 during our session this morning. It is unforgivably irresponsible not to provide access to HIV prevention programs for young people.
The report speaks of the need to focus on “geographic settings and populations where HIV prevalence and incidence are highest”. This has particular resonance for Australia and our Indo-Pacific region.
Decades ago Australia put key populations at the centre of our response – we initiated needle and syringe exchanges, community based outreach programs for sex workers and gay men, and tackled discrimination against people with HIV-with their help. These interventions helped reduce and avoid new infections, even before the new advances in treatment.
Research shows the pattern of the epidemic’s spread in Asia is driven by commercial sex, injecting drug use and sex between men.
In Australia’s closest neighbour, Papua New Guinea, rates of HIV infection in transgendered people and sex workers are many times higher than that in the general population. The high rates of infection in these key populations denote high levels of risk and require targeted interventions.
Australia is working with our partners in the region to support their efforts to reduce and avoid new infections. Our partnerships, for example, with Indonesia and Papua New Guinea support national responses and target at risk populations.
And targeting services at those most at risk also makes sense economically.
The Commission on AIDS in Asia found that interventions for key populations are low cost and high impact.
Perhaps most importantly, the Secretary General’s report speaks of the need to protect the human rights of key populations, particularly lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender people.
Punitive laws that criminalise these people and/or restrict their freedoms of association and expression violate the most fundamental human rights which underpin the United Nations Charter itself and which we all obligated ourselves to uphold.
The evidence shows that such laws limit access to services and put lives at risk.
We need policies of inclusion that reduce stigma and discrimination, against people with HIV and against socially marginalised and vulnerable groups, sex workers, transgendered people, people who use drugs and men who have sex with men. Australia is strongly committed to reaching out and supporting vulnerable populations, and defending their human rights
This year Australia has the honour of chairing the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board and will host the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne next month.
We are relishing this leadership role and are committed to making the international conference a compelling, inspiring and informative event for all.
And, finally we look forward to the high level meeting on HIV and AIDS anticipated for 2016 – a necessary meeting.
We know what we need to do to end HIV and AIDS. Our Political Declaration in 2011 set out a straight trajectory to achieve this. Our momentum has picked up. But we need to do much more. Above all we must do what we already know works.