The Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS: Bill Bowtell responds to Australian Ambassador to the United Nations
Executive Director of Pacific Friends of the Global Fund, Bill Bowtell has provided a response to the address given by Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations, 11 June 2012. Gary Quinlan’s original address can be found here. In his response, Bill Bowtell highlights the commendable work of both UNAIDS and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and their tireless response to combat the HIV & AIDS epidemic in Papua New Guinea.
Response to Statement on 11 June 2012 by H.E. Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
“Implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS”
By Bill Bowtell AO
The 2011 United Nations Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS commits all countries to a series of bold policy and program actions, supported by clear time-bound targets to measure progress, to reduce, and eventually eradicate the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.
This landmark UN Declaration also comes at a time of tremendous advances in the science of HIV prevention and treatment. However, these advances need leadership and action to realize the goals of dramatically reducing new HIV infections and HIV illness and related deaths. The 2011 UN Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS provides the global framework for transforming the global response to the epidemic and capitalizing on these important advances.
However, as noted by Gary Quinlan in his statement of 11 June 2012, the lack of progress in implementing the goals and commitments as agreed in the Political Declaration is deeply disappointing. This lack of progress results directly in avoidable new HIV infections and more HIV related illness and deaths.
For example, Papua New Guinea has the region’s largest HIV epidemic, with approximately 0.92% of the adult population living with HIV in 2009. Commendably, AusAID has committed $A185 million to the Papua New Guinea-Australia HIV/AIDS program that runs from 2007 to 2012.
Since 2007, through AusAID and its supported partners, the Australian government has helped over 72,000 Papua New Guineans, including 11,000 pregnant women, to be tested for HIV. In 2010, the program helped more than 7500 Papua New Guineans access treatment for HIV. New HIV infections in the Pacific region have declined from 4700 in 2001 to 4500 in 2009. Between 2007-8, there has been an increase of 50% in the number of Papua New Guineans tested for HIV, and a 260% increase in the number of people tested between 2008-9. The number of Papua New Guineans infected with HIV that are receiving life- saving anti-retroviral treatment has increased exponentially, with coverage increasing from 23% in 2007 to 65% in 2008 and 74% in 2009.
Australia’s support for the Papua New Guinea response to HIV has therefore clearly been important. Though recent analysis by UNAIDS suggests that the HIV epidemic is beginning to level off , the response to HIV in Papua New Guinea remains extremely fragile with sub-optimal access to treatment and care in many areas of the country. Papua New Guinea can reverse the rate of new HIV infections and optimize the impact of HIV treatment by fully implementing prevention and treatment measures outlined in the 2011 UN Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS.
Similarly, Australia must also fully integrate the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS into its national, state and territory HIV strategies. Our tardiness in doing so is highly regrettable and undermines our efforts to encourage other countries, particularly in our region, to adopt bold, evidence-based HIV responses.
UNAIDS has worked tirelessly with a plethora of agencies to encourage the full implementation of the 2011 Political Declaration. However, Australia must provide greater support for this effort, through multi- year core funding to UNAIDS and by recognising the importance of promoting evidence-based HIV prevention and treatment as the core of the global response. Australia should allocate its international HIV/AIDS budget at a level commensurate with the solemn commitments we made at the United Nations in 2011.
Australia played a commendable role in securing international support for the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS. This reflected well on our three decades of commitment to bringing the HIV pandemic under control domestically, regionally and globally. In the years ahead, the challenge is to consolidate the great gains that have been made in the past several years, to increase access to HIV treatment for all and to fund the global response at the level that will ensure the rapid decline in the numbers of new HIV infections. Only by doing this can we bring about the beginning of the end of HIV/AIDS.
Bill Bowtell AO is the Executive Director of Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Pacific Friends would like to thank UNAIDS and AusAID for their support of this statement.
Leave a comment
Global Health News
Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is a high-level advocacy organisation which seeks to mobilise regional awareness of the serious threat posed by HIV & AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to societies and economies in the Pacific. In pursuing its goals Pacific Friends has a specific interest in highlighting the need to protect the rights of women and children in the Pacific.