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The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS, or UNGASS, is underway in New York, and the big question is if the Assembly can agree on a strong path forward. A UN website provides links to the schedule, reports, and all related links.
The wording of the resolution that will come out of the UNGASS is up in the air. The US is reluctant to include hard targets for patients in treatment and for the resources necessary to reach these targets. UNAIDS estimates that the cost of providing prevention, treatment, and care services will be $20-$23 million by 2010. The US was the largest bilateral donor to HIV/AIDS in 2005, and worries about being held responsible if much higher aid targets are not met.
UNAIDS is pushing for a commitment to "Universal Access" to treatment by 2010, meaning that anyone who needs treatment should have access to it. Activists are pushing for a “10 by 10” commitment, meaning 10 million people on treatment by 2010. Given that an earlier goal of three million on treatment by 2005 only reached 1.3 million, it is unlikely that the UN or bilateral donors will commit to another specific target they are unlikely to meet.
Setting targets for funding and treatment aren’t the only challenges. The US and Islamic states reject wording about commercial sex workers and other vulnerable groups. Language focusing on the “feminization” of the epidemic - and how to focus prevention and treatment efforts on girls and women - makes many uncomfortable.
It would be a shame if the UNGASS becomes so politically charged that a weak resolution comes out of it. Twenty five years into the epidemic, we know what works, we know what resources and which programs are needed, the question is if we can unite to get it done. A weak resolution without a clear vision will divide and dampen efforts, at a time when millions depend on the international community for their lives.