By Karanja Gaçuça
The United Nations will Incorporate Language that Specifically Recognizes LGBTQ populations in HIV Treatment.
The United Nations has made significant steps in recognizing the specific need and vulnerabilities of specific populations as it relates to HIV & AIDS policies. Specifically the UN will recognize men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender women, sex workers and drug users in addition to women.
This recognition of specific communities is important because it allows for the global advocacy by international organizations such as UNAIDS to push globally for policies that will ensure that resources are directed where they are needed most based on science based data about communities that are most at risk of HIV infection and AIDS related illnesses.
The announcement was made April 19th 2016 when the United Nations High Level Meeting (HLM) on HIV and AIDS released its United Nations HLM Political Declaration Zero Draft… synopsis provided by The Global Forum on MSM & HIV:
- The Zero Draft includes several key points that address gender and sexual and reproductive health. These include point #28, which explicitly notes “that progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment has been unacceptably slow…” In addition, point #59 aligns with SDG #5 “Gender Equality” – “Investing in transformative AIDS responses will contribute to Gender Equality and Empower Women and Girls.” Importantly, this point commits to “end all forms of violence against women and girls…”
- The Zero Draft in point #29 explicitly notes “that many national HIV-prevention strategies provide insufficient access to services for key populations that epidemiological evidence shows are at higher risk of HIV.” As was the case in 2011, it explicitly states that men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, and sex workers are key populations, along with transgender people, prisoners, and migrants. The draft furthermore makes clear in evidence-based terms the extreme risk faced by these populations, including that men who have sex with men are 24 times more likely than adults in the general population to acquire HIV, people who inject drugs are 24 times more likely, sex workers are 10 times more likely, and transgender people are 49 times more likely.
- The Zero Draft in point #30 explicitly notes “the lack of global progress made in reducing transmission of HIV among people who inject drugs” and moreover identifies the “insufficient coverage of highly effective harm reduction programmes, the marginalization and criminalization of people who inject drugs which hamper access to HIV services,” and notes “with concern that gender-based stigma and discrimination often act as additional barrier for women who inject drugs to access HIV services.”
- The Zero Draft in point #36 explicitly notes “the increasing number of new HIV infections in the Middle East and North Africa, where new infections are concentrated among sex workers, men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs,” that in Eastern Europe and Central Asia “new infections continue to increase, largely among people who inject drugs,” “resurgent epidemics” in cities in North America and Western Europe “where men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers and their clients, and people who inject drugs are at particularly high risk,” and “that the epidemic is concentrated among key populations in Asia and the Pacific as well as in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
- The Zero Draft aligns with SDG #10 “Reduced Inequalities” in point #60 – “Ensuring the rights of all people to access high-quality HIV services and commodities will narrow the inequalities gap within and among countries.” This point explicitly states the need to “ensure access to tailored HIV combination prevention services to key populations.” Furthermore, it boldly commits to “saturate areas with high HIV incidence” with “a combination of tailored prevention interventions,” including provision of condoms, harm reduction, and PrEP “with particular focus on key populations and young people.” Moreover, it explicitly states that key populations are an appropriate focus of “evidence-based prevention measures.”
- The Zero Draft aligns with SDG #16 “Peace and Justice” in point #61 – “Removing punitive laws, policies and practices that block access to HIV services and ending HIV-related stigma and discrimination will promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies.” This pointboldly commits “to remove punitive laws, policies and practices…related to overly broad criminalization of HIV transmission, same-sex sexual relations, sex work and drug use…”
The new formal status will allow advocacy groups globally to be able to seek financing from international organizations and government institutions for the fight against HIV transmission and AIDs infection among the vulnerable communities of MSM, trans women, sex workers and drug users in the global effort towards an AIDS free world.
The Global Forum on Men who have Sex with Men, MSMGF, is a global advocacy group focused on ensuring that the health and human rights of men who have sex with men are recognized and promoted globally. As such, MSMGF keeps track of all issues relating to global policies on HIV and AIDS specifically as it pertains to MSM.
The organization has celebrated the inclusion of this language in the zero draft of the important UN document. However, MSMGF is now urging all interested parties to keep up the pressure to ensure that the language is retained in the lead-up to the HLM meeting in June.