10 Jun 2011

Essential life-saving medicines make Universal Access an investment, not an expense

Amsterdam/New York – June 9, 2011 –The Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP+) welcomes the commitment of UN member states to achieve universal access to HIV treatment by 2015. Following weeks of negotiations, a new Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS will be agreed at the High Level Meeting on HIV, which is coming to a close in New York. Member states will commit to working towards 15 million people living with HIV being on antiretroviral treatment by 2015. Achieving this target will be a critical step towards ending the global AIDS epidemic.

Whilst advancements in treatment have improved the quality of life of people living with HIV, nearly 10 million people who need these treatments do not have access to them- most of these living in sub- Saharan Africa. The commitment to increase access comes as new research shows that starting treatment early increases the health outcomes for the person living with HIV and reduces the risk of transmission by up to 96%. This preventative effect of treatment makes investment in treatment an even more efficient investment in global public health. It is therefore concerning that the commitment to increasing access is not matched by as strong a commitment to close the resource gap by 2015. Commitments to Universal Access goals are meaningless without committing to the funding needed to achieve them.

“People living with HIV have been calling for full funding of equitable access to treatment, care and prevention for over a decade,” says Kevin Moody, GNP+ International Coordinator and CEO. “The confirmation of the preventative effect of anti-retroviral treatment shows that treatment is not an expense but an investment that not only makes people healthier and more productive in their communities, but also prevents onward transmission of HIV.”

In the area of the human rights of people living with and most vulnerable to HIV, the political declaration falls short of the unequivocal support for human rights demanded by activists. Whilst member states reiterate commitments creating enabling legal, social and policy frameworks in order to eliminate stigma, discrimination and HIV-related violence, GNP+ is disappointed that the commitments to human rights are weakened dramatically by deferring  to national legal frameworks. Furthermore references to key affected populations, in particular, sex workers, men who have sex with men and people who use drugs, fail to appear in any of the new commitments. Universal access can never be a reality until the HIV response engages meaningfully with, protects the human rights of, and provides comprehensive services to those most affected by the epidemic. Commitments around the legal reform and redress are lacking throughout much of the outcome declaration, specifically as they relate to the law being a barrier to access for so many.

In a presentation at the panel session on Innovations and New Technologies, Chris Mallouris, Director of Programmes, at GNP+ called upon member states to “direct funding towards evidence-based strategies, with HIV treatment as a cornerstone of those proven interventions that prevent new infections and treat HIV effectively.”

“Governments must ensure the availability of appropriate treatment at the lowest possible costs and use TRIPS flexibilities to their fullest where needed and applicable,” stated Chris Mallouris, going on to say, “Continuing and intensifying investments in innovation – treatment, prevention, vaccines, laboratory diagnostics and monitoring – are crucial in meeting the prevention and treatment targets set by the Declaration.”

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