Outcomes from the High Level Meeting
In evaluating the outcomes of the HLM, the Coalition is encouraged by the increased attention placed on children and adolescents. In particular, we were pleased to see the following included in the Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS:
- A target to have 1.6 million children on treatment by 2018
- The importance placed on the elimination of mother to child transmission, including World Health Organization certification
- Consideration given to early child development, a “life course” approach and HIV-sensitive social protection
- The need for cash transfers and psychosocial support and education
- Focus placed on caregivers
- Stigma elimination in reference to children
- Disaggregation of the word people; numerous references, specifically, to children, adolescents and adults helps to remind countries that targeted strategies for different populations are needed
Getting to this point required enormous effort on the part of many partners in the community. With our peers, the Coalition has taken every opportunity — and created some opportunities where none existed — to relentlessly pursue the inclusion of children in the Declaration.
We know that the issues facing children affected by HIV and AIDS are urgent – the virus is more virulent in the early stages of life; half of all HIV positive children will die before they reach the age of two. Testing is woefully inadequate and, as a result, only 32% of children with HIV who need treatment receive it.
Despite this, initially, there was no category for children on the civil society task force that provided input into the drafting of the Declaration. The Coalition and partners worked aggressively to change that. Similarly, there was no plan for a UNAIDS briefing session on children until the community spoke up. The Coalition was proud to co-host the resulting conversation, helping to identify issues that should be included in the final Declaration. Finally, on the margins of the April civil society meeting, the Coalition partnered with UNICEF to host a convening intended to bring greater attention to children.
In addition, members of the Coalition met with UNAIDS staff working on the HLM in Geneva, following up with points to contribute to the Secretary General’s report. These points were ultimately transformed into our “Key Asks for Children” backgrounder.
As a coalition, we know well the power of the collective. This power has been instrumental in the weeks and months leading up to the HLM. Through our own members and through partnerships with other organizations, we have been able to bring broad expertise, and have had input on a wider range of issues —more than any of us would be able to on our own.
It must be said, however, that though we are pleased with the level of focus on children, we stand in solidarity with our civil society partners in our concern that not enough focus was placed in other critical areas including key populations, harm reduction and sexual health and reproductive rights.
Ultimately, however, the political declaration is only a piece of paper. What is needed most now is action. We have a window of opportunity to galvanize efforts to defeat AIDS in children and other vulnerable populations by 2020; and to defeat it altogether by 2030.