Commemorating World AIDS Day

 

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To commemorate World AIDS Day, various NGOs discussed the significance of civil society’s role in responding to gloabl HIV/ AIDS. HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) cannot be eradicated without vaccines, and AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) develops in some people after exposure to HIV. People living with HIV can avoid developing AIDS if they are tested and receive treatment early. Dr. Padmini Murthy, global health director/ professor at New York Medical College, considered AIDS as an issue of gender equality. Women are more prone to AIDS due to biological makeup. Getting tested is a high-priority following unprotected sex, or in cases of sexual assault. According to Dr. Murthy, women are less likely to be proactive in obtaining and initiating condom use during intercourse due to societal gender roles in heterosexual encounters. She sighted education and empowerment as key factors in discontinuing this pattern. Simon Bland, director of the UN AIDS office of New York, tested the audience’s knowledge on statistics surrounding HIV/AIDS. Currently, 37 million people live globally with AIDS. The majority of new HIV infections are in young women having heterosexual sex. Only 60% of individuals living with HIV are aware of their positive status.

Eric Sawyer, co- founder of ACT UP and the Housing Works and Health Gap organization, discussed initial responses to AIDS in 1981. There were extreme stigmas. Fear and neglect of diagnosed individuals made living with HIV/AIDS that much more frightening and isolating. Many who tested positive were fired, evicted, and shunned. Only two funeral homes in New York City were willing to embalm HIV positive bodies. However, 35 years later, Deborah Levine, executive director of Love Heals, happily announced that last year no child was born HIV positive in NYC. Molly McHugh, Communications Director of Grassroots Soccer (GRS), stated that GRS offers support to HIV positive youth by referring them to treatment and providing them with safe and supportive spaces.

Meeting: Briefing on “HIV and AIDS: How can civil society revitalize the response?” (on the occasion of the World AIDS Day) (organized by the NGO Relations, NGO Relations and Advocacy, and Special Events Section, Outreach Division, Department of Public Information (DPI))

Date/ Time/Location: Thursday, 1 December 2016; 13:15 to 14:30; United Nations Headquarters, Trusteeship Council Chamber

Speakers: Dr. Padmini Murthy, Global Health Director/Professor at New York Medical College and NGO representative; Simon Bland, Director of UN AIDS office of NY; Eric Sawyer, Co- Founder of ACT UP and Housing Works and Health Gap; Deborah Levine, Executive Director of Love Heals; Molly McHugh, Communications Director of Grassroots Soccer

Written By: Donna Sunny, WIT Representative

Delivering an AIDS-free Generation

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Today’s afternoon meeting held by the UNAIDS council presented a panel of well renowned HIV/AIDS activists, expressing their plea for the continued support of the UNAIDS program in order to one day have an AIDS-free society. The President of the UN General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, began by praising UNAIDS’ commitment in acting swiftly and their intensified efforts to end HIV transmission. Five years since the UN has joined forces in the global fight to end child transmission of AIDS, significant progress has been made. Noted, was the fact that since inception, 33% of pregnant women now have access to treatment that allows them to stop AIDS from transferring to their newborns. Speakers addressed that an AIDS-free generation requires much more action that is aligned with Agenda 2030. Transmission rates must decrease significantly between mothers and their children by scaling up treatment for the mothers. Work on the ground, directly with the affected population and promotion of access to treatment and funding to countries that are overwhelmed by the epidemic need to be considered.

The Executive director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, then took the stand and thanked all the countries that are joining the UNAIDS mission to eliminate children born with AIDS. He mentioned that stigma is still one of the biggest challenges behind the fight against HIV/AIDS and that member states must all partner up to stop it. A video was shown of the First Lady of the Republic of Kenya thanking the 21 Sub-Saharan African countries for their unwavering support and partnership. It was mentioned that the only 100% effective way to stop the transmission of AIDS from mother to child is to target adolescent girls and ensure their prevention from getting infected. The meeting ended with the General Assembly President thanking all who participated and showed.

Meeting: Delivering an AIDS-free Generation

Date/Time/Location: Wednesday, June 8, 2016; 13:15-14:45; Conference Room 3

Speakers: Ms. Whoopie Goldberg, Host of the View; Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, President of UN General Assembly and Ambassador of Denmark; Mr. Michel Sidibé, Executive director of UNAIDS; Mr. Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health in South Africa, Monica Geingos, First Lady of the Republic of Namibia; Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF; Annie Lenox, acclaimed singer and songwriter and founder of SING; Deborah Birx, Coordinator of the United States Government Activities to combat HIV/AIDS; Piyasakol Sakolsataydorn, Minister of Public Health of the Kingdom of Thailand

Written by: WIT representative, Amirali Agha-Khan

Edited by: WIT Administrator, Modou Cham

Recognizing The Common Ground Between Drugs and Public Health

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As the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem in April 2016 approaches, the reevaluation of metrics to best evaluate drug policy have become a concern. Thus the panel discussion, co-organized by the United Nations University (UNU) and the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (ICSDP), focused on what indicators will be utilized in the process of measuring the impact of illicit drugs.

Dr. Dan Werb opened the meeting by introducing the ICSDP’s open letter, “A Call for a Reprioritization of Metrics to Evaluate Illicit Drug Policy.” Werb highlighted four main categories for indicators presented in this letter; Health, Peace & Security, Development, and Human Rights. He reasoned that these four categories are needed in order to prioritize the impact of illicit drug usage above the quantitative value or amount. Dr. Daliah Heller shared this sentiment. She suggested that the UN conduct public health surveillance that monitors drug-related injury, illness, disease, and death whilst setting health intervention benchmarks. She concluded that although criminal justice has dominated drug policy for the past five decades, equity must become the primary lens through which drug policy is examined.

Following, Dr. Kanna Hayashi presented her research and shared how People Who Inject Drugs (PWID) account for 30% of new HIV cases outside of sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of which are located in Asia. She reasoned that this could be combatted by adhering to evidence based standards, as well as ensuring service coverage and accessibility to Methadone therapy. Ms. Genevieve Sanders explained that, “human rights have been one of the great omissions from the evaluation of drug policy.” She explained that the OHCHR Guide can be adapted for drug policy in order to incorporate human rights indicators. The meeting concluded with the panel answering questions from the audience.

Meeting: Identifying common grounds for the special session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem to be held in 2016 (UNGASS 2016): Rethinking metrics to evaluate drug policy

Date/Location: Thursday, January 21st, 2016; 13:15-14:45; Conference Room 7, UN Headquarters, New York, New York

Speakers: Dr. Dan Werb, Director, International Centre for Science in Drug Policy; Dr. Kanna Hayashi, Research Scientist, British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS; Dr. Daliah Heller, Clinical Professor, CUNY School of Public Health; Ms. Genevieve Sander, Human Rights Research Analyst, Harm Reduction International

Written By: WIT Representative Yume Murphy

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Photo Credit: GCIS via Flickr

The Emotional Impact of an AIDS Diagnosis

Countries with The Highest HIV AIDS Prevalence Rates

 

Following a brief introduction, the documentary “It’s Not Over” was screened. It followed three people – Sarang, Paige, and Lucky – and their experiences surrounding HIV/AIDS to illustrate the human stories behind the disease.

South Africa has more people with HIV than any other country in the world. Locals estimate that 80% of the Khayelitsha population has HIV, and that 1 in 3 adults use drugs there. This drug use can make the body weaker and more susceptible to HIV. A lot of women contract HIV from rape, which is a constant there. Lucky’s friend Sisi says that as a woman living in South Africa, “anything can happen at anytime.”

Some interesting statistics from the film: If on a full effective HIV treatment regimen, HIV patients can lower the chance of spreading the disease by 96%. Out of 400,000 sex workers in Mumbai, up to 75% are thought to have HIV.  2.3 million people are infected with HIV per year.

After the screening, the four speakers answered questions from the audience. Ms. Flynn noted that half of the new infections occurring were in people under 24. Ms. Rawl wants people to learn the basic facts about the disease and understand that having it doesn’t define a person. “It’s not the health aspect of being HIV positive that’s hard…it’s the stigma.”  She is still encountering students in schools whose sexual health classes aren’t teaching them that saliva is not one of the bodily fluids that transmits the disease. To the people who aren’t sure of how to open up about it to those around them, she suggests opening with a general comment about HIV and seeing the reaction in the room. If those people don’t know about HIV, then educate them first and then tell them.

Meeting: Panel discussion on and screening of the documentary entitled “It’s Not Over” (in observance of World AIDS Day (1 December) (co-organized by the Permanent Mission of the Netherlands, the United States Mission, MAC AIDS Fund and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS))

Date/Location: Monday, November 30, 2015; 16:00-18:15, Conference Room 4

Speakers: Andrea Flynn – Moderator, MAC AIDS Fund; Paige Rawl – Author, “Positive”, Subject, “It’s Not Over”; Lotte Dijkstra – Dutch Youth Ambassador for Sexual Reproductive Rights and HIV/AIDS; Andrew Jenks – Director, “It’s Not Over”

Written By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

 

Secretary General of the United Nations discusses Human Rights and Rule of Law

UN SECRETARY GENERAL MEETS WITH SPANISH PRESIDENTThe Human Rights and the Rule of Law meeting spoke on ways to support the integration of these objectives into the post-2015 agenda. Human rights fall into categories that either can enhance development or harm development. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the UN, spoke of promoting freedom of opinion and well-functioning institutions, along with better strategies and results. More than 1 billion people remain extremely poor, despite efforts to eliminate poverty. A key element in the ongoing agenda is to secure land for agricultural production.  The Rule of Law will prevent corruption and organised international crime, which H.E. Ki-Moon explained is require to balance the needs of people, while exterminating poverty. The agenda needs to close social and economic gaps.

The UN AIDS Goodwill Ambassador shared that despite decreasing incidence, AIDS continues to be the 2nd largest contributor to adolescent death. More than 40% of people with AIDS are 14 and younger. The Ambassador reported that in 9 of the world’s highest AIDS-prevalent countries, less than 9% of boys and girls have been tested. Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, spoke of the success from programs that have been established in damaged areas. Mr Lake elaborated on more governments-based programs to keep children educated, vaccinated and sheltered. In a video message from Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented four suggestions for the new agenda; that the agenda must address both “freedom from want” and “freedom from fear”, the framework must include the principles of human rights and equality, must contain a strong global partnership and must be based on a strong accountability.

Meeting Title: Contributions of Human Rights and the Rule of Law
Speakers: Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General; Anthony Lake, Executive Director UNICEF; Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; President on Human Rights; Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway
Location: United Nations HQ, Trusteeship Council, New York
Date: 9 June 2014
Written By WIT representative: Leslie Anokye
Edited by WIT representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark