ACTION (Advocacy to Control TB Internationally) Director Kolleen Bouchane issued the following statement in response to the United Nations General Assembly's adoption today of a new political declaration on HIV/AIDS.
"This morning at the United Nations High Level Meeting (HLM) on HIV/AIDS, the UN General Assembly adopted an ambitious new declaration demonstrating a serious commitment to intensify the global response to the AIDS epidemic, including by addressing TB as the leading killer of people with HIV. The declaration comes 30 years after the illness that came to be known as AIDS was first described, 10 years since the first UN Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, and five years after the 2006 UN Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS.
"As the declaration acknowledges, the world has made substantial progress against AIDS. Less than a decade ago, virtually no one living with HIV/AIDS in low-income countries was receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) - now 6.6 million people have access to these life saving drugs. The rate of new infections has declined by more than 25 percent in over 30 countries, and HIV deaths have declined more than 20 percent in the last five years.
"Recent research shows that providing early ART can reduce transmission by 96 percent. Building upon this knowledge, the declaration represents another milestone in the fight against AIDS by setting a target of reaching 15 million individuals with ART access by 2015. Now, governments, the private sector, communities, and civil society must act to fulfill this target, and doing so will go a long way to preventing new infections.
"ACTION is grateful for work of many including the Brazil and Thailand country delegations, who proved to be instrumental in moving this declaration forward, as well as the powerful voices coming from the Treatment Action Campaign, Health GAP, Treatment Action Group and Medicins Sans Frontieres, among others who were able to secure this strong commitment.
"We commend UN member states for recognizing the vital importance of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to the global AIDS response, and for calling on donor governments to provide the highest level of financing to meet its resource needs. We call for an emphasis on tuberculosis and TB/HIV in the next round of programs to be approved in order save an additional million lives from TB/HIV by 2015.
"We also commend the member states for committing to investing in accelerated research for new diagnostics to treat TB in people living with HIV - a critical step to stop the leading killer of people with HIV.
"Despite these considerable commitments, we remain alarmed by the weakening of key language from earlier drafts aimed at addressing TB, the leading killer of people living with HIV/AIDS. The dilution of previously considered commitments is unfortunate, especially given new scientific modeling unveiled at the UN this week by the Stop TB Partnership in collaboration with the World Health Organization and UNAIDS showing that one million additional lives could be saved by 2015 by more aggressively treating and preventing TB disease in people living with HIV.
"Previous drafts of the declaration included explicit commitments to fully implement the Global Plan to Stop TB 2011-2015, including $9.6 billion committed for research and development of new TB tools appropriate for use among people living with AIDS - an essential component of the AIDS response. We are disappointed that the United States delegation moved to strike these commitments from the declaration shortly before the text was made final.
"Despite the shortfalls, ACTION celebrates the achievements in this new declaration and remains committed to a more ambitious target on TB and TB-HIV. We urge global leaders to fight TB-HIV as a single disease with scaled-up and focused funding through direct aid and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. By doing so, leaders will have the opportunity to cut TB-HIV deaths by 80 percent and save an additional million lives by 2015."
Joanne Carter, executive director, RESULTS Educational Fund, on Huffington Post
Kolleen Bouchane, director, ACTION, on Huffington Post
Mandy Slutsker, research associate, ACTION, on One.org
Full text of the declaration
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