Africa: The Final Push for HIV in New Global Development Agenda

Sarah Oughton

With the mega-issues of poverty, hunger, health, education and global warming challenging the global community, HIV activists often struggle to be heard. But 2015, is not the year to take a back seat.

Marielle Hart, policy manager for the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and STOP AIDS NOW! is campaigning hard to ensure HIV is not buried under the mountain of competing priorities when a new global development agenda is finalised by the UN this September.

So why is 2015 such a big deal for HIV activists?

At the UN General Assembly, 193 member states of the United Nations will come together to agree a final version of the 17 new goals and 164 targets currently proposed as the world’s new sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The new goals will take us up to 2030 and replace the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were established in 2000, which end this year.

The MDGs included a specific goal on AIDS and since then massive progress has been made in tackling the epidemic – new data shows that 2013 was the first year when more people started getting treatment than became infected with HIV, an exciting tipping point in the journey to ending AIDS!

So while the HIV community acknowledges that securing a standalone goal for AIDS is no longer realistic with so many other competing priorities, there is also an urgent need to ensure HIV doesn’t slip from the agenda or many of the gains made will be at risk.

Over the last couple of years we’ve been advocating with other civil society groups and UNAIDS to get UN Member States to adopt strong targets around HIV and its many cross-cutting issues. It’s been a huge challenge with so many diverse governments around the table, as lots of language around HIV in particular in relation to human rights, key populations and sexual and reproductive health and rights is particularly contentious.

We had some wins, but also a number of losses in the proposal on post-2015 goals and targets which a group of UN Member States was tasked to submit to the UN Secretary General in June 2014.

The sustainable development goals will be finalised and adopted in September 2015. Time is now running out to influence the last intergovernmental negotiations between UN member states. Our work is cut out for us to make the targets stronger and work better for the issues we care about.

What are the HIV ‘wins’ in the proposed sustainable development goals?

We have come a long way since we started engaging in this post-2015 process two years ago when it was far from being sure whether AIDS would be included at all.

Although HIV no longer has a standalone goal, there is a target to end AIDS by 2030 under the proposed health goal: ‘ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’. It will be crucial to keep protecting this target as member states enter into their negotiations, particularly as some felt it was too ambitious.

Other wins that we need to protect include:

Sexual and reproductive health as a target under both the health goal and gender goal

A stand-alone goal on equality and a target promoting social inclusion of all

References to the rule of law, anti-discriminatory laws, and human rights

And what still needs fighting for?

Although universal health coverage (UHC) is a target under the overarching health goal, to ensure true equitable access, we strongly pushed at every opportunity to include a specific reference to marginalised and vulnerable groups as part of this target. To our great disappointment, while this language had been part of the UHC target in earlier proposals, it was ultimately taken out, as it proved too contentious. This will be one of the biggest challenges for us to get it back in again by September.

Another contentious issue was the inclusion of a target on sexual and reproductive rights. As a result of strong advocacy by civil society, a sexual and reproductive health target was included under both the health and gender goals. However, there is no reference to sexual rights- we need to get this reinstated.

What are the next steps?

Well it’s still all to play for! Here is a list of key dates where we need to make sure the voices of those most affected by HIV are being heard, by getting them round the table and getting their stories in the media.

Jan – August: intergovernmental post-2015 negotiations

30 – 31 January: African Union Summit, Addis Ababa

9-10 February: UNGA High Level Debate on Means of Implementation for post-2015

March: UNGA High Level Debate on Gender Equality

13-17 April: Conference on Population Development

April/May: Informal hearings with civil society

May: EU Council Conclusions on means of implementation

8-22 May: World Health Assembly, Geneva

26 June – 8 July: Third High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

13-16 July: Financing for Development Conference, Addis Ababa

25-27 September: UN Post-2015 Summit