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Information note - 30 years into the AIDS epidemic






UNGASS Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, June 2001

The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS) was a landmark in the international community's fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Held on the 20 th anniversary of the first medical recognition of AIDS, the Special Session was organized with a sense of urgency in light of the growing impact of the pandemic. The result was the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS adopted by the Heads of State and government representatives present. In its preamble, the Declaration outlines the extent of the pandemic, its effects, and means for combatting it. The text then states what governments have pledged to do - themselves, in partnership with international and regional organizations, and with civil society - to reverse the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Declaration of Commitment is not a legally binding document. However, it is a clear statement by governments on what they have agreed to do, often with specific deadlines. As such, the Declaration is a powerful tool with which to guide and secure action, commitment, support and resources for all those fighting the epidemic, both within and outside government.

Respect for human rights in the context of HIV/AIDS is at the center of the Declaration of Commitment. Member States recognized the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a global economic, social and development crisis and agreed on the need to address HIV/AIDS by strengthening respect for human rights and, in particular, the rights of those most vulnerable to infection, including women and children. The Declaration identifies goals and targets based on human rights law and principles in four areas: prevention of new infections, provision of improved care, support and treatment for those infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS, reduction of vulnerability, and mitigation of the social and economic impact of HIV/AIDS. Additionally, the UNGASS Declaration of Commitment acknowledges the importance of monitoring and accountability in the context of HIV/AIDS and calls for the strengthening of monitoring mechanisms for HIV/AIDS-related human rights.

In June 2006, the General Assembly held a High Level Meeting on AIDS marking five years since the adoption of the Declaration of Commitment. The High Level Meeting’s purpose was to review progress achieved in realizing the commitments set out in the Declaration of Commitment (including human rights commitments), and to renew political commitment. The Political Declaration adopted by the General Assembly reaffirms the Declaration of Commitment, and in particular:

  • that the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all is an essential element in the global response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
  • that access to medication is one of the fundamental elements to achieve the right to health, and that the WTO TRIPs Agreement does not and should not prevent States from taking measures now and in the future to protect public health.
  • the need to intensify efforts to enact, strengthen or enforce, as appropriate, legislation, regulations and other measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination against and to ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by people living with HIV and members of vulnerable
  • The need to eliminate gender inequalities, gender-based abuse and violence; increase the capacity of women and adolescent girls to protect themselves from the risk of HIV infection, including by ensuring that women can exercise their right to have control over, and decide freely and responsibly on, matters related to their sexuality in order to increase their ability to protect themselves from HIV infection, including their sexual and reproductive health.

Member States also undertook a commitment to pursue the goal of universal access to comprehensive prevention programmes, treatment, care and support by 2010. All countries must set thus set national targets for 2010 with interim targets in 2008. This commitment builds on the WHO and UNAIDS Three by Five Initiative.

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