UN high-level meeting (HLM) on HIV/AIDS was convened from 8 to 10 June 2021, in the General Assembly Hall, at the UN Headquarters, in New York. The HLM undertook a comprehensive review of the progress on the commitments made in the 2016 Political Declaration towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 and the General Assembly expects to adopt a new political declaration to guide the future direction of the response.
The key population groups led by the Global Network of Sex Work Projects whom we as African Sex Workers Alliance (ASWA) are a member of, The Global Network of Trans Women and HIV (IRGT), Global Action for Trans Equality (GATE), and MSMGF (The Global Forum on MSM & HIV) together with the Global Platform to Fast-Track the HIV and Human Rights Responses Among Gay and Bisexual Men and Other Men Who Have Sex with Men (The Platform) were saddened by the adoption of the faulty 2016 Political Declaration at the last United Nations High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS (HLM).
The Political Declaration did not meaningfully address the response of HIV epidemic among key populations, including gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who use drugs, and transgender people. It shut out and failed to represent key populations. It did not concretely engage, assist and fund key population HIV response. It also failed to address structural barriers like legal and policy barriers which continuously stigmatise and criminalise key population.
Though the document expressed “commitment to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” the key population alluded that the political declaration was a remarkable hinderance in their work to end AIDS.
In response to the dissatisfaction of the Political Declaration, GATE, IRGT, MSMGF, NSWP, the Platform and its allies teamed up with over 80 civil society organisations in proclaiming profound dissatisfaction with the Political Declaration. They developed and published Global Civil Society Organization (CS0) Declaration.
The Global CSO Declaration does not welcome any expression that exploits and violates the rights of key populations. It also adopts any HIV responses that are evidence based which is bound by the dedication of the protection and promotion of human rights.
Read more here https://www.nswp.org/resource/high-level-failure-the-united-nations-key-populations
During the interactive multistakeholder hearing ahead of June’s United Nations High-Level Meeting on AIDS which was an an online discussion,sex workers in Africa called for the local governments not to treat sex workers as criminals but equal partners in the HIV response and abolish all aspects of criminalisation on sex work in that will inform the 2021 UN High level meeting in June.
Sex workers added that they had been excluded in the response to HIV and urged for inclusion of their recommendations in the upcoming high level political meeting.
One of the sex worker leading activists Kholi Buthelezi who is also a member of Global Fund South Africa Coordinating Mechanism and founding member and the national coordinator of Sisonke, South Africa which is a sex workers’ led movement that advocate for sex workers’ health rights said that while HIV prevention programmes for Key Populations are increasing, they are still not of sufficient scale and quality to make the necessary impact to reduce HIV and human rights abuses of key population in South Africa.
Sex Workers in Africa in all their diversity; female, male, trans, queer, young and migrant sex workers were calling for a political declaration that should meaningfully engage them in HIV response.
Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly said “Pandemics thrive in, and widen, the fault lines and fractures of society. To end AIDS, we need to end the intersecting injustices that drive new HIV infections and prevent people from accessing services.”
He thanked all Member States & the diverse range of stakeholders who participated in #HLM2021AIDS, where the Political Declaration “Ending inequalities and getting on track to end AIDS by 2030” was adopted. He added ‘Our work does not end here. Now is the time for action to end AIDS by 2030’.
African Sex Workers Alliance (ASWA) hopes that the inequalities facing sex workers in Africa will end and that all sex workers will have easy access to health.