The International Advisory Group (IAG) on universal access met in Johannesburg, South Africa on 26-28 April 2011 to crystallize key findings informed by the outcomes of recent series of country and regional consultations on universal access. The meeting was an opportunity to gain consensus on global priorities and the “way forward” which is captured in the IAG statement, Solidarity for Universal Access.
The IAG is co-chaired by Mrs Bathabile Dlamini, Minister of Social Development, Republic of South Africa and Dr Paul De Lay, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Programme. The statement will be shared directly with Member States to contribute towards negotiations on a draft declaration in lead up to the United Nations High Level Meeting on AIDS that will take place in June.
Between 2010 and 2011, 117 countries took stock of their progress towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services. The national assessments informed multiple regional consultations. While reviewing the findings from the country and regional consultations, the IAG, a multi-stakeholder advisory group, mandated by the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board, found overwhelming and ongoing support for the universal access movement.
During the April meeting in South Africa, the IAG endorsed the recommendations from the regional and country consultations and concluded that five global challenges are pivotal now to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2015. These global challenges include the need to protect the human rights of all people; improve access to quality and affordable HIV treatment and scale up HIV prevention programmes; engage inspiring and courageous leaders, especially young people, lead the response; use evidence-informed strategies to make smart investments that will yield maximum results; and, finally, share accountability. “We need to strengthen the human rights approach in our response to AIDS and establish mechanisms to ensure that both public and private services are free of stigma and discrimination or homophobia,” said Dr Jose Angel Cordova Villalobos, Secretary of Health of Mexico and member of the IAG during his participation in the Latin America consultation in March this year.
The advisory body emphasizes in its statement that global solidarity on the identified key priorities will change the trajectory of the epidemic, save lives and contribute towards achieving the UNAIDS vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.