UNDP and UNAIDS team with parliamentarians on HIV

21 May 2009

Last week, UNAIDS and UNDP in West and Central Africa signed a memorandum of understanding with the Forum of Arab and African Parliamentarians for Population and Development (FAAPPD), working towards the goal of achieving access HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services for all people in the region.

More than five million people were living with HIV in Western and Central Africa in 2007. Nigeria, for instance, has the second highest number of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa with 2 million in 2007.

Universal access to HIV information, services and support is a commitment made by United Nations member states in 2006. Nevertheless, many Africans have only limited access to HIV-related information and health services due to discrimination, violence, marginalization and other human rights violations. A number of countries in Western and Central Africa have introduced HIV-specific laws that criminalize  HIV transmission or exposure.  Not only does this situation drive potential transmitters underground, it undermines the achievement of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support as well as the Millennium Development Goals.
 
The agreement signed by the three organizations describes joint activities that will strengthen the parliamentarians’ role in addressing universal access by:
•    Using the strength of their voices to create awareness and influence public opinion
•    Using their capacity as lawmakers to ensure that legislation protects and promotes human rights – especially the rights of those most vulnerable
•    Using their power of the purse to allocate funds to the issue and monitor their use.

Welcoming this important milestone of leadership for universal access, Jean-Christophe Deberre, Deputy Regional Director, UNDP West and Central Africa noted that: “The role of parliamentarians in creating and strengthening societal dialogue on key issues such as access to HIV-related prevention, treatment and care services for the most marginalized and vulnerable is needed now more than ever.”  

The role of UNDP, working in collaboration with UNAIDS, is to use its broad experience on this issue as well as its strong country presence in the region to support the parliamentarians’ efforts to strengthen national HIV responses.

 “Denial of access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support is not only unjust, it is unwise,” said Jeffrey O’Malley, Director of UNDP’s HIV Group. “Through this agreement we will engage with lawmakers who have the capacity, the passion and the fortitude necessary to drive the goal of universal access forward.”

Established in 1997, FAAPPD is an organization of national parliamentarians working on health issues, including HIV, in 61 African and Middle Eastern countries.

UNAIDS is an innovative joint venture of the United Nations, bringing together the efforts and resources of the UNAIDS Secretariat and ten UN system organizations in the AIDS response. The Secretariat headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland—with staff on the ground in more than 80 countries. The Cosponsors include UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank. Contributing to achieving global commitments to universal access to comprehensive interventions for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support is the number one priority for UNAIDS. Visit the UNAIDS Web site at www.unaids.org