UNGASS-AIDS 2008 Wrap Up

June 17, 2008

Dear Friends

We are still waiting the summary of UNGASS-AIDS 2008 from the President of the General Assembly. It should be released any time soon, we hope.

Meanwhile, it will be good to exchange impressions about the result of our work around the High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS.

Our event at the Ford Foundation:

As you all know, on June 6th Gestos and FEIM, under the kind auspices of the Ford Foundation, promoted the event “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights: Challenges for the UNGASS-AIDS Commitments”. In this occasion we launched the printed version of the sixteen countries Comparative Report on Monitoring the UNGASS-AIDS Goals on Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health (you may find the ungass_comparative_final (pdf) here.)

Mr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS and Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, who accepted to write the Comparative Report’s foreword, was present for the second half of the event that was very well attended by representatives from AIDS, women, and human-rights movements, academia, UNDP, UNFPA, UNAIDS and UNIFEM.

Challenges for the UNGASS-AIDS Commitments.

Challenges for the UNGASS-AIDS Commitments.

The meeting was a concrete opportunity for a direct dialogue between civil society and the UN agencies.

Ms. Mabel Bianco, Ms. Alessandra Nilo, and Dr. Peter Piot.

Ms. Mabel Bianco, Ms. Alessandra Nilo, and Dr. Peter Piot.

Barbara Klugman, Senior Program Officer in Education, Sexuality and Religion at the Ford Foundation, gave the welcome and made a brief introduction highlighting the new challenges that have arisen in the field of sexual and reproductive health upon incorporating HIV/AIDS.

Alessandra Nilo, Executive Director of GESTOS in Brazil and member of “Strategies from the South” as a member of the LACCASO’s Executive Committee, spoke about the need to eliminate sexual and reproductive health gaps in national AIDS plans. She made reference to the main findings in the study carried out in 16 countries: 9 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 3 in Africa, 3 in Asia, and Ukraine, under GESTOS’ coordination. She urged that this should be one of the advocacy issues during the UNGASS meeting.

Later, Mabel Bianco, President of FEIM and Coordinator of the project “Strategies from the South”, spoke about the strengths and potentials of the alliance between sectors that do not traditionally work together: the women’s movement and HIV/AIDS activists. She also shared experiences of working jointly with different areas of the government and Civil Society. This was emphasized as a key factor, in order for Civil Society to become involved in both the design and monitoring of programs and the UNGASS process.

Dorothy Aken’ova, Executive Director of the NGO INCRESE, in Nigeria, member of the international network AMANITARE and the African Regional Coordinator for the project “Strategies from the South”, spoke of the main challenges for joint advocacy work in Africa, outlining the main problems.

Purnima Mane, Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA, spoke of how United Nations agencies have made efforts to work alongside community groups of women and PLWHA, in regards to how to guarantee these rights, especially for Women Living with HIV. She specifically mentioned the advances made last year after a meeting with GNP+ group worldwide.

Neelanjana Mukhia, Coordinator of the International Campaign “Women Won’t Wait. End HIV & Violence Against Women. NOW!” and International Women’s Rights Policy and Campaign Coordinator for ActionAid International, made a presentation on the state of the art of violence against women and national AIDS plans, raising the main advocacy issues for UNGASS and later at the national level.

Here is Ms. Alessandra Nilo’s presentation, Ms. Barbara Klugman’s introduction and Ms. Neelanjana Mukhia’s presentation about monitoring the progress of the Declaration of Commitment: “Keeping the Promise for Women and Girls”.

Alessandra Nilo, Barbara Klugman, Neelanjana Mukhia

Alessandra Nilo, Barbara Klugman, Neelanjana Mukhia

We thank the participation, engagement, and support from all of you to achieve the results we have.

High Level Meeting UNGASS-AIDS 2008

H. E. Srgjan Kerim, President of the General Assembly, opens UNGASS-AIDS 2008.

H. E. Srgjan Kerim, President of the General Assembly, opens UNGASS-AIDS 2008.

After intense preparation, UNGASS-AIDS 2008 finished on June 12th stressing again the perspective for the future of Universal Access by 2010. Women’s sexual and reproductive health and the participation of civil society in the fight against HIV/AIDS were among the topics in declarations, both from government and civil society representatives. But, as we said, we are still waiting for the Summary from the GA President to be able to reach some conclusions. All discussions we had before were confirmed…

Civil Society Caucus

Civil Society Caucus

Civil society leaders worked profusely to draft a global political declaration that demands special and responsible attention to issues ranging from populations vulnerability to government accountability. And, because we had more participation of feminists than ever before, the women’s movement drafted WOMEN DEMAND ACTION AND ACCOUNTABILITY NOW. Both declarations were handed to H. E. Srgjan Kerim, President of the General Assembly, by the high-level meeting civil society task force.

Neelanjana Mukhia and Alejandra Scampini at the Civil Society Caucus.

Neelanjana Mukhia and Alejandra Scampini at the Civil Society Caucus.

Notwithstanding the improvements in mentioning more women and girls, it is important to stress that we face strong pressure to step back the political advances we have achieved in the AIDS response. It is impressive the tendency to keep on working with AIDS in an overtly medical approach, something clearly pushed by the World Health Organization influence. Such narrow perspective reinforces the idea that the AIDS funds should be used specifically to activities traditionally recognized as prevention or assistance to specific groups. This kind of approach, for instance, may let out the investment of funds for affirmative actions to promote and secure the human rights perspective, and can have a huge negative impact in the strategies put in place to face homophobia, prejudice, and discrimination, with special emphasis on not recognizing the feminization of AIDS.

In this sense, I stress the importance of keeping our attention to international policies and spaces where the policies are decided.

The dispute between vertical funds to AIDS and funds to improve health systems, the advance of male circumcision as a prevention option without any consideration of its potential impact on women, and the large funding gap to face AIDS in a sustainable way where among the main issues discussed in many meetings and debates throughout the UN. We, civil society, also highlighted the existent gaps in the process of monitoring and evaluation of the policies—at local, national and international levels—, what makes it difficult to hold governments and agencies properly accountable for their acts and decisions. Actually, accountability was the point highlighted in my presentation in the Civil Society Hearing (The civil society participation and accountability.)

It will be great to read from other colleagues present at the High Level Meeting. We are happy to report that we had many people from the UNGASS AIDS Forum there. Thus, meanwhile we wait for the GA President’s summary, to see what was incorporated or not from our pledges, it will be good to share impressions and move forward with preparation for the International AIDS Conference, in Mexico City.

Finally, again, it is important to express my gratitude for having you as partners in this process. The great visibility or our project was, no doubt, result of our collective effort. In all countries your inspiration count and it was my strength too. Let’s keep this light up.

Yours in solidarity, Alessandra Nilo

Gestos—Soropositividade, Comunicação e Gênero


Civil Society Reports to UNGASS 2008

February 3, 2008

The project of Monitoring the UNGASS-AIDS goals on Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health aims to form and nurture a south-to-south advocacy and research network that, originally, includes sixteen countries: nine in Latin America and the Caribbean, one in Eastern Europe, three in Africa, and three in Southeast Asia.

The project is mostly funded by Ford Foundation, New York, through the office of Education, Sexuality, Religion. It receives complimentary funding from Ford Foundation’s Global HIV Initiative.

Additional support for specific action comes from UNAIDS, Geneva. In kind support, such as logistics infra-structure, is provided by CICT – Center for International Technical Cooperation, – a department of the National AIDS Program of the Ministry of Health of Brazil, and the Brazilian office of UNFPA.

The project is divided in four phases. The first phase is comprised of the 1st UNGASS Forum in the country, facilitated by international coordination team members. The second phase involves data gathering and systematizing. The third is the second UNGASS Forum in the country to prepare for the fourth phase of political advocacy for UNGASS-AIDS 2008.