Panel discussion 2: Providing leadership in countries with concentrated epidemics

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Panel discussion 2: Providing leadership in countries with concentrated epidemics

09 June 2008

In many countries, the people who are most in need of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support are not able to reach these services as they are already vulnerable and stigmatized in society.

On 10 June, as part of 2008 High-Level meeting on AIDS, a discussion panel will look at how the obstacles preventing everyone—especially those who are seen as being on the margins of society—having access to services can be removed.

Panelists will consider actions which can be taken by countries with concentrated epidemics to increase the political will and leadership to address the main barriers to access HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services.

This panel will be broadcast live via internet webcast at 20:30 GMT 

Concentrated epidemics

In many regions of the world, including Europe, Asia, Latin America and West Africa, most countries are experiencing concentrated HIV epidemics where HIV has spread rapidly in one or more defined subpopulations but is not well-established in the general population.

Due to a combination of biological and behavioural factors, some people are at higher risk of acquiring and/or transmitting HIV, including sex workers and their clients; people who inject drugs; men who have sex with men; and people in prison settings.

Others, including those already with sexually transmitted infections, migrant workers who spend long periods away from their partners, uniformed services personnel and ethnic minorities may also be more likely to be exposed to HIV, depending on the local situation.

It has been shown that concentrated HIV epidemics can be prevented, stabilized and even reversed using a comprehensive programme of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support activities.

Current situation

The 2008 Secretary-General’s Report on the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the 2001 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS show some progress but many remaining challenges. For example, more than 80% of all HIV infections in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are due to the use of contaminated injection equipment.

Also only around one third of reporting countries have protection against discrimination for sex workers, men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs.

In half of all reporting countries there are laws or policies which actually impede access by the most-at-risk populations to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

Questions to be discussed:

  1. How do political leaders in concentrated epidemics ensure that responses to AIDS are on track?
  2. How can political, religious and social leaders work together to overturn stigma and break taboos on sensitive subjects?
  3. Are the right voices being heard in guiding the response to AIDS?
  4. How do law enforcement, justice and other sectors work with and not against most affected populations?

The panel is composed of H.E. Mr. Elias Antonio Saca Gonzales, President (El Salvador); H.E. Ms. Rigmor Aasrud, State Secretary of Health and Care Services (Norway); Ms. Sonal Mehta of India HIV/AIDS Alliance (India); Mr Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The Chair’s summary of this discussion will be published after the event, please check back to access it.