Feature story

UNAIDS Executive Director presents progress report to Board

23 June 2010

director(from left) Mr Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS; Ms Yoka Brandt, Director-General, International Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands
Credit: UNAIDS/F. Chironi

UNAIDS governing body, the Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) is holding its 26th Board meeting from 22-24 June 2010 in Geneva.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé addressed the Board on 23 June giving an overview of progress in last six months by the Secretariat, partners and Cosponsors. The UNAIDS Annual Report 2009 was also shared with the Board members.

In his speech, “Delivering results in transformative times”, Mr Sidibé laid out a “reinvigorated mission” for the Joint Programme. Mr Sidibé also identified five challenges for UNAIDS and described approaches for a more focussed UNAIDS, acting more strategically, increased flexibility and responsiveness, a more efficient Secretariat and more accountability.

On 22 June a thematic session took place on “Linking Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services with HIV/AIDS interventions in practice”. Issues related to gender and youth education were also discussed under this theme.

Stakeholders involved in the AIDS response have always been of the opinion that the Millennium Development Goals will not be achieved without ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

The majority of HIV infections are sexually transmitted or are associated with pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding; and the risk of HIV transmission and acquisition can be further increased due to the presence of certain sexually transmitted infections (STI). HIV is the leading cause of death in women of reproductive age, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, and contributes significantly to maternal mortality.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé has maintained that, “If we integrate HIV into maternal health programmes, we can make huge progress on almost every global development goal. We can stop mothers from dying of HIV and dramatically reduce maternal mortality.” Most of UNAIDS cosponsors are also involved in improving this field, enhancing human rights and promoting HIV prevention services.

The thematic session of the Board meeting provided a platform for stakeholders and participants to review the challenges of integrating sexual and reproductive health services with HIV interventions and vice-versa, and share lessons and best practices.

Special attention was paid to young people and gender issues, where progress in involving men and boys in SRH services and programmes that address harmful gender norms were included. Young people tend to be more motivated to use condoms to prevent unintended pregnancy than HIV. Programmes that focus on both can broaden their appeal and have an important impact on preventing pregnancy and STIs.

Sexual violence, sexual diversity and sexuality education with due respect to human rights, gender issues and greater involvement of people living with HIV was also addressed.

Participants were invited to discuss opportunities for women to control or influence their own sexuality and reproduction and to become familiar with the female condom. For pregnant women living with HIV, the single most significant intervention that could reduce maternal mortality, and virtually eliminate vertical transmission -- namely the timely initiation of antiretroviral therapy for life -- remains largely underutilized.

Established in 1994 by a resolution of the UN Economic and Social Council and launched in January 1996, UNAIDS is guided by a Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) with representatives of 22 governments from all geographic regions, the UNAIDS Cosponsors, and five representatives of nongovernmental organizations, including associations of people living with HIV.