AIDS Action Europe holds a seat on the NGO Delegation  to the UNAIDS PCB for the period of 2016-2017. Our colleague, Ferenc Bagyinszky, is the alternate delegate for Europe. The UNAIDS PCB has held its biannual meeting recently. Please find below a report from the perspective of our delegate.

The 38th PCB meeting of the UNAIDS was held on June 28-30. UNAIDS was the first ever UN body that included NGOs, representatives of key affected populations and people living with HIV, in its board. Besides the standard agenda points, the most important discussions at this PCB were about sexual and reproductive health and rights, funding of the Joint Programme and the role of communities in the HIV-response with focus on key populations and advocacy work.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights

Sexual and reproductive health and rights or shortly SRHR are one of the hot topics of the HIV agenda globally. Besides the existing evidence of the connection between SRHR and HIV, there are still countries where the topic of sexual rights is a taboo, or even furthermore, the use of SRHR language is considered to be interference in a country´s legal, traditional and religious sovereignty. There were huge fights around this language last year, when the UNAIDS 2016-2021 Strategy was approved and also this year when the report of the NGO Delegation on SRHR was presented.

The NGO Delegation presented its report on SRHR of people most affected by HIV which was presented at this PCB. The report was acknowledged and welcomed by most member states. However, some member states, especially from Africa and the Arabic countries repeatedly question sexual rights, leaving key populations such as gay men and other MSM behind and also women, whose vulnerability to HIV is predominantly due to gender inequalities in societies.

Funding the HIV-response

The Joint Programme, UNAIDS and its co-sponsors, such as the World Bank or WHO, has seen a steadily decrease in funding in the past few years. Traditional donor countries have decreased their contributions to the Joint Programme and focusing their contributions to the Global Fund.

In our view, certain pillars of the HIV-response are not replaceable or exchangeable with one another. While the Global Fund has a major role in providing treatment and prevention services in low- and some middle-income countries, the UNAIDS has an important role in providing technical assistance and also support advocacy work on the ground. To reach the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets by 2020 and end AIDS by 2030, we need a fully funded HIV-response, where all pillars of the response, including communities and civil society receive adequate and sustainable funding. (Please read the intervention by Ferenc Bagyinszky at the UNAIDS PCB.)

The role of civil society in participating at the UNAIDS PCB meetings

Besides the NGO Delegation, the PCB meetings are well attended by other representatives of other civil society representatives, call the NGO Observers. Their role, although is limited to interventions, is very crucial as their interventions support the NGO Delegation and multiply the voice of civil societies at meetings. It is also a great opportunity to get involved or simply informed about the global HIV agenda for those of us that work at the national or regional level.

One important role that the PCB meetings can play for civil society representatives is that it can provide a platform for dialogue between NGOs and governments. One example of this from the previous PCB was the case of Irina Maslova, representing “Silver Rose”, a community-based sex workers´ organizations from St. Petersburg, Russia. In her interventions she managed to call global attention to and address her government about the extreme difficulties that sex workers work and live in and civil society organizations are forced to operate in in the Russian Federation.

There is always a thematic day attached to every PCB meeting, which this year focused on the role of communities in responding to HIV/AIDS. Besides the community representatives that were included in every panel, this thematic day was also a platform for NGO representatives to engage governments, share their experiences, good practices and concerns.

I do encourage members and partners of AIDS Action Europe to engage with the UNAIDS PCB, and attend meetings as it is a good platform for advocacy work and also for learning and networking.

Ferenc Bagyinszky, NGO Delegate, Europe, UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board