U.N. approves declaration on AIDS as public health threat

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U.N. approves declaration on AIDS as public health threat

Condoms form the International Ribbon, which represents the red symbol for AIDS at a wall of establishment in Sao Paulo, Brazil, April 24, 2019. Nacho Doce REUTERS ReUTERS

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a declaration on Tuesday that aimed at decriminalising AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 after Russia failed in a bid to remove language it said pushed countries to stop prostitution and drug use.

The 193 members General Assembly voted over the last minute to amend Russia's declaration of 18 pages. It voted 165 in favor and four against to adopt the non binding declaration - the fifth such text on AIDS in the past 20 years.

Russia told the General Assembly that several paragraphs attempt to disrupt so-called national legislation under the cover of combating discrimination directly by repealing so-called restrictive and discriminatory laws.

As we see from the World AIDS Strategy 2021 to 2026, UNAIDS considers these to include laws that in any way disproven prostitution and drug use, said deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Chumakov.

The Australian UNION of the U.N. Ambassador Mitch Fifield - who led negotiations on the declaration with Russia - pushes back against Namibia, saying that reforming laws and policies to ensure that they are grounded in evidence and human rights is indispensable for an effective HIV response.

AIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima warned the General Assembly that AIDS is one of the deadliest pandemics of modern time, with 77.5 million people so far infected with HIV, while about 35 million people have died from AIDS.

HIV rates are not as positive as expected in countries including Europe. Indeed, amidst the fall-out of the COVID crisis, we could even see a resurgent pandemic, she said on Tuesday.

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