|The UNAIDS Report (UNAIDS, 1999, 53 p.)|
|1. The United Nations responds to AIDS|
From 1986, the World Health Organization (WHO) had the lead responsibility on AIDS in the United Nations, helping countries to set up much-needed national AIDS programmes. But by the mid-1990s, it became clear that the relentless spread of HIV, and the epidemics devastating impact on all aspects of human lives and on social and economic development, were creating an emergency that would require a greatly expanded United Nations effort.
Nor could any single United Nations organization provide the coordinated level of assistance needed to address the many factors driving the HIV epidemic, or help countries deal with the impact of HIV/AIDS on households, communities and local economies. Greater coordination would be needed to maximize the impact of UN efforts.
Addressing these challenges head-on, the United Nations took an innovative approach in 1996, drawing six organizations together in a joint and cosponsored programme - the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). The six original Cosponsors of UNAIDS - UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank - were joined in April 1999 by UNDCP.
The goal of UNAIDS is to catalyse, strengthen and orchestrate the unique expertise, resources, and networks of influence that each of these organizations offers. Working together through UNAIDS, the Cosponsors expand their outreach through strategic alliances with other United Nations agencies, national governments, corporations, media, religious organizations, community-based groups, regional and country networks of people living with HIV/AIDS, and other nongovernmental organizations.
The UNAIDS mission
As the leading advocate for worldwide action against HIV/AIDS, the global mission of UNAIDS is to lead, strengthen and support an expanded response to the epidemic that will:
· prevent the spread of HIV
· alleviate the socioeconomic and human impact of the epidemic.
With an annual budget of US$ 60 million and a staff of 129 professionals, UNAIDS is a modest-sized programme with a substantial impact. The UNAIDS Secretariat operates as a catalyst and coordinator of action on AIDS, rather than as a direct funding or implementing agency.
The largest donors to UNAIDS in 1998 were the United States Government, which contributed US$ 15 million, followed by the Governments of the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. UNAIDS also receives funds from non-traditional donors such as China, Thailand and South Africa.
UNAIDS is guided by a Programme Coordinating Board with representatives of 22 governments from all parts of the world, representatives of the 7 UNAIDS Cosponsors, and 5 representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including associations of people living with HIV/AIDS. UNAIDS is the first United Nations programme to include NGOs in its governing body. The Cosponsors and Secretariat also meet several times a year as the Committee of Cosponsoring Organizations (CCO).
Heads of UNAIDS Cosponsors and their representatives at a CCO meeting, April 1999.
The Secretariat of UNAIDS is based in Geneva, Switzerland. Current priority areas for the Secretariat include:
· young people
· highly vulnerable populations
· prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission
· developing and implementing community standards of AIDS care
· vaccine development
· special initiatives for hard-hit regions, including sub-Saharan Africa.
In developing countries, UNAIDS operates mainly through the country-based staff of its seven Cosponsors (see Panel). Meeting as the host countrys United Nations Theme Group on HIV/AIDS, representatives of the Cosponsoring organizations share information, plan and monitor coordinated action between themselves and with other partners, and decide on joint financing of major AIDS activities in support of the countrys government and other national partners. The principal objective of the Theme Group is to support the host countrys efforts to mount an effective and comprehensive response to HIV/AIDS.
The UNAIDS Cosponsors
Working singly, jointly and with the UNAIDS Secretariat, the seven Cosponsoring organizations of UNAIDS offer countries a broad range of experience, efforts and resources of relevance to the fight against the epidemic.
UNICEF, the United Nations Childrens Fund, mobilizes the moral and material support of governments, organizations and individuals worldwide in a partnership committed to giving children a first call on societys resources in both good times and bad. A decentralized operational agency, UNICEF works with governments and NGOs to improve the lives of children, youth and women. The epidemic is having a significant impact on adolescents, and adolescence is both a period of increased risk and a window of opportunity to develop the skills, attitudes and behaviour needed to prevent HIV infection in adulthood. UNICEFs priority programme areas in HIV/AIDS include youth health, school AIDS education, communications, assistance to children and families affected by AIDS, and the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission.
UNDP, the United Nations Development Programme, supports countries in strengthening and expanding their capacity to respond to the development implications of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. UNDP emphasizes support to initiatives which catalyse community and national mobilization; create a supportive ethical, legal and human rights framework; are gender sensitive; empower people to take charge of their own wellbeing, drawing on local resources and building on local knowledge and values; and foster an enabling political, economic and social environment. UNDP is responsible for assisting the Secretary-General in strengthening the Resident Coordinator system through which the UN Theme Groups on HIV/AIDS operate.
The mandate of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is to build the knowledge and capacity to respond to needs in population and family planning. Reproductive health is a major focus of UNFPA support and includes family planning and sexual health, of which HIV prevention is an integral component. In its reproductive health activities, UNFPA gives special attention to adolescents; to information, education and communication; and to the training of service providers. Among other things, UNFPA brings to UNAIDS a network of country-level offices which support national reproductive health programmes, its expertise in reproductive health promotion and service delivery, with a special focus on the needs of women, and its experience in logistics management of contraceptives, including condoms.
The United Nations International Drug Control Programme, UNDCP, which became a UNAIDS Cosponsor in April 1999, is responsible for coordinating and providing effective leadership for all United Nations drug control activities. Because HIV spreads through drug use, both via shared injection equipment and as a result of the disinhibiting effects of drugs on sexual behaviour, international drug control is a vital tool for HIV prevention. In this context UNDCP is active in supporting HIV/AIDS prevention programmes and including prevention in its own programmes to reduce the demand for illicit drugs. Youth and high-risk groups are of particular concern.
The mandate of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is to foster international cooperation in intellectual activities designed to promote human rights, to help establish a just and lasting peace, and to further the general welfare of mankind. Thus, the ethical imperative is central to UNESCOs mandate.
In its fields of competence education, science, culture and communication UNESCO can bring the vast network of institutions with which it collaborates into the fight against AIDS.
WHO, the World Health Organization, is the directing and coordinating authority on international health work. In 1986, WHO established the Special Programme on AIDS, later renamed the Global Programme on AIDS, which was dismantled in 1996 with the creation of UNAIDS. Through WHOs new Initiative on HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), the Organization contributes by providing countries with expertise in areas relevant to the health sector. These areas include: strengthening HIV and STI prevention (particularly for those vulnerable and/or at increased risk); ensuring safe blood supplies; surveillance of HIV, AIDS and STIs; developing health policies and standards; planning of integrated services; caring for people with STIs, HIV or AIDS; and evaluating STI/HIV policies and programmes.
The mandate of the World Bank is to alleviate poverty and improve quality of life. HIV/AIDS entails an enormous loss of human and economic resources and poses a substantial threat to the economic and social growth of many nations in the developing world. Between 1986 and early 1999, the Bank disbursed over US$750 million for more than 75 HIV/AIDS projects worldwide. Most of these resources were provided on highly concessional terms through the International Development Association. In its policy dialogue with borrowing countries, the Bank stresses that the epidemic is a development priority and highlights the need for top-level political commitment, systematic health sector reforms, human rights protection, and a range of multisectoral reforms to help reduce the factors contributing to HIV spread. Whenever possible, other Cosponsors or members of the UNAIDS Secretariat provide technical assistance to Bank-assisted activities.
In most cases, the host government is invited to be part of the Theme Group. Increasingly, other partners such as representatives of other United Nations agencies and bilateral organizations working in the country are also included.
In priority countries the Theme Group has the support of a UNAIDS staff member, called a Country Programme Adviser (CPA). Elsewhere, a staff member of one of the seven Cosponsors serves as the UNAIDS focal point for the country. In addition to supporting the UN system, these staff endeavour to build national commitment to AIDS action and provide information and guidance to a range of host country partners, including government departments and groups and organizations from civil society, such as people living with HIV/AIDS.
The UNAIDS Secretariat makes catalytic funding available for
selected AIDS initiatives. Between January 1998 and May 1999, proposals were
received and approved for projects in a total of
As of April 1999, the UNAIDS Cosponsors had established 132 United Nations Theme Groups on HIV/AIDS covering 155 countries. For their day-to-day operations, most Theme Groups have set up special working groups that involve donors, NGOs and groups of people living with HIV/AIDS.
HIV/AIDS: a still-emerging epidemic
In the industrialized world, where AIDS was identified almost two decades ago, treatment advances have led many people to assume that the epidemic is over. The facts tell us otherwise. New combination therapies have improved the quality of life and extended the survival of people with HIV, but they are far from a cure. The new antiretrovirals are expensive and often produce serious side effects. No one can predict how long their beneficial effects will last in a given patient, or how quickly the virus may mutate, becoming resistant to the drugs.
Most importantly, while the industrialized world chalked up important prevention successes in the 1980s, prevention has stagnated during the past decade. The yearly figures for new infections are staggering. In 1998, an estimated 75 000 people became infected in North America, Western Europe and the industrialized nations of Asia alone.
But the HIV/AIDS burden weighs most heavily on the developing world, which now accounts for over 95% of people currently infected and for 95% of the lives claimed by AIDS since the start of the epidemic.
In Latin America, infections with HIV are on the rise among women, poor and under-educated population groups, men who have sex with men, and people who inject illicit drugs. The Caribbean region shows some of the highest HIV rates in the world outside Africa.
HIV did not arrive in Asia, home to half the worlds population, until the late 1980s and early 1990s. Today, the region accounts for 20% of all infections worldwide. Cambodia and Thailand are among the countries with the highest HIV incidence rates, although the rates in Thailand have receded thanks to a strong prevention programme. Experts worry about the potential for epidemic expansion in China and in the other giant of the region, India, where more than 4 million people have already been infected the largest number of infected individuals in any single country in the world.
Central Europe and the former Soviet Union had hardly any HIV infections just a few years ago. Now, in places where health and social structures have crumbled, HIV is spreading rapidly through injecting drug use and through commercial sex. In some countries, infection rates have more than tripled since 1994.
Like the industrialized world, sub-Saharan Africa is struggling with an epidemic that is now entering its third decade. But, while a few African countries have succeeded in stabilizing or reversing HIV infection rates, the epidemic is out of control in many places, especially in the southern part of the continent.
· AIDS is now the leading cause of death in Africa. In 1998 alone, two million people died of AIDS in the African countries south of the Sahara, and millions of new HIV infections occur there every year, foreshadowing even greater losses in the future.
· In the worlds nine most severely-affected countries (all of them located in Africa) where at least one-tenth of the adult population has HIV, life expectancy for a child born in 2000-2005 will drop to 43 years from the pre-AIDS expectation of 60 years of life.
The resulting impact on households, farms, businesses, schools and the economy as a whole is devastating (see Chapter 5). In many places, AIDS has become the single biggest threat to human and socioeconomic development.