Getting to zero: Zero AIDS related deaths, zero new infections and zero discrimination
At the 2011 International Women’s Summit in Zurich, Switzerland, the Deputy Executive Director of Management and Governance for UNAIDS, Jan Beagle, spoke of the UNAIDS vision of ‘zero AIDS-related deaths, zero new infections and zero discrimination’ and the importance of placing women and young girls at the centre of efforts to achieve the three zeros. Two years later, the New Zealand-born diplomat shares with Her Magazine the good progress that has been made to turn the UNAIDS vision into reality.
Jan, who also holds the rank of Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations joined UNAIDS after a long career at the national and international level, with diverse experience in the multilateral system – as a national diplomat and in the United Nations, in the political, development, human rights, management, interagency and external relations areas.
The Geneva-based mother of three enjoys the experiences of working with countless talented and resourceful women in developing countries who are supporting their families and their communities against all odds.
In 2012, 96% of the 193 Member States in the United Nations submitted comprehensive reports to UNAIDS on progress in their national AIDS response. It is among the highest response rates of any international health and development monitoring mechanism and a good reflection of the global commitment to the response to AIDS. As highlighted in the 2012 UNAIDS Results report the pace of progress in the global AIDS response has quickened. In just 24 months, 60% more people accessed lifesaving HIV treatment, with a corresponding drop in AIDS mortality. New infection rates have fallen by 50% or more in 25 countries—13 of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Half of all the reductions in new HIV infections in the past two years have been among children.
“Despite the impressive results, challenges remain,” Jan says. “We have to expand antiretroviral therapy. This is a human rights imperative and a public health necessity. HIV remains the leading cause of death of women of reproductive age worldwide. Children’s access to HIV treatment remains particularly low. Fewer than one third of children living with HIV receive the treatment they need and there continues to be widespread stigma, discrimination, gender-based violence and punitive laws against people living with HIV – as well as those vulnerable populations at high risk of infection.”
“As the most senior woman in UNAIDS, wherever I go I emphasize that investments in women and girls are key elements to halting and reversing the HIV epidemic and contribute to broader social and developmental outcomes. Today, HIV still remains the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age, and contributes to at least 20% of maternal deaths. But less than half (41%) of all countries allocate resources for the specific needs of women and girls in their national response to HIV.”
UNAIDS advocates for:
· Women and girls to have the knowledge and power to protect themselves. Gender equality and women’s rights, in particular their sexual and reproductive rights, are non-negotiable elements of effective HIV responses.
· Effective HIV strategies to be grounded in knowing your epidemic and knowing your response in gender terms. This includes understanding the particularities of the gender dimensions of HIV in both generalized and concentrated epidemic contexts and grappling with the full diversity of women and girls.
· Integrated approaches to gender-based violence and vulnerability to HIV,which are intertwined.
· Age appropriate HIV and sexuality education and services in a supportive environment, especially for adolescent girls. Young people, in particular young women, represent a significant portion of new HIV infections. They need to have the necessary knowledge and power to protect themselves against infection.
· Economic empowerment which reduces women’s and girl's vulnerability to HIV and gender-based violence. In particular, access to property and inheritance rights for women and girls plays a critical role in preventing the spread of HIV and addressing its impact by improving their economic security.
“A key concern for UNAIDS and the AIDS community is keeping HIV high on the global agenda and maintaining the momentum as we approach the 2015 deadline of the Millennium Development Goals (known as the “MDGs”) in which countries committed, in 2000, to have halted and begun to reverse the spread of HIV by 2015,” Jan explains. “The Goal on AIDS will be unfinished unless there is a massive scale up in the next two years of financial resources and programmes focused on where new HIV infections are occurring. For its part, UNAIDS is concentrating on some 30 countries with the highest potential for impact on the HIV epidemic and where we know that intensified efforts in these countries can change the trajectory of the epidemic. In parallel, UNAIDS and our partners are working to position the vision of zero (zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS related deaths) in the global sustainable development agenda after 2015. It is imperative that we continue building on the gains made.”