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AFRICA: Africa opts for stronger Abuja agreement over UN deal

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

NEW YORK, 2 June (PLUSNEWS) - African delegations in New York on Friday said an agreement they reached last month in Nigeria would remain the cornerstone of the continent's struggle against the pandemic, rather than a new UN declaration on HIV/AIDS generally perceived as weak.

"We see this [UN declaration] as a compromise document, and in a compromise document you can't get everything you want," said Tens Kapoma, Zambia's ambassador to the UN, "but we would have been happier if it had been stronger."

The three-day UN High Level Meeting on AIDS in New York, reviewing progress on achieving commitments agreed at the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on HIV/AIDS in 2001, has already been condemned by civil society activists for failing to set the bar higher by including new targets and timeframes on treatment, care and prevention.

African countries had negotiated a far more defined and comprehensive set of goals last month in Abuja, Nigeria, in preparation for the UN meeting. It was the culmination of a process in which HIV/AIDS had become "internalised" by African leaders and institutions, said one senior UN official.

He added that there was a "disconnect" among New York-based African diplomats, who helped to negotiate the new UN declaration, and the "realities on the ground" on the continent, where African leaders were no longer shying away from action and the protection of vulnerable groups like women and girls, sex workers and migrant populations.

"The Abuja document was much stronger and more focused than this document," commented Alloys Orago of Kenya's AIDS Control Council and Office of the President. "For the first time there was a lot of commitment from African heads of state and governments on what needs to be done."

While the UN meeting was seen by many as a missed opportunity to set performance goals and include language that acknowledges the needs of specific marginalised groups, some delegations expressed satisfaction with the text.

Sikelela Dlamini, adviser to Swaziland's executive monarch King Dlamini III, said the declaration thrashed out this week did not need to include targets, as those were present in the original 2001 document. "It's almost the same thing as the Abuja agreement," he commented, "it's complementary."


Recent AFRICA Reports
More proof that a snip in time could save men from HIV,  13/Dec/06
IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 313, 8 December 2006,  8/Dec/06
Positive prevention,  7/Dec/06
AIDS 'paradigm shift' in life insurance,  5/Dec/06
Hitting the target? New study explores HIV/AIDS information needs,  1/Dec/06
· AIDS Media Center
· The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
· International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
· International HIV/AIDS Alliance

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