UN: Open AIDS Meeting to All

UN: Open AIDS Meeting to All
General Assembly Should Reverse Ban on Human Rights and Sexual
Health Groups
(New York, June 5, 2008) -The United Nations General Assembly should reverse its
decision to exclude three human rights and sexual health non-governmental organizations
from its June 10 high-level meeting on HIV and AIDS, a coalition of human rights
groups and international AIDS organizations said today.

Assembly members Egypt, Zimbabwe and Jamaica blocked the participation of the
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ)
and the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG).

According to a resolution passed last year, the President of the General Assembly was
responsible for compiling a list of relevant civil society organizations, which Member
States reviewed and approved. The three organizations were initially included on the
General Assembly President’s list but denied accreditation after the General Assembly
accepted their respective governments’ objection to their participation.

“This meeting is about expanding access to HIV prevention and treatment,” said Joe
Amon, HIV/AIDS Program Director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s hypocritical of UN
member states to block organizations from attending who are working to ensure that
access truly is universal.”

The UN meeting is intended to review global progress made in the fight against AIDS.
General Assembly meetings in 2001 and 2006 resulted in commitments by all member
states to halt and reverse the HIV epidemic by 2010 and to achieve “universal access” to
HIV prevention, care and treatment. Greater involvement of civil society has been
identified by the UN as a critical strategy to combat AIDS. In a resolution tabled late in
2007, civil society was specifically encouraged to be involved in this year’s meeting.
“J-FLAG is extremely disappointed by this move,” said Jason McFarlane, Programme
Manager of J-FLAG. “The Jamaican government itself has acknowledged that
homophobia is fuelling our HIV epidemic. Silencing J-FLAG – Jamaica’s only LGBT
organization – undermines Jamaica’s efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.”

This is not the first time that key human rights groups have been excluded from the UN
high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS. The South African government caused an uproar in
2006 by excluding the internationally acclaimed and outspokenly critical group
Treatment Action Campaign, which has challenged South African Health Minister
Manto Tshabalala-Msimang for statements questioning the efficacy of anti-retroviral
medicines and promoting garlic, beetroot, olive oil and lemon.

“If the United Nations is to allow member states to exclude organizations, they should
insist that the process be transparent,” said Hossam Bahgat, Director of Egyptian
Initiative for Personal Rights. “We applied for accreditation to attend the meeting along
with dozens of other NGOs that we work with daily. All of these groups were approved
while we were – without explanation – excluded.”

Human rights groups and international AIDS organizations—including Human Rights
Watch (HRW), the International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO), and
the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC), joined the three excluded NGOs in
appealing to the UN General Assembly to ensure that the rhetoric of “universal access” is
matched with participation and inclusion, and to each individual government to withdraw
their objections and allow representatives to attend the meeting.

“We are all in this fight together,” said Samuel Matsikure, Programmes Manager for
GALZ. “To succeed in the fight against AIDS we must come together. We can not allow
governments to divide and exclude certain NGOs.”
For more information:
Joe Amon
Rebecca Schleifer
Soha Abdelaty, EIPR + (202) 2794 3606- 2796 2682; Mobile: +2012-3107147

Author: GLBTQ Jamaica Moderator

Activist and concerned gay man in Jamaica with over 19 years experience in advocacy and HIV/AIDS prevention work, LGBT DJ since 1996.

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