Tim Barrus: UNAIDS Report
The long-standing commitment of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden to international development has rooted them firmly as leaders in international development assistance. They are strong advocates on human rights issues––addressing inequalities between and within countries––and have forward thinking policies for social development and health.
This week the Nordic countries came together with UNAIDS in Helsinki to determine how, individually and as a group, they could bolster the response to HIV. Their aim: to build on the unprecedented progress already achieved and attain UNAIDS’ vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS related deaths.
The Nordics have played a particularly critical role in responding to the AIDS epidemic, keeping focused on and being strong supporters of evidence-informed public health strategies, providing support to the most vulnerable people in societies.
I appreciate the frank and open dialogue with our Nordic colleagues on shared priorities in advancing the AIDS response and ensuring our work addresses broader development goals around equity and human rights
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé
At the meeting the four Nordic countries discussed with UNAIDS the need for countries to take greater ownership of their national responses to HIV and how they can be supported in that transition; the importance of shared responsibility and global solidarity around HIV; and particularly the need for stronger partnerships to deliver results.
Opportunities beyond 2015 were also debated––including the role of the UN in a rapidly changing world. For UNAIDS, the meeting was a critical opportunity to ensure that UNAIDS’ and the Nordic countries’ priorities are aligned for maximum impact in responding to HIV.
“I appreciate the frank and open dialogue with our Nordic colleagues on shared priorities in advancing the AIDS response and ensuring our work addresses broader development goals around equity and human rights,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS.
During the visit, Mr Sidibé also met with Maria Guzenina-Richardson, the Finnish Minister of Health and Social Services. They discussed Finland’s continued engagement in global health and the work of UNAIDS.
Following the discussions Mr Sidibé visited the Pro-tukipiste Centre, a registered non-profit organisation which promotes and supports the rights of people currently or previously involved in sex work. Pro-tukipiste was founded in 1990 and activities range from advocacy to social support, outreach work, health care and legal advice for migrant and resident female, male and transgender sex workers. They have social and health care service units in Helsinki and Tampere which include drop-in services and outreach work. Pro-tukipiste reaches up to 2 000 sex workers a year. All their services are anonymous and free of charge.
Tim Barrus: If you read between the lines, it sounds like the Nordic countries would like to see more economic investment from the countries the most affected by HIV/AIDS.
But there is in diplomaticesque, more to the subtext of this message from UNAIDS.
For the Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, to be taken on the obligatory tour to a NGO that deals with sex work and sex workers has to be something of a first. This never happens.
Usually (I have been on these tours), what he sees are well-dressed, smiling children who sing songs in quasi-orphanage settings. He smiles and shakes hands. There’s a photo op, and then the entourage leaves.
Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland are saying: We are serious people addressing a serious, not a moral, problem. Mr Sidibé will never in a hundred thousand years ever go on a tour not all that far from his office in Manhattan to tour an NGO that deals primarily with sex workers.
For one thing, the American Mission to the UN would never permit it. The host country’s mission has to sign off.
The US Mission to the United Nations would fear that when the Republican congress found out about it, all god’s hell, wrath, and fury would rain down upon them and they are probably right.
The UN would be accused of consorting with the devil.
No one wants the headache.
My own problem with it is that Michel Sidibé spends a goodly amount of time traveling and touring for photo ops. The United Nations press machine is formidable.
I don’t know what good it does.
The American people want sex workers locked out of the process. This is where the PEPFAR anti-prostitution pledge comes from. If you don’t agree to keep the sex workers locked out, there’s no funding for you.
You would think (I did) that foreign countries might simply be apt to lie. They could take the pledge and then they would get American funding, and everyone pretty much agrees that then they could do what they wanted.
Mainly, they adopt American public health procedures, and they keep the sex workers marginalized.
I would argue that sex workers know a lot about human behavior. I would argue that sex workers have a lot of on-the-ground experience reaching people at-risk for HIV. What USAIDS and the CDC call the “hard to reach” populations.
I would argue that we have a lot to learn from Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark. But no. Americans pretty much go their own way in fundamentally implementing programs based on the American paradigm of public health.
Which has totally failed.
Or why are our infection rates for young people so high, and why are they climbing higher.
Because we have NO CLUE how to reach difficult to reach populations of people at-risk for HIV.
We are the suits.
If it looks like a suit, it it quacks like a suit, if it’s fundamentally afraid of innovation, if it look like Bill Gates, it’s a good bet that it’s a suit.
Bill Gates has given up on AIDS.
Watch his shoulders slump when he talks about how intractable it is.
Watch the Gates Foundation invest in projects it knows it can win.
That is not HIV/AIDS.
HIV/AIDS is a dead end.
Gates tried. Now, he wants out of it.
I get letters from adolescents who volunteer in AIDS orgs (walkathons and other tired ideas) who tell me I have a bad attitude and that I have to remain positive.
Whatever it means. Take it any way you want.
I am told that attacking Big Pharma is not positive.
The AIDS orgs are cheery, cheery and point out at all the progress made.
Of course, that progress does not include getting treatment to everyone who needs it.
When I bring that up, they walk away.
The operant sentence in this press release is the last one. All their services are anonymous and free of charge.
In the war declared on the American poor, nothing is free, and nothing is anonymous. One way or another, you are going to pay, and they know exactly where to find you.
After all, it’s all your fault. Stigma and the blame game go hand-in-hands.
To date, fear, stigma, and the blame game have won.