Tannis-Abbott Presents Closing Remarks At LACIII

First, on behalf of the civil society delegates of Latin America and the Caribbean, I say thank you to the Government and people of Haiti for welcoming us to your country this week.  Thank you to all government representatives, development partners and members of the academic community who joined us over the last three days to conceive the path toward a sustainable HIV response.

Civil society organizations in this region are united in our insistence that ending AIDS is not just about drugs and sustainability is not just about money. Our governments, the international donor community and all our organizations are making significant investments in HIV prevention, treatment and combatting stigma and discrimination. But we know better than anyone that to get the best returns on those investments we must place special focus on human development, access to social justice for all and the particular needs of key and vulnerable communities.

Imagine being a transgender sex worker living with HIV. Yes, care is available. But think of the stares, whispers, discriminatory attitudes and rejection that you likely face when going to a hospital or clinic. Think about how wider societal prejudice and exclusion blocked you from completing school or getting a job. Think about the lack of recourse when you are discriminated against by a landlord or assaulted by a stranger.

Incorporating human rights principles into the HIV response in a meaningful and sustained fashion is critical to ending AIDS. Critically, many of the factors that might undermine our efforts lie well beyond the health sector. We heard this week about cost-effective strategies to increase accountability and access to justice including adapting institutions like the Ombudsman and Human Rights Commissions so that they address complaints of human rights violations. We also heard about implementing moratoriums on some of the discriminatory laws that block access to services and justice. It is time for new strategies to make progress on the intractable challenges of law reform and access to justice.

We must scale up the Greater Involvement of People living with HIV or GIPA principles, ensuring that we support full involvement and ownership by networks and communities of people living with HIV. By the same token, vulnerable and key populations including young people, sex workers, men who have sex with men and transgender people, need to be involved to ensure the strategies we develop are actually responsive to the needs of those we hope to reach. At the same time that we ask Governments to increase their investments in interventions serving these populations, we call on donors to be particularly responsive to the needs of these groups as several of our countries transition.

Social contracting, task shifting and incorporating community into service delivery are critical strategies for ensuring services are cost-effective and accessible by those who are hardest to reach. Community service providers that deliver better and more economical outcomes should have the appropriate legal and budgetary frameworks for their work.

On our end we know that capacity building, accountability and organizational sustainability are required for us to contribute meaningfully and effectively. The sharing of expertise, systems and lesson learned among civil society organizations is critical to achieving this. We also know that we must build more sustainable operating models and call for your support to do so. We remain committed to our duty to advocate, hold governments responsible and monitor results.

The recent natural disasters in our region have exposed the need for policies to ensure the availability of medicines in emergency contexts. Assessments must be done now on the impact of these natural disasters on countries’ HIV responses. When our paths to sustainability can so easily be diverted by a hurricane or earthquake, disaster preparedness, recovery and building resilience must be priorities.

I close with our commitment to young people. Our commitment to sustainability necessarily involves a commitment to children and adolescents. We must invest in age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education and youth-friendly services for in-school, out-of-school and at-risk youth. Finally it is critical that we in civil society prioritize the development of the youth leaders that will carry the baton to end the AIDS Epidemic by 2030.

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