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January 2015 - Topic of the Month: 35th Meeting of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board
Topic of the month

January 2015 - Topic of the Month: 35th Meeting of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board

During the last 35th UNAIDS Board, taking place December 9-11 in Geneva, a series of important issues were discussed and adopted, such as the time frame of the present UNAIDS Strategy, measures to be taken to improve access to antiretroviral drugs (incl. the full use of the flexibilities under the TRIPS agreement) or the treatment, care and support of HIV-positive children.

n his opening speech, UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé emphasized the important progress reached in the field of HIV/AIDS. Hence, since 2001 the rate of new HIV infections has dropped by 38% worldwide, among children even by 58%. Never before has such a high number of HIV-positive people been able to receive antiretroviral drugs. Yet nonetheless, the challenges remain huge, time is running out. Michel Sidibé speaks about a „window of opportunity“, and underlines that the next five years will be decisive for the course of the epidemic – and he calls for fast action.

The 35th UNAIDS Board has taken decisions among others in the following areas:

UNAIDS reaffirms the prevention-treatment-anti-discrimination approach and continues with the present strategic direction up to 2021.

Building upon the three pillars prevention, treatment and anti-discrimination, the present UNAIDS Strategy (2011-2015) is considered to be comprehensive and forward-looking. In the course of 2014, UNAIDS has published a series of reports the findings of which must be reflected in the future HIV/AIDS work; this includes in particular the GAP Report, the Cities Report and the Fast Track Report. The first two reports present an overview on progresses, challenges and the need for specific action on a global level and in urban areas respectively. The Fast Track Report also highlights that the next five years are going to be decisive in order to end HIV/AIDS as a global epidemic by 2030. Consequently, the UNAIDS Board adopted to extend the present-day strategy until 2021 and to clearly focus on the three pillars prevention, treatment and anti-discrimination. In the course of 2015, the strategy will be reviewed and adjusted based on the findings of the reports.

For a strong Positioning of HIV/AIDS in the post-2015 Agenda.

The UNAIDS Board reaffirms the strong positioning of HIV/AIDS in the post-2015 Agenda and welcomes the goal 3.3 of the “Open Working Group of the General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals”, planning to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030. Here, the UNAIDS Board emphasizes the relevance of the multi-sectorial cooperation – which is an aspect that according the view of the UNAIDS Board should be intensified in the post-2015 Agenda.

Access to Antiretroviral Drugs and Removing Barriers with regards to Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Half of all HIV positive people worldwide in need of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) have no access to such medicaments at this time. Therefore the NGO Delegation has submitted the Report „When Rights cause wrongs“ to the UNAIDS Board; this report especially highlights the aspect of intellectual property and patent protection in respect to the ARVs. In addition, the Board also states that there is certainly still scope to use the so-called TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) flexibilities; however, accessing ARVs depends on many more factors reaching beyond the mere question of intellectual property and patent protection. Also, the Board underlines the diversity of the contexts and hence the necessity to align measures on the level of the individual countries. This is the reason why the Board instructs UNAIDS, and in particular the UNAIDS co-sponsors WHO and UNDP which are working on the issue, to intensify the technical support on the country-level. Furthermore, UNAIDS will submit a Synthesis Report to the Board in 2015, showing even more systematically what the barriers of access to ARVs consist of – including those barriers that are in relation to intellectual property and patent protection.

Intensifying the work for the treatment, care and support of HIV-positive children.

A UNAIDS-compiled analysis on above-mentioned issue clearly shows an urgent need for action. Worldwide, it is estimated that 3.2 million children are HIV-infected. Yet, access is limited to HIV-tests, medicaments, but also to counselling and support services reaching beyond mere medical care. Studies show that in 2013 38% of HIV-positive adults have received antiretroviral drugs – but only 24% of children between 0 and 14 years of age. Hence, the Board calls upon member states to immediately act and emphasizes among others the necessity of improving healthcare measures around pregnancy and birth. Moreover, the Board mandates UNAIDS with the establishment of a coordinating platform in the field of care and support of HIV-positive children.

In 2015, Switzerland elected Vice-Chair of the UNAIDS Board.

The UNAIDS Board elected Switzerland as vice-chair of the UNAIDS Board 2015. In this capacity, Switzerland will support Zimbabwe as chair in preparing and implementing the UNAIDS Board meetings. Hence, Switzerland will automatically be a candidate for the chair of the UNAIDS Board in 2016.

All decision as well as background material as to the 35th UNAIDS Board can be found on the UNAIDS Website: UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board

UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS; founded in 1996, it is the main advocate for accelerated, comprehensive and coordinated global action on the growing AIDS epidemic. 11 UN agencies have the task to implement the UNAIDS Strategy –the so-called Cosponsors (UNICEF, UNDP, UNHCR, UNFPA, UN Women, WB, WFP, WHO, UNESCO, ILO, UNODC).

The Programme and Coordinating Board (PCB) serves as the governance structure of UNAIDS and is responsible for the strategic decisions. The PCB meets twice a year for three days each in Geneva (mostly in June/July and December). Usually, the first two days of the PCB are devoted to strategic discussions and decision-making processes, the third day serves to focus on an issue-based in-depth discussion – the so-called „thematic segment“.

The PCB includes representatives of 22 states or rather state groups from all regions of the world, 5 NGO representatives including representations of  HIV-affected persons (one seat for each continent), as well as the 11 UNAIDS co-sponsors. According ECOSOC-decision, the countries are divided up into state groups and chair their group in rotation. Switzerland is represented by SDC and at this time chairs the state group Sweden-Austria-Island-Switzerland and supports UNAIDS with an annual contribution of CHF 10 million.


Susanne Amsler

Health Advisor

Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA

Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC

Regional Cooperation, East and Southern Africa Division