The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) has thanked the federal Government for its role in the development and ratification by UN members of the UN Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS in New York in June.

AFAO President Dr Graham Brown (pictured) wrote to Prime Minister Julia Gillard on July 28 to thank her for the Australian delegation’s role.

“Members of the Australian Mission to the UN and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade played key roles in New York,” he wrote.

“Representatives of Australia’s community-based response also played significant roles as part of the writing group and in negotiations. This again demonstrated the value of a collaborative approach to achieving the human rights and health objectives outlined in the Declaration and promoted over the last 30 years by state governments and by the Australian government throughout the Asia Pacific region.

“AFAO sees the Declaration as a significant advocacy tool to promote HIV prevention and the health and human rights of people with HIV in Australia and our region.”

The Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS is the first UN declaration to explicitly name men who have sex with men as a community affected by the virus, and came 30 years to the month since the virus was discovered in gay men.

Point 29 of the declaration read that states and governments note “many national HIV prevention strategies inadequately focus on populations epidemiological evidence shows are at higher risk, specifically men who have sex with men (MSM), people who inject drugs and sex workers, and further note, however, that each country should define the specific populations that are key to its epidemic and response, based on the epidemiological and national context.”

The document marks the first time a UN declaration has recognised men who have sex with men as an affected population, despite the virus first being discovered in them 30 years ago.

Brown told Gillard that AFAO “were heartened to see that the UN Declaration was finally able to name some of the key populations, in particular sex workers, people with HIV, people who inject drugs and men who have sex with men.

“AFAO and its members have worked for 30 years to support these communities in Australia and our region, in partnership with researchers, Government and health service providers.”

However AFAO remains concerned by barriers to travel by people with HIV in Australia’s migration policies.

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