Keeping HIV on the agenda at CPD57 and Summit of the Future

A woman holds an oral HIV test
Global commitments must protect the rights of marginalised people to access HIV prevention and treatment services. © Frontline AIDS/Karel Prinsloo 2022

This year, New York becomes the epicentre of global change, hosting two landmark events—the 57th Commission on Population and Development (CPD57) in May and the Summit of the Future in September. These convenings will challenge member states to renew their pledges and intensify efforts on key issues like gender equality, health, and rights. At this critical juncture in the fight against inequalities, we must ask: What will these developments mean for HIV and our vision to end AIDS?

Whilst it is unlikely that HIV will be explicitly mentioned in either of the two outcome documents to emerge from CPD57 and Summit of the Future, the conferences aim to mitigate the impact of the same inequalities which make people vulnerable to HIV.

At the forefront of both convenings are key themes such as: access to high-quality health services, including access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services education, and economic empowerment opportunities, which decrease women, girls and gender diverse people’s vulnerability to HIV. With outcome documents providing frameworks for governments to plan and implement action around the commitments and goals, getting HIV on the agenda has never been more important.

Engaging communities
HIV is, undoubtedly, a feminist issue. 40 years into the epidemic and HIV continues to have a disproportionate impact on women and girls. UNAIDS 2023 data show 4,000 adolescent girls and young women acquired HIV and in sub-Saharan Africa every week in 2022. Women, and girls (of all ages) accounted for 63% of all new HIV infections.

Planning and implementing effective solutions to tackle HIV and achieve gender equality must include the meaningful engagement of people most affected by HIV, including adolescents and young people. Yet civil society struggles to navigate bureaucratic feedback mechanisms to influence global commitments which have real world implications for the communities they work with and for.

Civil society’s efforts to access draft documents often rely on connections with organisations leading consultations. By making successful linkages with like-minded partners and nurturing mutually beneficial collaborations, we can implement effective strategies to engage member states, donors and UN agencies on language and considerations that can advance our priorities and build solidarity to advance HIV as a feminist issue. But to engender effective alliances, coordination must be intentional and focused.

The decisions you make. What you include and exclude impacts on people’s lives.Yumnah Hattas, Senior Advisor: Gender and SRHR, Frontline AIDS

The power of partnerships

Frontline AIDS has been at the forefront of keeping HIV on the agenda at other global convenings including the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Over the past few years, we have held high-level side events in partnership with Southern African Development Community (SADC), UN agencies including UNAIDS, UN Women and UNESCO as well as the Global Network of Young People Living with HIV and Athena Network. Notably, this work involved key decisionmakers across government and other development partners, all invested in keeping HIV on the agenda.

This year, a session co-moderated by Tumie Komanyane, Lead: Adolescents and Youth, Frontline AIDS and featuring Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, UNAIDS, took stock of progress on resolution 60/2 Women, the Girl Child and HIV and AIDS. The resolution calls for urgent action to tackle existing inequalities in access to health, education and socio-economic opportunities which increase their vulnerability to HIV. An additional session called for urgent action to develop, strengthen and implement policies to end economic inequalities as a pathway to tackle gender-based violence and improve health outcomes for women and girls.

Elsewhere at CSW, Catherine Nyambura, Programs Director, ATHENA Network, read a statement on behalf of the Women’s Networking Zone, a coalition of HIV and feminist organisations, including Frontline AIDS, calling on member states and delegates to hold firm against anti-rights movements, respect bodily autonomy and ensure meaningful engagement of all women, girls and gender-diverse people in decisions affecting their lives.

Our continued partnership with UN agencies, governments and civil society partners to highlight these critical issues as well as the intersection of climate change, gender and HIV, has played a pivotal role in member states once again approving by consensus an updated resolution 60/2. A strong signal and mandate for world leaders to accelerate efforts to end the epidemic.

“The full adoption of the UN Resolution 60/2 is a significant step forward and affirms our global commitment to girls and women living with and affected by HIV”, said Tumie Komanyane, Frontline AIDS. “It underscores the importance of gender responsive and inclusive policies to tackle inequalities and create a better world for all.”

Standing up to the opposition

As we go into CPD57 and Summit of the Future, we cannot be complacent or unwise to efforts to derail much-needed progress. Anti-rights movements create situations where speakers and delegates are reluctant to speak out and we are expecting a highly co-ordinated anti-rights presence from organisations, including Family Watch International, a US-based fundamentalist Christian lobbying organisation, which threaten to interrupt discourse and silence voices.

Reports from this year’s CSW illustrate the realities of this threat. “The UN has implemented measures to ensure the safety of delegates during sessions. However, due to past incidents where panellists or participants were harassed, some SRHR session organisers have restricted engagement and Q&A sessions between delegates and presenters,” said Zanele Makombe, Programme & SRHR Advisor, ACT Ubumbano, a partner in our Youth Voices for CSE programme, who attended several events.

“In certain cases, delegates monopolised discussions under the guise of contributing, thereby silencing others and leaving limited room for response. If this behaviour persists across various forums, delegates are left with unresolved questions and a sense of confusion.”

We must protect and endorse language which acknowledges intersectionality, gender diversity and respects choice. We must also continue to keep pushing for increased investments in global health and work with governments and other allies to ensure that the meaningful participation of civil society, young people and community organisations are placed front and centre.

The HIV movement and our allies must hold firm and stand in solidarity to keep progressive language in the respective texts. Not doing so risks a further rollback of hard-fought gains on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and HIV and will increase marginalised people’s susceptibility to violence, stigma and discrimination because of punitive laws and inadequate policies.

Guaranteeing this language is essential. Yumnah Hattas, Senior Advisor, Gender & SRHR, Frontline AIDS, who will attend CPD57, reiterates this point: “The decisions you make. What you include and exclude impacts on people’s lives.”

Localising global commitments

Despite the challenges of getting HIV prevention and treatment due to challenging and hostile social and legal environments, communities are adapting to find innovative solutions to withstand these crises and threats. Beyond the global gains, it is imperative that localisation efforts are sustained through dynamic funding strategies that include domestic resource mobilisation. Civil society engagement in the implementation and monitoring of accountability mechanisms will ensure that interventions are tailored to local contexts and needs and empower communities in ways that amplify voice and ownership.

Into the future

Global outcomes with robust frameworks and language should protect communities, improve health outcomes, and uphold rights. In our continued work to influence the outcome documents from both CPDF57 and Summit of the Future, Frontline AIDS, our partners and allies will persist in building alliances and advocating for the health and rights of people most affected by HIV.
Critically, we must secure language and commitments that hold member states accountable for advancing SRHR and health for all.



Gender equalityHIV preventionHuman rightsSexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)