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Older people sidelined at High Level Meeting on the future of HIV epidemic

10 Jun 2011

People like Mvano, 77, from Tanzania who cares for his grandchildren, were sidelined at the High Level Meeting.The High Level Meeting is now well underway, countries are making their reports on their response to the epidemic and the negotiations on the outcome document - the result of this meeting - are drawing to a close.

No references made to older people or ageing

The Meeting opened on Wednesday with opening speeches from Ban Ki Moon and Michel Sidibe, the Executive Director of UNAIDS.

We were not surprised that neither made reference to older people or issues relating to ageing. We were, however, obviously still disappointed. What was frustrating was the lack of any mention of care and support.

Neither speech addressed the fact that care and support is a crucial element of the HIV response and is essential to the achievement of universal access to prevention and treatment. This is despite it being a central part of the Universal Access commitment - universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support.

No recognition or support for carers

In addition, neither speech made any reference to the people providing care and support. To girls and women, a large proportion of whom are older women providing care 24 hours a day, seven days a week to their family members living with HIV and their grandchildren who have been orphaned as a result of AIDS. These older women are fundamental to the HIV response yet still do not receive the recognition or support they deserve.

In addition to the high level speeches being made in the General Assembly Hall, member states have been busily negotiating the text of the outcome document for the meeting. HelpAge has been pushing for:

the inclusion of care and support recognition of the ageing of the epidemic recognition that, thanks to treatment access, people are living long term, often in to older age, with HIV.

We were pleased to see both of these issues receive at least some, if limited, attention in the draft outcome document. Having watched the negotiations unfold, we have seen care and support, particularly the inclusion of the definition of comprehensive care and support, be argued over and taken out of the document. In the most recent draft it would seem we have been successful in getting it back in.

Older people again neglected in HIV response

Much more worrying news came on Tuesday when the language around long term living with HIV and disorders associated with ageing appeared to have been dropped from the draft. We mobilised colleagues in and outside of HelpAge to contact their governments about this issue but as things stand at the moment it would appear this text will not be included in the final outcome document.

Throughout the whole negotiation process we didn't see any government calling for the text to be removed, yet for some inexplicable reason this seems to be the very reason it has been dropped!

The outcome document will be endorsed by member states on Friday and released. We will wait to see what comes in the final version but at this stage we hold out little hope that older people's needs will be addressed. Sadly we again have another example of the neglect of older people in the HIV response.

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Rachel Albone
Job title: HIV and AIDS Policy Advisor

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.