UN Declaration on HIV/AIDS Tainted by Calls for Legalizing Prostitution, Drugs, Sodomy, and Comprehensive Sexuality Education

By | June 10, 2021

NEW YORK, June 11 (C-Fam) The General Assembly adopted a declaration on HIV/AIDS that promotes the legalization of prostitution, drug use, sodomy, and the removal of parental consent to health treatments for minors.

It was not adopted by consensus, as was anticipated, but by vote, which makes for a weak agreement, according to diplomatic and political convention.

“We don’t have a unity of views. That is the sad reality,” said the Ambassador of Cameroon during the adoption of the declaration by the General Assembly.

He complained about attempts by the United States, Europe, Canada, and other western nations to impose a “one size fits all” approach to tackle HIV/AIDS, including several controversial elements, such as the decriminalization of illegal behaviors.

While the final declaration does not explicitly call for these controversial social policies, it strongly implies them and will likely be interpreted by UN agencies as if it included them as a mandate.

Cameroon was one of thirteen delegations supporting attempts to remove the controversial language in a final vote on three amendments proposed by the Russian Federation.

The Russian delegate lamented that the declaration could not be adopted consensually and regretted that his attempts to include language about sexual responsibility and the promotion of healthy lifestyles were rejected by Western countries.

“How exactly this corresponds to the goals of public health and international obligations is a mystery to us,” he emphasized.

He also complained of a “shift in focus” in how UN agencies address HIV/AIDS through the promotion of the new notion of “sexual rights” instead of “internationally recognized rights” enshrined in binding international agreements.

Because the amendments failed, the Russian Federation put the entire resolution to a vote, but only 3 other delegations joined it in voting against the resolution. Over thirty delegations did not cast a vote.

The lack of support for the Russian amendments masked the widespread discomfort with the declaration expressed in statements by delegates from Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Morocco, Algeria, Brazil, Bahrain (on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council), China, Iran, Hungary, Guatemala, Iraq, Belarus, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Bangladesh and Syria, and the Holy See.

In their statements, the delegations rejected the controversial elements and reaffirmed their national prerogatives to apply the declaration in line with their own laws and policies. However, unlike Russia, they were willing to accept the controversial language in the document.

The ambassador of Cameroon used an African saying to explain that the votes in favor of the resolution were in deference to the donor countries who fund the HIV/AIDS response.

“When the chieftain has come to the main square no one opposes him,” he said, diplomatically implying that countries are beholden to Western financial assistance.

Western countries, for their part, complained about the lack of explicit recognition of LGBT rights, and more prescriptive language on “comprehensive sexuality education.”

The United States delegate said these elements were “central to the HIV/AIDS response.” She accused the countries who supported the Russian amendments of “denying science” and of promoting “regressive” and “uninspired” policies.

The declaration, which will guide the UN system’s work to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, is adopted every five years. While not legally binding on states, it is binding on the UN system. It is important because HIV/AIDS is the most well-funded area of global health, with the U.S. alone contributing $7 billion annually.


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