By Seb Rowlands 

This week UN member states convened at the UN high-level meeting on universal health coverage to agree a political declaration and discuss ways forward towards reaching UHC for all.

Frontline AIDS, in partnership with the Global Network of People Living with HIV, International Civil Society Support and our Partnership to Inspire, Transform and Connect the HIV Response (PITCH) partners, have been pushing for the inclusion of the most marginalised within this declaration, and for strong commitments for people living with, and most affected by HIV.

The positives

We welcomed the declaration’s three references to HIV/AIDS, and recognition of the need to support people living with HIV/AIDS in particular, as well as mentions of the additional barriers faced by marginalised and vulnerable groups.

We had pushed for explicit references to key populations  (gay men and men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, people who use drugs and adolescent girls and young women), without success. However we’re happy that there is explicit mention of the impacts that stigma and discrimination have on people who are (as the declaration puts it) “vulnerable or in vulnerable situations”.

Strong support for sexual and reproductive health and rights (despite opposition)

Throughout the negotiations on the political declaration there had been resistance from conservative governments against the inclusion of progressive language on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Led by the US, a group of 19 governments, issued a statement against the inclusion of sexual and reproductive rights. In response, a much larger group of over 50 supportive governments, issued a strong counter statement in support of comprehensive SRHR and continued to push for the rights of adolescent girls, women and the most marginalised.

Discussions during the high-level meeting revealed continued support for SRHR and particularly for sexual and reproductive rights, which is missing from the political declaration. For example, the UK government made a pledge to spend £600 million on a new program for reproductive health supplies.