World AIDS Day in Namibia / flickr CDC Global

A recent high-level meeting at the United Nations produced a political declaration that will determine how billions of dollars are spent in the fight against the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic worldwide. Unfortunately, this important cause has been hijacked by political activism in high places and the results will lead to more HIV infections and deaths, not less.

The controversial text of this declaration prompted numerous nations to voice serious concerns over its adoption. Of the myriad problems with the declaration, three issues must be called out.

First, the declaration calls for “destigmatizing” the very behaviours that drive HIV infection rates up. The declaration acknowledges that “global epidemiological evidence demonstrates” that the key populations most likely to be exposed to HIV or to transmit it include “men who have sex with men,” “people who inject drugs,” and “female sex workers.” The declaration accurately states that “these populations and their sexual partners account for 62% of new HIV infections globally.”

The bulk of the text thereafter suggests that men having sex with men, prostitution, and drug injection should be totally destigmatized, normalized, and socially embraced. Early drafts of the document called for not just destigmatizing prostitution and drug use but decriminalizing them.

While no person should be refused the opportunity to purchase medical care because of their sexual practices or drug usage, the behaviours that drive up infection rates should be widely and clearly communicated to the populace so that people can decide whether to engage in them or to avoid them.

Despite data showing that delaying sexual debut and reducing sexual partners have been the two most effective ways to curb HIV infection, no mention whatsoever is made of these obvious, free, and highly effective strategies in the UN’s grand declaration to reduce HIV infection. This seems like a glaring oversight, but instead it is an intentional move to promote “sexual rights” ideology which insists that encouraging people to change their sexual behaviours in order to avoid infection or disease is a violation of their “sexual rights,” which are purportedly included under the umbrella of human rights.

Second, the Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS calls for the reformation of “restrictive” frameworks “such as age of consent laws and laws related to HIV non-disclosure.” This is a sweeping, two-part demand. It suggests to the nations of the world that they reconsider their laws on age of consent because they generate “stigma” toward minors. The declaration doesn’t specify whether this refers to medical consent or sexual consent for young people, but it could be interpreted as both.

The reference to “laws related to HIV non-disclosure” promotes the elimination of laws that require persons diagnosed as HIV positive to inform their sexual partners of their positive HIV status. It is difficult to see how this will help stem the tide of HIV infections.

However, this approach is in lockstep with International Planned Parenthood Federation’s Healthy, Happy and Hot publication which tells HIV positive youth numerous ways to get sexual pleasure and assures them it is their right to decide “if, when, and how to disclose” their HIV status to their sexual partners.

It’s interesting to note that International Planned Parenthood Federation is a frequent partner with UN agencies and was represented on the high-level panel promoting the new UNAIDS declaration. It’s also interesting to note that IPPF now distributes the expensive HIV treatment drug PReP which is heavily promoted throughout the declaration. It’s possible that IPPF is more concerned with gaining clients than it is with helping people avoid disease.

Third, the declaration largely ignores the fact that while the majority of the world’s AIDS deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, those deaths are not primarily among the “key populations” that are targeted throughout the declaration (i.e., men who have sex with men, prostitutes, and injection drug users). The phenomenon in Africa is a generalized epidemic rather than a concentrated epidemic among those populations. Therefore, it is wholly irresponsible to repeatedly push Western tactics and ideologies based on risk reduction (which, by the declaration’s own admission, have not proven effective in sub-Saharan Africa) rather than promoting risk avoidance based on abstaining from sexual intercourse with more than one partner.

In addition to these three serious issues, there is a smorgasbord of other troubling elements in the declaration including a push for massive data collection, promotion of debt relief initiatives, transformation of gender stereotypes, implementing universal socialized medicine, and ensuring that women and girls have their “sexual and reproductive health-care service needs met” which will be interpreted as having access to free, on-demand abortion.

In short, the worthy and necessary goal of reducing HIV infection worldwide in the next five years is being used not only as a way of normalizing infectious behaviours, but as cover to promote and push a deceptively radical agenda on UN member states and their citizens. This misguided effort will result in decreased national sovereignty and increased deaths the world over.