On 25–27 June 2001, Heads of State and Representatives of Governments met at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) dedicated to HIV/AIDS.
The meeting was a historic landmark, highlighting the fact that, in only 20 years, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has caused untold suffering and death worldwide, destroying entire communities, undoing development gains, and posing a serious threat to whole continents, as is currently the case for Africa. But UNGASS also served to remind the world that there is hope. We now know that, with sufficient will and resources, communities and countries can turn this epidemic around. However, the situation is urgent. As the slogan of the meeting indicated, it is a ‘global crisis’ requiring ‘global action’.
At the meeting, Heads of State and Representatives of Governments issued the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS. This Declaration describes in its preamble (paragraphs 1–36), the extent of the epidemic, the effects it has had, and the ways to combat it. The Declaration then states what governments have pledged to do—themselves, with others in international and regional partnerships, and with the support of civil society— to reverse the epidemic. The Declaration is not a legally binding document. However, it is a clear statement by governments concerning that which they have agreed should be done to fight HIV/AIDS and that which they have committed to doing, often with specific deadlines. As such, the Declaration is a powerful tool with which to guide and secure action, commitment, support and resources for all those fighting the epidemic, both within and outside government.
This booklet simplifies and summarizes the text of the Declaration in an effort to make it more accessible to all and to encourage everyone to do his or her part to put it into action. Where possible, it pairs relevant paragraphs from the preamble with relevant sections from the body of the Declaration. The bold text in quotes is taken directly from the Declaration. Also included are quotes from some of the statements made by speakers at the meeting, as well as from people affected by HIV/AIDS. It should be stressed that the paragraphs in this booklet are simplified versions of those found in the Declaration. They should not be substituted for the full, original text when formal reference to the Declaration is needed. The original text is attached as an annex for easy reference.