UN Secretary-General meets HIV positive UN staff members
20 May 2009
The United Nations Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-moon held a meeting in Geneva with HIV positive UN staff members and the UNAIDS Executive Director. The staff are part of a UN system-wide advocacy group called UN Plus which was set up in 2005 to promote the rights of HIV-positive staff and provide peer support.
Addressing the group, the Secretary-General reiterated his support to UN Plus and acknowledged his pride in the commitment and strength of its members.
UN Plus first met with Mr Ban in 2007, a meeting he described as “one of the most moving experiences of my life,” and today’s meeting was an opportunity for the group to update the UN Secretary-General on progress made and to request his continued support.
UN Plus Coordinator Bhatupe Mhango expressed her appreciation for work the Secretary-General has done in advocating for the rights of HIV positive people evidenced by his many meetings with people living with HIV when on official travel around the world.
The commitment to universal access includes universal access for all UN staff.
UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé
The UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé, also committed, personally and organizationally, to the vision of UN Plus and to continue to stand alongside and be a champion for all UN staff living with HIV. “The commitment to universal access includes universal access for all UN staff,” he emphasized.
The subject of inequality, including recognition of same sex domestic partnerships and health insurance, was central to the meeting’s agenda. The participants were in agreement that a harmonized approach across the UN system was needed to deal with the complexities of health insurance.
Since 2007 the group UN Plus, which is hosted and supported by UNAIDS, has grown to 150 members who include staff working in 41 countries in 21 UN agencies.
As part of its outreach strategy UN Plus has signed partnership agreements with other organizations, including FICSA (Federation of International Civil Servant Associations) and CCISUA (Coordinating Council of International Staff Unions and Associations). UN Plus has also continued to partner with key networks of people living with HIV including IFRC+, GNP+, ICW, and the newly-launched IPPF+ and has set up a women’s forum.Such partnerships are at the core of UN Plus vision. As Kate Thomson, Head, Civil Society Partnerships Unit, UNAIDS noted to the Secretary-General, “UN Plus members have recently paved the way towards the adoption of a new agenda for Positive Health, Dignity and Prevention that will jointly bring UNAIDS together with positive networks globally for revitalized and collaborative efforts towards universal access.”
UN staff continue to have very real concerns about stigma towards those living with HIV. The Secretary-General was told that stigma remains a top concern as up to 80% of UN Plus members are undisclosed about their status. One of the participants from WHO, a mother, attended the meeting anonymously, underlining how real the personal and daily challenges of stigma and disclosure are.
For more on UN Plus visit its website: www.unplus.org