Challenges and Opportunities: Furthering A Rights Based Approach to HIV

By State Secretary Cecilie Brein-Karlsen

Executive Director Michel Sidibé
Excellencies,
Mr. Chairman/Madame Chair,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Norway is an active partner in the global HIV response, - standing by the commitment made in the UN to secure Universal Access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. UNAIDS have played an important role in the Rights Based Approach to HIV – both nationally and internationally. People living with HIV in Norway still face a number of obstacles due to stigma and misconceptions, from health personnel as well as from employers and others, also from ordinary people. Our work is not finished.

To secure Universal Access we need to maximize positive synergies between HIV policies, health policies and broader social, development and human rights policies. Norway's approach to HIV is based on the concept of "health in all policies". The national HIV strategy is a collaboration between six different ministries.

Through the present Government's political platform, we are obliged to strengthen the work on HIV and work through the NGOs. Nationally, we are still facing challenges related to increasing incidence of HIV among men who have sex with men (MSM) despite considerable efforts invested in HIV prevention and care the past years. The Government has increased funding for low threshold HIV- testing, done by NGOs, in this year's budget.

A Rights Based Approach to HIV includes, among others, both a system for holding governments accountable for their actions, and greater participation of people most at risk for HIV and people living with HIV and AIDS. Let me briefly continue with how this resonates at our national level:

First concerning accountability,

In 2012 the National strategy on HIV was evaluated. Certain aspects of the HIV work needed strengthening. In October 2013 an appendix to the strategy was published regarding how to revitalize and concretize our HIV work. The strategy was extended until 2015, and the six ministries would give more concrete commissions on HIV for their subordinate agencies to follow up.

Secondly, some words about participation of people most at risk for HIV and people living with HIV-

NGOs have had a crucial role in our national HIV response. But, in the past years there have been many organizations which received grants for their work with different aspect of HIV in Norway. In 2012 and 2013 grants waere given to 29 NGOs, municipalities and hospitals for support of their HIV projects. With so many organizations involved, there has been a tendency towards fragmentation and lack of clear common goals. In cooperation with the NGOs, the Norwegian Directorate of Health now analyzes the situation. Our aim with the new model for financing and organizing of the civil society, is a better coordinated HIV policy and more effective use of grants.

To finish, a Rights Based Approach to HIV is closely linked to legislation. The former Government received in 2012 the report of a Law Commission on the Penal Code and Communicable Diseases which assessed a number of topics related to criminalization of transmission of communicable diseases, including HIV. The Ministry of Justice and Public Security is responsible for the follow up of the recommendations, and the Minister of Health Bent Høie had a meeting with them in November 2013 to catch up on status. On a long term, they are working with amendments to the Penal Code, and the report will be one of several documents forming an evidence based approaches to the amended law

Let me add,

The Commission accounted for relevant international obligations in relation to criminalization and HIV. At the same time, UNAIDS had their process on punitive approaches and laws for HIV. This is an example of the importance of international collaboration for the national agenda, and we are thankful for UNAIDS' continuous work on this and other fields.

I want to thank HIV Norway for this opportunity to strengthen our work to reverse the HIV epidemic by getting back to basic. Our human rights.

An common entry point, and a shared goal for the challenges ahead.