Statement by on behalf of the International Indigenous HIV & AIDS Community, the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network and INA (Māori, Indigenous & South Pacific) HIV/AIDS Foundation

25 April 2017
Sixteenth Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Honourable Chairperson, the Lanape People, dignitaries and all our indigenous family, thank you for the opportunity to speak.

My name is Marama Pala of the Ngatiawa Maori peoples and I have lived with HIV for 24 years.

I am here to tell you that Indigenous, men, women and children are living with HIV and this number is growing exponentially. So much so, now have a global movement called the International Indigenous HIV and AIDS Community. Many indigenous communities fear us, and discriminate against us. That we live with institutionalized stigma within our own communities. This is unacceptable, in a time where fear, stigma and discrimination is unnecessary. In June 2016 High Level Meeting on HIV – Indigenous Peoples were mentioned twice in the 2016 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS.

Nation states must work toward the accurate representation of Indigenous peoples in all HIV/AIDS epidemiological data. Collaborative action using accurate data must be Indigenous-driven in this often-overlooked key affected population. Research should lead to policies that address stigma, discrimination, self-determination and racism, and ensure housing, educational and economic opportunities that support building resilience for Indigenous communities.

Indigenous health and rights must be ingrained in all policy so that resources match the need for Indigenous Peoples to design, develop and implement HIV/AIDS programs. Countries, donors, the international community and the UN must support funding for an Indigenous Peoples’ response.

Therefore, we recommend that the UNPFII, UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNDP and UN Women host an Expert Group Meeting on HIV/AIDS including the full and effective participation of Indigenous peoples living with, and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Paramount to the AIDS response has been the powerful role of communities. Ending AIDS by 2030 will be impossible if Indigenous peoples are left behind. “Getting to zero” means addressing equity in resources for Indigenous Peoples’ prevention, treatment and response programs and policy by all countries.

“Despite all the advances in HIV, despite all the goals and strategies – despite all the good will, despite the UNAIDS 90-90-90 Fast-Track strategy, despite the UNAIDS ‘Gap Report’ identifying all those left behind, I am here to tell you that Indigenous People have been left behind and unless things change we will continue to be left behind. 10-10-10 is our reality.”

Therefore, we recommend that the Permanent Forum, in cooperation with UNAIDS, work to integrate the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples throughout UNAIDS and its co-sponsoring UN agencies as well as the International Indigenous HIV/AIDS Community utilizing the System Wide Action Plan on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its complementary mechanisms toward these ends.

We ask for a commitment at every level: to the Permanent Forum to address AIDS as a humanitarian issue and acknowledge HIV as a threat to Indigenous Peoples. Action now can avert 17.6 million new infections and 11 million premature deaths between 2016-2030.

We recommend an Indigenous community-based response and leadership. Central to the response is the Greater Involvement of People living with HIV/AIDS (the GIPA Principle). There is abundant evidence that the abuse of human rights continues to fuel new infections among indigenous women and girls, and among Indigenous “key populations” such as people who use drugs, sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people, and prisoners. Indigenous young women are particularly vulnerable to coerced sex and are increasingly being infected with HIV/AIDS.

We need to urge Indigenous Leaders to make access to treatment a priority. Stigma and racism continue to restrict Indigenous Peoples’ access to treatment. We need to Indigenize the prevention movement. Culturally relevant and Indigenous community-driven prevention strategies must be included in the Indigenous HIV response.

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