The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) was established in 1995 following a resolution by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It is the successor of the Global Programme on AIDS of the World Health Organization, and is a new kind of entity in the UN System, uniting ten UN organizations and also including non-state actors. UNAIDS can be seen as an attempt by the UN to react to institutional developments in global health and to improve the effectiveness of the global fight against HIV and AIDS. As well the co-sponsoring UN organizations, delegates of 22 governments from the North and the South and of five NGOs are members of the Programme Coordinating Board, the highest body of UNAIDS. Although the NGOs are only non-voting members, the participation of non-state actors in a formal decision-making body is a novelty for the UN System - apart from the tripartite International Labour Organization (ILO). UNAIDS' objectives are to coordinate HIV and AIDS-related activities with the UN System and other actors, and to call for a global reaction against HIV and AIDS. The UNAIDS secretariat is based in Geneva and works on the ground in more than 80 countries.

The five focus areas of UNAIDS are:

  • mobilizing leadership and advocacy for effective action on the epidemic
  • providing strategic information and policies to guide governments
  • tracking, monitoring and evaluation of the epidemic
  • engaging civil society and developing partnerships
  • mobilizing financial, human and technical resources to support an effective response

UNAIDS works on a wide range of issues related to HIV. Its activities include:

  • programmes aimed at improving gender equality
  • expanding counselling and testing services
  • providing information and skills to make HIV prevention strategies more effective
  • improving access to treatment, care and support
  • educating people about sexual and reproductive health
  • conducting scientific research
  • reducing stigma and discrimination

UNAIDS also issues policy briefs on the above topics and provides governments with policy guidelines to help them address the epidemic more effectively.

There are approximately 250 Geneva-based UNAIDS staff, while 150-200 people work in the field. The UNAIDS executive director is Mr Michel Sidibé. UNAIDS also has an office in Brussels where it maintains relations with European Union institutions and civil society organizations. The office focuses on developing activities to promote and facilitate the development of joint programmes and projects at country level as well as expanding its support to civil society organizations, enabling them to contribute to policy-shaping. The UNAIDS Liaison Office to the European Union also aims to increase senior policy dialogue between UNAIDS and the European Union institutions.



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