Group from Jamaica among NGOs barred from AIDS meeting

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

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UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) – The United States and the European Union are protesting a UN decision to bar at least 20 non-governmental groups from taking part in a major AIDS conference next month.

US Ambassador Samantha Power said the NGOs taken off the list of participants "appear to have been chosen for their involvement in LGBTI, transgender or youth advocacy."

In a letter to UN General Assembly president Mogens Lykketoft, Power requested that these groups, including the US-based Global Action for Trans Equality, be allowed to take part in the June 8-10 high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS.

European Union Ambassador Joao Vale de Almeida said the NGOs had been struck from the list following objections from member states and requested information on which countries opposed their presence.

One of the European NGOs that has been barred from taking part is the Eurasian Coalition on Male Health, based in Estonia, which has been vocal on gay rights in Russia and other former Soviet republics.

Egypt requested that 11 groups be barred from attending the AIDS conference, in a request sent on behalf of 51 countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), according to a letter seen by AFP on Tuesday.

Aside from the Estonian and US gay activist groups, Egypt objected to the participation of Ishtar Men Who Have Sex With Men group from Kenya and the Asia Pacific Transgender Network from Thailand.

The list cited groups from Egypt, Guyana, Jamaica, Peru, Ukraine as well as African Men for Sexual Health and Rights, a coalition of 18 LGBT groups across Africa.

The EU ambassador wrote in his letter sent last week that changes to an initial list of delegations were made without consulting member states.

"Given that transgender people are 49 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population, their exclusion from the high-level meeting will only impede global progress in combatting the HIV/AIDS pandemic and achieving the goal of an AIDS-free generation," Power wrote in her letter.

The high-level meeting is aimed at fast-tracking measures to end the HIV epidemic by 2030.

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