MELBOURNE (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 is one of the goals proposed to replace U.N. development targets that expire next year, the head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said on Tuesday.
Global leaders signed up to eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000 aimed at drastically reducing poverty and hunger worldwide by 2015. One of the goals was to halt and reverse the spread of tuberculosis, malaria and HIV by 2015.
UNDP chief Helen Clark said a U.N. working group on the successors to the MDGs, called sustainable development goals (SDGs), had wrapped up a report on proposed SDGs at the weekend.
"The MDG target talked about halting and reversing the epidemic. This proposed target from the (U.N.) General Assembly's open working group is talking about ending the epidemic by 2030," Clark told an international conference on AIDS in the Australian city of Melbourne.
"A strong target in the post-2015 development agenda will help raise aspirations and generate the momentum we need to end the epidemic," the former New Zealand prime minister added.
UNAIDS said last week that new HIV infections and deaths from AIDS were falling, making it possible to control the epidemic by 2030 and eventually ending it "in every region, in every country".
In his opening speech to the Melbourne AIDS conference on Sunday, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe called for an end to AIDS by 2030 and outlined his vision of a world where no one died from an AIDS-related illness or was born with HIV, and where everyone could receive voluntary testing and treatment.
According to UNAIDS, the number of people infected with HIV is stabilizing at around 35 million worldwide. New HIV infections have fallen by 38 percent since 2001 and deaths caused by AIDS fell to 1.5 million in 2013 from a peak of 2.4 million in 2005.
But experts are worried that stubbornly high rates of HIV in key groups, such as gay men, sex workers and transgender people, are threatening progress in the global effort to fight AIDS.
"While there are obviously some subtleties and some caveats around what is meant by ending AIDS, let's be clear (success) shouldn't mean ... being defined in terms of a background epidemic which has moved just far enough into the shadows so that many people no longer notice or care," Clark said.
"Nor should it mean protection of the general population from infection while the epidemic rages on unchecked among the most vulnerable and excluded people in our society."
Negotiations on the SDGs between U.N. member states are due to begin later this year and the United Nations is expected to agree the global targets in September 2015, Clark said.
(Editing by Tim Pearce; firstname.lastname@example.org)