What is it like at the UN? Currently, it is a place where delegates from certain countries claim that LGBT rights are universal rights. Where it is said that gay rights are an American value. (Note that gay rights and LGBT rights are often used interchangeably.)

I attended a side event at the UN on April 5th, 2016, titled, “Unfinished Business – HIV among gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men”

Who organized it or rather put it on?   It was co-organized by the Permanent Mission of Brazil and the United States Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator and Health Diplomacy, in collaboration with the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the United Nations Fund for Population (UNFPA) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

That was kind of a mouthful. The most important take away is that these are not random NGO’s or other non-profits who organized a rallying cry to advocate; no they are UN agencies and governments publically endorsing gay rights.

This meeting was an attempt to prepare members of the general population to address the United Nations High Level meeting on HIV/AIDS.

Minister Alex da Silva from Brazil mentioned three goals of the April 5th meeting:

  1. To fight against HIV; 2. To promote LGBT rights; and 3. To have strong support of civil society.

While the meeting is addressing HIV/AIDs, it is also using HIV/AIDS as a vehicle for a much larger agenda of promoting LGBT rights. As the meeting went on this became increasingly evident as advocating for LGBT rights was covered in depth; whereas, HIV not so much.

He went on to say a few words on behalf of Brazil. “Human rights are for all regardless of sexual identity or gender. This is one of the targets for 2030 agenda. The high level meeting in June should address the crucial actions needed to reach this goal…this is a rights-based approach to health. Reducing the circulation of the virus is key protection for them and for all. Both of them must be addressed at the political declaration.”

He is supporting a cure for HIV that is only partially medical, and does not even address behaviors.   When people get diagnosed with diabetes, part of the health care includes looking at behaviors such as diet and exercise. Yet, when it came to a deadly virus, behavior change, such as discussing the health risks of promiscuity, was never mentioned. In addition, there was not a single doctor on the panel, discussing the health aspect of HIV. The narrow focus of looking at a rights base approach to health demonstrated that those co-sponsoring the meeting were really more interested in making a political, ideological push, than a healing one.

Thomas La Salvia from the U.S. State Department was the first to characterize the US as a champion of gay rights.

“If you have any doubts of US feelings then look to what Obama said in Kenya this summer. ‘“…when you start treating people differently, not because of any harm they’re doing anybody but because they’re different, that’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode.”

This was worrying for two reasons. First, that in the political arena, the momentum in making the US a champion of gay rights is not slowing down, rather it is speeding up. Second, the rest of the world is beginning to see America as a pro-LGBT nation.

The former justice of the High Court of Australia, Michael Kirby, confirmed that promoting LGBT rights was at the heart of their message, and that the US is helping lead the charge.

“Brazil and the US are two great countries in taking the lead in ending oppression of the LGBT. Gay rights are all universal human rights…that universal message should be our message to the world.”

After this there was a shift in the conversation towards funding. There were multiple pleas from panelists for money. Surprisingly, the requests were not for medical research or for health services, it was for data collection. For example, Tisha Wheeler of USAID described in detail how you need data and funding programs because you cannot get data without having the funds.

In conclusion to help achieve an AIDS-free generation, there are many who believe the only way is through a human rights approach towards health, with an emphasis on data collection, which in turn desperately needs to be funded.

An AIDS-free generation would be great, only that goal has been hijacked. No matter how much the UN or even the US would like to fuse human rights with health care, they can at most only be mixed. Why? Because at the end of the day a virus cannot be eradicated mostly through laws, policy, or through social acceptance of LGBT, it has to be looked at first and foremost from a medical standpoint.