GENEVA (AN) — After a marathon weeklong session, the World Health Assembly adopted a new strategy for HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections that appeases socially conservative nations by omitting a standard glossary of sexual health terms for discussing treatment and care.
Leaders at the global health talks also approved a U.S.-led process for reforming the legally binding international rules that nations must follow when responding to global health emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.
By a vote of 61-2 on late Saturday night, the 194-nation governing body for the World Health Organization agreed to a compromise for updating the strategy for HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections through 2030 by deleting the glossary of terms that are in standard use for HIV treatment and care.
The compromise, crafted by Mexico’s delegation, allowed the assembly to duck having to make further concessions to Saudi Arabia and other nations such as Egypt, Nigeria and Syria that had favored imposing even stricter limits on the usage of standard terms in sexual health care. As many as 90 of the 183 delegations that were eligible to vote did not do so. Thirty nations abstained.
U.S. Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs Loyce Pace, who headed her nation’s delegation, said key topics on sex education, gender identity and violence in all types of partnerships were omitted. “The current scientific evidence clearly supports the inclusion of these terms,” she said, though the U.S. was satisfied the overall strategy was preserved.
#WHA75 concluded today. I am deeply grateful for, and humbled by, the support, trust and confidence of the Member States. Visiting your countries and meeting your people is an inspiration to me, it reminds me of what is at stake, & why the work of @WHO is so vital. #HealthForAll pic.twitter.com/57zDgaYL6C
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) May 28, 2022
A ‘bumpy’ ride
Pace also championed a process for updating the International Health Regulations, which govern nations’ responses to disease outbreaks, in the face of opposition from some African nations that worried they might not be afforded enough time to consider the changes.
One of the assembly’s main committees adopted a resolution by consensus that halves the two-year process for making amendments to the rules down to just one year. Nations will also now get up to 10 months — the previous limit was nine months — to reject or voice reservations over any future amendments. And they will have up to one year, double the previous time allowance, for complying with changes to the rules. A paragraph was also adding urging nations to collaborate on technical cooperation and logistical support.
“The train ride was sometimes bumpy but we arrived at our destination,” Dr. Hiroki Nakatani, a veteran public health specialist and professor at Keio University, said after a week of presiding over one of the assembly’s main committees.