UN chief calls on all countries to remove punitive measures against people living with AIDS

16:49, December 02, 2009      

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"I urge all countries to remove punitive laws, policies and practices that hamper the AIDS response, including travel restrictions against people living with HIV," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said here Tuesday in a message to mark the World AIDS Day, which falls on Dec. 1

"Successful AIDS responses do not punish people; they protect them," the secretary-general said.

Ban noted that there has been progress in "reversing the AIDS epidemic in some countries" where "investments in the AIDS response are producing results and saving lives."

"At the same time, in global terms new infections are outpacing the gains achieved in putting people on treatment," he said, underscoring that "AIDS remains one of the leading causes of premature death globally."

Dec. 1 is designated as an international day of celebration, commemoration and remembrance for those that lost their battle to AIDS, as well as a day for people all around the globe to renew their commitment to the AIDS response.

Each World AIDS Day has a theme with this year's emphasizing universal access to information, prevention and treatment services which goes hand-in-hand with human rights to avoid discrimination because of the epidemic.

According to UNAIDS 2008 report on the epidemic, around half of all people who become infected with HIV do so before they are 25 and are killed by AIDS before they are 35.

This year "our challenge is clear: we must continue doing what works, but we must also do more, on an urgent basis, to uphold our commitment to reach universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010," he said.

"This goal can be achieved only if we shine the full light of human rights on HIV," Ban said. "This means countering any form of HIV-related stigma and discrimination," which he said is the elimination of violence against women and girls, as well as ensuring the access to HIV information and services.

"In many countries, legal frameworks institutionalize discrimination against groups most at risk," Ban said where he noted discrimination against sex workers, drug users and men who have sex with men "only fuels the epidemic and prevents cost-effective interventions."

"We must ensure that AIDS responses are based on evidence, not ideology, and reach those most in need and most affected," the UN chief said.

He said that people living with HIV are strong role models who can guide us to "better approaches to prevention, health and human dignity" and urged to "recognize their contributions and promote their active participation in all aspects of the AIDS response."

"On this World AIDS Day, let us uphold the human rights of all people living with HIV, people at risk of infection, and children and families affected by the epidemic," Ban said.

"Let us, especially at this time of economic crisis, use the AIDS response to generate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals," Ban said. "Most of all, let us act now."

To spotlight the human rights aspect of people living with HIV, the UN chief will join activists, local community leaders and UN agencies in gathering at New York City's Washington Square Park where the lights that shine on the monument will be turned off at 6:15 EST in remembrance of those who died of AIDS. The lights will then be turned back on at 6:20 EST to show that it is crucial to shine the light on the human rights for those living with HIV around the world.

Source: Xinhua
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