End discrimination against HIV-affected people: UNAIDS (Dec 1 is World AIDS Day)

November 30th, 2009 - 6:07 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 30 (IANS) On the eve of World AIDS Day, UNAIDS - the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS - made an urgent appeal Monday to end discrimination against people affected with HIV as it was “undermining the efforts” to fight the disease.
In his message, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe also urged countries not to decrease funding for AIDS programmes.

“On this World AIDS Day, we are filled with both hope and concern,” he said in a statement issued here. World AIDS Day is observed globally on Dec 1.

He said hope is there because they have made significant progress towards universal access. “New HIV infections have dropped. Fewer children are born with HIV. And more than 4 million people are on treatment,” he added.

However, Sidibe also noted the concerns “because 28 years into the epidemic the virus continues to make inroads into new populations, stigma and discrimination continue to undermine efforts to turn back the epidemic”.

“The violation of human rights of people living with HIV, women and girls, men who have sex with men, injecting drug users and sex workers must end,” he said.

“On this World AIDS Day, let us work urgently to remove punitive laws and practices and put an end to discrimination against and criminalisation of people affected by HIV. On World AIDS Day, let us also act on HIV prevention. For every two people put on treatment, five are newly infected. Too often prevention programmes are not reaching those most in need,” Sidibe said.

Sidibe also said that the economic crisis should not be a reason for reducing investment in health.

“Economic adjustments must be made through a human rights lens that keeps the focus on those most vulnerable. This is the time to increase rather than decrease funding for AIDS. AIDS provides a powerful mechanism for creating integrated health, human rights and development programmes,” he said.

He said mother-to-child transmission of HIV should be eliminated and young people can be empowered so that they can protect themselves from HIV.

“We must take AIDS out of isolation and create a broad social movement that will accelerate progress toward the Millennium Development Goals.

“World AIDS Day provides an opportunity for all of us - individuals, communities and political leaders - to take action towards making universal access a reality,” he said.

India is home to around 2.5 million HIV positive people.

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