World Aids Day: Universal Access and Human Rights

1 december, 2009

A report released, this week, by the UNAIDS shows that 33.4 million people now live Hiv. During the past year, some 2.7 million people became newly infected with Hiv. According to the UNAIDS, over the past eight years, new Hiv infections have been reduced by 17%, and more people with Hiv are living longer now due to the beneficial effects of Aids medicines. The UNAIDS and WHO say that since 1996, some 2.9 million lives have been saved due to the availability of effective medicines.

Of course, these gross data hide the sharp contrasts between poor and rich countries in terms of access to prevention and treatment and the vulnerability of key populations. About half of all the people in developing countries who become infected with Hiv do so before their 25th birthday and are killed before they turn 35! Less than 30 per cent of the people with Hiv in poor countries do not have access to medicines. Social exclusion – caused by taboo, stigma and ignorance – continues to fuel the spread of Hiv. In many countries, groups which are highly affected by Hiv, for example, men who have sex with men (MSM), sex workers and drug users are often criminalised and denied access to prevention and treatment.

This year’s theme Universal Access and Human Rights is crucial to help put the rights of vulnerable groups and their access to treatment and prevention at the centre of the fight against Aids. Hivos, based on its humanism values, has been supporting empowerment of sexual minorities, sex workers and girls in developing countries as an important aspect of its Aids programmes. Hivos thinks that the effectiveness of Hiv prevention is intertwined with the ability of governments, organisations and societies to combat and dismantle traditional and outmoded laws and morals, religious conservatism and fundamentalism which infringe on the rights of vulnerable groups.

Hivos joins with its partners across the world in commemorating the 2009 World AIDS Day. In Amsterdam, Hivos has invited APCOM (the Asian Pacific Coalition for Male Sexual) from India to come and share with a Dutch audience its work in promoting the rights of MSM and their access to Aids prevention and treatment. Apcom, which started in India in 2006 now operates in about 9 countries in Asia-Pacific. Shiv Khan (the founder of Apcom) has also been one of the leading figures in the landmark movement which led to the recent abolition of the anti-homosexuality legalisation in India.

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