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AIDS 2010: Rights Here, Right Now

Billboards on AIDS prevention were produced by local NGO Positive Action. © N Photo/G PirozziThe largest global AIDS conference, which takes place in Vienna 18 to 23 July, emphasizes the central importance of protecting and promoting human rights as a prerequisite to a successful response to HIV.

Under the theme “Rights Here, Right Now”, the biannual conference “AIDS 2010” also stresses that concrete human rights measures are needed to protect those most vulnerable to and affected by HIV such as women and girls, people who use drugs, migrants, prisoners and sex workers.

“The lack of respect for human rights, including stigma and discrimination, is fueling the epidemic. It is perhaps the greatest barrier to developing an appropriate global response to HIV,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in a video to be screened at the conference.

For example, more than 50 countries worldwide continue to have laws prohibiting the cross-border movement of people living with HIV.  Experts say that such laws are discriminatory, contrary to sound public health principles, and are preventing an appropriate global response in the fight against the spread of the virus.

The United Nations Human Rights office (OHCHR) is calling for the repeal of national legislation which imposes blanket restrictions on the entry, stay and residence of people based on their HIV status alone.

“HIV knows no borders. It is therefore important to ensure that international migrants have the same rights as everyone else. A person’s HIV status alone should not be seen as a reason for refusing to employ him or her,” Pillay said.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michéle Sidibé supported the message. “And for me it’s time to call all the countries to remove travel restrictions.”

“One of the major challenges with HIV response in the world today is stigma, discrimination and criminalization. In a nutshell, it’s… about human rights – the basic human rights of people,” he said.

The AIDS conference, which attracts 25,000 participants worldwide, also features a Human Rights Networking Zone where individuals and organizations can involve visitors to campaign against HIV-related human-rights violations. The Zone is showing a video produced by OHCHR about the deportation of a migrant worker after he was tested HIV positive.

Combating HIV/AIDS is one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). OHCHR stresses that pursuing development hand-in-hand with human rights gives countries a better chance of achieving the MDGs by 2015.

19 July 2010

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