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Statement by Mr. Ivan Šimonović United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights at the General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS

New York, 8 June 2011

Panel 2: Prevention—what can be done to get to zero new infections?

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

After 30 years of awareness of the epidemic, there have been many achievements as discussed this morning: The death rate is dropping and many more people are accessing treatment.

However, shortcomings are also clear. HIV thrives amongst individuals that are unable to realize their human rights because of stigma and discrimination and in this respect I fully agree with Helen Clark and other panelists. But have we done enough to recognize this in our response to AIDS?

If our prevention efforts and response to HIV are to be effective, we must also protect those who now, due to neglect, intimidation, prejudice or social stigma, have fallen outside the available safety nets of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. They too often include women, young people, prisoners, persons with disabilities, migrants and other mobile populations, but especially, as mentioned by the Secretary General this morning, men who have sex with men, sex workers and their clients, transgender persons and injecting drug users.

As Tetyana Afanasiadi from the Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS so forcefully argued in plenary, and numerous civil society representatives during this panel discussion, we can no longer afford to turn a blind eye or neglect these populations. Dignity and the universality of human rights for all must prevail.

To sustain the global response to HIV and get to zero infections, five priority actions are key:

First, we must reach those most vulnerable to discrimination and ensure that they too have access to HIV services.

Second, people living with HIV must be involved in all aspects of the response, no matter what group they belong to.

Third, we must revise punitive laws on HIV transmission and exposure, sex work, homosexuality, travel restrictions and mandatory testing; as well as strengthen laws and policies on sexuality education and women’s rights.

Fourth, we must eliminate gender-based discrimination and violence and scale-up programmes that address this issue.

Finally, we must address regulatory, trade and other barriers that block the human rights imperative of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

Ladies and gentlemen,

These priorities are entirely achievable.

The question is no longer whether we can eliminate AIDS, but whether we have the will to do what it takes: To end discrimination and stigma, and ensure that marginalized populations can enjoy their human rights. The new declaration on AIDS that will be adopted at this Meeting must reflect our firm commitment: to eliminate AIDS from the discriminated pockets of our society. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights offers its technical support to States and the UNAIDS joint programme to translate these human rights commitments into tangible outcomes.

Thank you.