'Political, legal discrimination increases HIV infection'

New York- US (PANA) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said legal and political discrimination against vulnerable groups had continued to un dermine public health responses to HIV/AIDS.
``HIV-related stigma and gender inequalities dis-empower people, making it diffi cult for them to reduce their risk of infection or access to HIV-related service s ,'' Ban said in a progress report on HIV/AIDS, a copy which was obtained by PANA here Monday.
The UN chief also said governments had failed to take sufficient political, lega l and programmatic steps to realise those pledges made in the 2001 Declaration o f Commitment on HIV/AIDS.
``Despite the unanimous agreement in 2001 that respect for the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS drives an effective response to HIV prevention, nearly a third of the UN's 192 member s tates lack laws that protect people living with HIV.
``For example, some 60 countries have regulations restricting people's entry, st ay or residence based on their HIV-positive status only.
Not only are such restr i ctions discriminatory, but they may also have devastating consequences for indiv i duals seeking to migrate, obtain asylum, reunite with family, study, do business or participate in conferences on HIV policy and practice,'' the report said.
It disclosed that an estimated 33 million people were living with HIV in 2007, t he most recent year for available statistics.
``However, the number of new infections has incrementally decreased over the pas t decade, from a peak of 3.
5 million in 1996 to 2.
7 million in 2007.
``In all, 96 per cent of new HIV infections in 2007 occurred in low- and middle- income countries,'' the report noted.
It also said that the number of people dying from AIDS has also fallen, from 2.
2 million in 2005 to 2 million in 2007.
``The criminalisation of HIV transmission had continued to be enacted despite ev idence that broadly and ill-defined laws do not deter people from transmitting H I V.
``In 2007 and 2008, more than 15 African countries adopted such laws, perpetuati ng the idea that people living with HIV are dangerous and undeserving of social s olidarity.
``Also, HIV stigma and gender inequalities continue to increase the vulnerabilit y of the groups most at risk of HIV, as fearing ostracism, they are less incline d to seek medical treatment,'' it said.
The Secretary-General's report also recommended that HIV-travel related restrict ions should be eliminated, while the criminalisation of HIV transmission should b e limited to intentional transmission.
The report also recommended that annual financing from all sources for HIV/AIDS prevention must increase to US$25 billion by 2010 to achieve national universal a ccess targets.

05 may 2009 07:25:00

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