Human rights abuses fuelling global HIV epidemic, Rights groups charge

Lusaka- Zambia (PANA) -- Unless governments act to end the human rights abuses fu elling the spread of HIV, little progress will be made towards addressing the gl o bal epidemic, some 400 AIDS and human rights organisations have charged.
The coalition called on organisers of the biannual International AIDS Conference , which opens in Mexico City, Mexico, 3 August, to make human rights a central t h eme of the world’s largest gathering on HIV/AIDS.
“Ahead of the 17th international AIDS conference, governments are still violatin g the rights of people living with or at high risk of HIV infection,” José Migue l Vivanco, Americas' director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
He said: “Governments have done little to fulfill their frequent promises to end HIV-related rights abuses.
But until they act to end such abuses, even the best - planned policies to treat HIV and stop the spread of AIDS will fail.
” The Mexican government, host of this year’s International AIDS Conference, has a lso made commitments to address HIV-related human rights abuses through legislat i on and programmes, but has fallen short in implementing these promises, says Mex i can Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS.
“Mexico has good laws on HIV/AIDS,” Anuar I.
Luna Cadena, of the Mexican Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, stated.
“But government institutions don’t adeq u ately monitor abuses faced by people living with HIV or make sure they get the t r eatment and/or protection they’re legally entitled to.
” The coalition of HIV/AIDS and human rights organisations also highlighted the hu man rights abuses faced by women, who account for the majority of HIV infections in Africa, the continent hardest hit by the pandemic.
Laws that deny women equal access to divorce, property and inheritance increase vulnerability to infection and hinder access to treatment.
In many countries, the coalition notes that governments do not aggressively pros ecute domestic or gender-based violence, or even recognise rape or battery by in t imate partners as a crime.
This leaves women at risk of HIV infection by their h u sbands or boyfriends, and creates barriers to life-saving HIV services, the coalition note s.
“African governments rush to ratify international conventions, but drag their fe et when it comes to ensuring human rights protections for women,” said Michaela C layton, director of AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa.
“Legislation p r otecting women’s rights has languished in African parliaments for years.
Protect i ng women from violence and securing equal rights to property are critical steps t o stemming the AIDS epidemic.
” The International AIDS Society, which organises the conference, has affirmed the importance of addressing human rights abuses in HIV responses.
This year’s conference programme includes a plenary address on human rights, a H uman Rights Networking Zone in the conference’s global village, and a rally 7 Au g ust to highlight the need for a much greater focus on human rights to achieve un i versal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care.
“There is no shortage of rhetoric about the importance of human rights in respon ding to HIV,” said Vivanco.
“This conference is the time to turn words into acti o n.

16 july 2008 14:35:00

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