New York, US (PANA) - UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has stressed the importance of protecting the rights of individuals with HIV/AIDS, as well as of populations who are more vulnerable to the epidemic.
She made the call on Wednesday at the first UN Human Rights Council panel on HIV
in Geneva, Switzerland.
''Although there has been much progress since HIV was first discovered 31 years ago, there is still much to be done to ensure that no human rights violations are committed which make individuals more vulnerable to the disease,'' Ms. Pillay said.
A copy of Pillay's speech, made available to PANA in New York, quoted her as saying ''HIV has taught us a lot about how the neglect of human rights increases vulnerability.
''The lack of respect for human rights has not only fuelled the epidemic, it has brought to the surface pernicious and persistent forms of discrimination and marginalization, in multiple and overlapping manifestations.
''Protecting human rights is a central element to effectively combat the epidemic as ending discrimination against vulnerable populations will lead to a more inclusive approach when implementing and monitoring HIV policies and programmes.''
The UN rights' chief said sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender persons, people who use drugs, prisoners and persons in detention, migrants, refugees, persons who live in poverty, people with disabilities, orphans, young women and girls must not only be included in national responses to HIV, they must also be involved in the policy options and choices that affect them.
''It is no coincidence that these populations are the most vulnerable to the epidemic
– they not only bear the burden of the disease, they also endure a broad range
of human rights violations,” Ms. Pillay said.
She underscored that a human rights approach to HIV also needs to address a wide range of abuses which may increase vulnerability to the disease, such as violence against women and girls, in addition to ensuring that current laws and practices do not discriminate against people living with HIV.
She also called on countries to increase their funding for AIDS response so citizens can have access to affordable lifesaving treatment.
''Funding the AIDS response is not only necessary; it is also a human rights legal obligation. We should not permit the current economic crisis to translate into a reversal in the gains made so far,'' she said.
-0- PANA AA/SEG 21Mar2012