Press statement

UNAIDS calls for Zero Discrimination on Human Rights Day

UNAIDS urges countries to improve legal and social environments to protect human rights in the context of the HIV epidemic and reiterates its call for global freedom of movement for people living with HIV

GENEVA, 10 December 2010— As the AIDS epidemic enters its fourth decade, stigma based on HIV status remains unacceptably high across the globe. Discrimination, inequality and social exclusion based on health status, gender, sexual orientation, drug dependency, disability and migrant and refugee status, prevent people from accessing life-saving HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services.

This week, UNAIDS adopted a new five-year strategy which positioned ‘advancing human rights and gender equality’ as one of three pillars necessary to halt and reverse the spread of HIV, alongside HIV prevention and treatment. This will help realise UNAIDS’ vision of Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.

The strategy tasks UNAIDS to work more intensively with countries to halve the number of countries with punitive laws by 2015; eliminate HIV-related restrictions on travel in half of the countries that continue to have them; address the specific needs of women and girls in at least half of all national HIV responses; and adopt zero tolerance for gender-based violence.

“Zero discrimination is a prerequisite to preventing new HIV infections and ensuring people who are infected have access to treatment and support services,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “This strategy will help to ensure that the response to HIV is not only effective in protecting health but also in protecting the dignity and security of people affected by HIV.”

UNAIDS remains concerned about the 49 countries, territories and areas around the world that still impose some kind of restriction on people living with HIV who seek to enter, stay or work in the country. Such restrictions are an indicator of continuing discrimination based on HIV status. Furthermore, there is no evidence that such restrictions prevent HIV transmission or protect public health.

In growing recognition of these facts, three countries during 2010—China, Namibia and the USA— removed their travel restrictions based on HIV status. India and Ecuador also issued clarifications to underline that they too no longer employ such restrictions.

On this year’s Human Rights Day, UNAIDS urges the 49 remaining countries to lift their HIV-related travel restrictions and ensure protection against HIV-related discrimination. 

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