Feature story

International Day of the World's Indigenous People focuses on AIDS

11 August 2009


The 2009 International Day of the World's Indigenous People was observed at the United Nations Headquarters on Monday 10 August 2009. This year’s International Day focused on the theme of “Indigenous Peoples and HIV/AIDS”. The Deputy Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, the Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Director of the UNAIDS New York Office and other officials participated in the observing event.

In his message, the Secretary-General emphasized that it was essential that “indigenous peoples have access to the information and infrastructure necessary for detection, treatment and protection”. He noted that indigenous peoples “tend to suffer from the low standards of health”, which is perpetuating the gap in many countries between the recognition of their rights and the actual situation on the ground. The Secretary-General called on Governments and civil society “to act with urgency and determination to close this implementation gap, in full partnership with indigenous peoples.”

Bertil Lindblad, Director, UNAIDS New York Office, noted the “natural synergy and potential for collaboration between the AIDS response and the indigenous movement. Both are grounded in human rights and also share the principle of the meaningful participation of communities: people living with HIV and indigenous people, respectively. For years, AIDS activism has been a voice of the voiceless, by highlighting social and economic injustices, violations of rights of vulnerable and marginalized groups, and by engaging those living with and affected by HIV in developing the response to the epidemic, which goes beyond the health sector alone. In joining the common cause with indigenous peoples, we can help achieve better social and economic equity to enable thousands of people to live in health and dignity.”

The observance ceremony was organized by the Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in cooperation with the NGO Committee on the International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples. Bertil Lindblad, Director, UNAIDS New York Office participated at the ceremony and the following panel discussion.