Feature story

UNAIDS ambassadors speak out to stop discrimination

25 April 2018

Everyone will have experienced stigma and discrimination of some kind during their lives; however, non-discrimination is a human right. As part of UNAIDS' work to achieve zero discrimination, UNAIDS encourages people to speak up and prevent discrimination from standing in the way of achieving ambitions, goals and dreams.

Two UNAIDS ambassadors recently took part in a dialogue with students at Peking University about the need to achieve zero discrimination to end the AIDS epidemic and ensure better health for all.

The First Lady of Panama, Lorena Castillo de Varela, UNAIDS Special Ambassador for AIDS in Latin America, and the famous actor and humanitarian, Huang Xiaoming, UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for China, spoke about their commitment to reducing stigma and discrimination at an event on 24 April. The dialogue was opened by the Vice-President of Peking University, Zhan Qimin.

During the lively discussion between the two ambassadors, the First Lady encouraged young people to integrate their antidiscrimination efforts into their everyday actions. “Just that smile, even though it might look very small to you, it can make another humanbeing feel special, not discriminated or different,” said Ms Castillo.

Discrimination has many forms, from racial or religious discrimination to discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation or age, and to bullying at school or at work. In only three out of 10 countries worldwide do equal numbers of girls and boys attend upper secondary school, and people living with disabilities are nearly three times more likely to be denied health care than other people.

Ms Castillo stressed that the important role that the young generation has to play in taking the lead. “I want to use this platform to send messages to all the universities in the world, they should all follow your lead too, and give voices to those who have no voices, be the voice for them, let them know that there’s somebody somewhere sending them love, fighting for them.”

Mr Huang explained what had motivated him to start working on zero discrimination and become a UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador. “I had seen children who suffered from discrimination related to HIV. Their inner repression, touched me and made me start to think about how I could help them. Of course discrimination is not limited to just children. So when I learned that UNAIDS had the goal of ending AIDS worldwide by 2030, I was very excited and willing to do my best for this goal.”

A piece of advice to young people from Mr Huang moved everyone in the meeting hall: he quoted a line from the film Wonder, "When given the choice of being right and being kind, choose kind—I believe it is important to be kind to everyone, it’s particularly important to keep our minds clear and objective, and to uphold justice and truth".

Ran Wei, a representative of UNAIDS, thanked the two ambassadors for their tireless efforts championing zero discrimination and urged students to follow their lead. “It is not only a responsibility, but also a privilege for youth, to fight for a world that’s healthy, just and free from discrimination,” she said.