UN-backed report outlines social, political factors driving AIDS pandemic

22 September 2009 – Violence against women, the transition from war to peace and the criminalization of drug use and homosexuality are among the political, economic and social factors driving the HIV/AIDS pandemic, according to a United Nations-backed report released today.

“These findings underscore the importance of aligning efforts to prevent sexual violence and HIV prevention,” Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Executive Director Michel Sidibé said of the report – HIV/AIDS, Security and Conflict: New Realities, New Responses – produced by the AIDS, Security and Conflict Initiative (ASCI), a global research programme supported by UNAIDS.

“These connections have yet to be well established within the global context of HIV prevention, treatment, cure and support.”

Among 10 specific ways in which peacekeeping, peacebuilding and humanitarian responses may be better attuned to the risks of HIV, ASCI called for greater attention to the links between violence against women, forced sex, and increased risk of infection, citing groups of men who control sex workers and trafficking as a “core group” influencing transmission rates.

It also highlights the transition from war to peace as a factor that increase transmission as refugees go hone, soldiers leave the army and relief agencies wind down, urging international donors to provide funds to cover the gap in HIV services between relief and development. HIV prevention, treatment, care and support should be integrated into disarmament and demobilization programmes, it adds.

The report stresses that in many countries laws and law enforcement drive the AIDS epidemic underground by criminalizing injecting drug use, sex work and homosexuality, thus ruling out proven HIV prevention methods such as needle exchange and the promotion of condom use.

It called for a new international effort involving lawmakers and law enforcement agencies to draw up HIV-sensitive laws and policing.

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