|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Launch of 2012 UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report
The day when no baby would be born with HIV, anywhere in the world, was very near, Bertil Lindblad, Director, New York Office of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), told reporters today at a Headquarters press conference, as he launched the 2012 UNAIDS World AIDS Day report.
Every day should be World Aids Day, Mr. Lindblad stated. However, the first of December was a special opportunity to take stock of how the international community was dealing with that challenge. It was a day to remind the world of the plight of people living with HIV/AIDS.
Joining Mr. Lindblad at the press conference were Michael Schreiber, Managing Director and Co-President, GBC Health, and Michael Ighodoro, a young gay man from Africa living with HIV/AIDS.
“There were several pieces of good news,” Mr. Lindblad said, noting that among the key findings of this year’s report, HIV infections among children had declined by 20 per cent. There was a 50 per cent drop in new HIV infections across 25 countries, most of which were in sub-Saharan Africa. That was reassuring, as the Millennium Development Goals would be expiring in 2015. “We are capable of meeting the targets we have set for ourselves,” he stressed.
In 2011, he said, the countries of world had come together to adopt a Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS that contained important commitments, including the need to address all aspects of stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS.
More than 81 countries of the world had increased their domestic budget allocations for HIV/AIDS programmes, Mr. Lindblad pointed out. That was especially crucial because UNAIDS had called for shared responsibility and accountability in addressing the disease. It was not possible to meet those challenges solely through development assistance. Countries had to match the investment.
Equally importantly, he continued, was the increase by 63 per cent of access to treatment worldwide. Slowly, the international community was reaching its goal of “three zeroes: zero new infections, zero deaths from HIV and AIDS, zero discrimination,” he said.
However, Mr. Lindblad reminded correspondents, 47 countries still had some form of HIV-related entry and stay restrictions. That was a form of discrimination. There was no public health reason why there should be travel restrictions on people living with HIV/AIDS. It was also essential to support especially vulnerable populations, such as people engaged in sex work, people using drug injections, and gay men and women.
Mr. Schreiber, speaking on behalf of a coalition of 200 companies that were responding to the HIV epidemic, stated that although public policy had initially led the way, today the private sector had “eclipsed” the public sector in creating policies to support people living with HIV/AIDS.
Many companies, he added, had recognized through their own workplace efforts, the advantages of a stigma-free environment. As many as a hundred companies had recently signed a pledge to make workplaces stigma-free.
Turning to the subject of travel restrictions on people living with HIV/AIDS, Mr. Schreiber said that, in addition to being a human rights issue, those restrictions meant that companies were unable to move their intellectual capital — their employees — to new markets. Therefore, 40 companies had become initial signatories of a pledge against travel restrictions on people living with HIV/AIDS. Major companies, such as Johnson & Johnson and Coca Cola, were extending themselves to say that this was an important issue.
Mr. Ighodoro then spoke, telling reporters that “As a gay man and as an HIV-infected person, I experienced stigma in public places, at home, and within the gay community itself.” Millions of young people were living with HIV worldwide, especially in Africa, where many gay people with HIV were afraid to go to hospitals and ask for full treatment. “We are left to die; we are left to suffer,” he said.
For several years, he continued, he had been an advocate in his country for gay men living with AIDS. However, to protect himself from discrimination, he had no choice but to leave. Making a special plea for the young people of Africa living with HIV/AIDS, he said, “The young ones have no one. They are often rejected by their families.” Yet, they still desperately needed various services. That was his plea and that was his challenge to the international community.
As the press conference concluded, a reporter inquired as to where Mr. Ighodoro was from. “ Nigeria,” the young man responded.
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