Press Release

Organizations join efforts to fight discrimination and stigma related to HIV

July 25, 2012

Washington, D.C. – To maximize efforts so that persons living with HIV have access to treatment and to fight discrimination against them was among the messages given by speakers in an event focusing on human rights, non-discrimination and HIV in the Americas.

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, described the situation as “sobering,” with 2.5 million people newly infected last year, including 330,000 children, and 1.7 million people who died from AIDS in 2011. He observed that adult HIV prevalence in the Caribbean is about 2% higher than in any other world region outside of sub-Saharan Africa, and the estimate is that 230,000 people live with HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean.

“Staggering as these numbers are, there is a combined effort and determination around the world to turn the tide on this pandemic,” said the Secretary General. “The rate of infection in 2011 was the lowest in a decade.”

“There is still much work to be done in many fronts and I am proud that the OAS, particularly through its Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and its Inter-American Commission on Women, has a strong commitment to protecting the rights of persons living with HIV/AIDS in the Americas region.”

On her part, Jan Beagle, Deputy Executive Director for Management and External Relations of UNAIDS, expressed her hope that this, the fourth decade of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, be also the last.

“Our response must be inclusive and it must take into account the experiences of those affected, particularly people with HIV and those people that are more vulnerable in our societies and who have difficulty to access services – indigenous peoples, migrants, sex workers, drug users, men who have sex with men, and particularly women and girls, who because of poverty, violence and discrimination are frequently the most affected. We need to put women and girls at the center of this response,” Jan Beagle said.

“At UNAIDS we have been thinking about ways that we can particularly deal with stigma and discrimination because this requires change, culture change, and culture change is hard, it takes time,” she warned.

Patricia Pérez, chair of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS indicated “the great pending task is related to poverty, gender inequality and social inequality”.

“In order to arrive to AIDS zero, we need political leadership; a political leadership involved in combatting AIDS that is sustained over time”, Patricia Pérez said, who noted she has been living with HIV for 27 years.

Commissioner Rose-Marie Belle Antoine of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) highlighted that much work remains to be done for respecting and guaranteeing the human rights of persons living with HIV/AIDS or key populations who are most at risk of contracting HIV.

“On a daily basis in the Americas, persons living with HIV are subjected to acts of discrimination, ill-treatment or abuse, in all areas of public life and areas of State intervention, including the health sector, education, and employment. We know too that stigma and discrimination have an impact on the low turnout to access counseling, testing and treatment and fuel more discrimination, thereby increasing vulnerability and risk,” said the IACHR Commissioner.

“Several OAS Member States continue to have discriminatory laws criminalizing consensual adult same-sex conduct, and generally, laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which negatively impact on the full enjoyment and exercise of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex persons - and severely undermine effective national responses to HIV. The dire impact of such laws on the human rights of persons most at risk for contracting HIV, such as men who have sex with men, sex workers and on persons living with HIV is an issue of deep concern to the Commission,” she added.

“We affirm that the essence of non-discrimination is the recognition of every individual to live with dignity and freedom,” she concluded.

The Independent Affiliated Event of the International AIDS Conference, which took place on July 23, 2012, was co-organized by the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the Organization of American States (OAS) the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM), and the Art Museum of the Americas (AMA).

The public present at the event participated in a guided tour given by the Names Project Foundation of The Aids Memorial Quilt, which is exhibited at the OAS Sculpture and Poet gardens.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 95/12