Speaking at the 19th International AIDS conference, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance voiced concerns about the potential for the on-going, serious human rights violations taking place across the world to be forgotten, in light of the improved global HIV response.
The Global Commission on HIV and the Law has recently found that 78 of the 196 countries recognised by the UN, classify same-sex activity as a criminal offence, many of whom punishing this so-called crime with flogging or even execution.
The Alliance’s Executive Director, Alvaro Bermejo, said; ‘We should be proud of the fact that more than eight million people worldwide, many of them in some of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, got the antiretroviral treatment that they needed last year. But this year, we have witnessed some spine-chilling abuse of people most at risk of HIV that carries a very real threat of setting back any progress made to date in stemming new infections.’ He went on to highlight countries such as Uganda, who are on the verge of banning ‘gay rights’ agencies, and the Latin American community, whose persecution of the transgender population is affecting the uptake of counselling and HIV treatment.
As cases of human rights abuse in high-risk countries begin to rise, the level of funding available for HIV treatment has worryingly declined. The International HIV/AIDS Alliance has come up with a series of comprehensive policies that they have been urging governments to implement:
- Ensure that wider political, social and economic realities are considered when addressing HIV in any society.
- Create an environment that fully respects, protects and promotes human rights, and allows people living with, and vulnerable to HIV to participate in HIV treatments.
- Work towards the greatest possible access to HIV-related services, including prevention programmes for at-risk populations.
In Central America, 10 countries with the world’s highest rate of HIV among men who have sex with men (MSM), have increasingly inadequate funding to deal with the epidemic. In Trinidad and Tobago alone, during the period of 2004 to 2010, less than five per cent of the money spent on HIV prevention was allocated to programmes for the most vulnerable and at-risk: MSM, sex workers, drug users and prisoners. In addition to the lack of funding many countries across the world dehumanise these groups.
Bermejo continued: ‘It is only when human rights are placed at the core of national HIV programmes that positive public health outcomes will be achieved. Without reducing the vulnerability of marginalised populations and addressing human rights violations against people living with HIV, universal access will not be realised.’