Addressing Stigma Key in Fight Against HIV/AIDS, U.N. Secretary-General Writes
Although a recent UNAIDS report shows "encouraging progress in preventing HIV in a number of the most vulnerable countries," one "of the biggest hurdles for our global response to AIDS" is "the stigma factor," United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes in a Washington Times opinion piece. Ban continues, "Stigma remains the single most important barrier to public action," and it "helps make AIDS the silent killer, because people fear the social disgrace of speaking about it or taking easily available precautions." He writes, "Stigma is a chief reason the AIDS epidemic continues to devastate societies around the world."
According to Ban, "To a greater or lesser degree, almost everywhere in the world, discrimination remains a fact of daily life for people living with HIV." He adds, "One-third of all countries have virtually no laws protecting their rights. Almost all permit at least some form of discrimination -- against women and children who contract the disease, against gay men, against communities at risk."
"We can fight stigma," he writes, adding, "Enlightened laws and policies are key." At the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City this week, Ban says he called on world leaders to "speak out against discrimination and to guarantee the rights of people living with HIV." He adds, "Schools should teach respect and understanding. Religious leaders should preach tolerance. The media should condemn prejudice and use its influence to advance social change, from securing legal protections to ensuring access to health care."
"Fortunately, more and more people are finding their voices," Ban writes, adding that HIV-positive people who work to fight stigma are "at the heart of the global campaign against AIDS. It is impossible not to admire their courage and commitment. Yet their efforts, alone, are not enough."
Ban concludes, "Above all, we must recognize that those who bear the stigma of HIV should not be those who live with the disease. It is those who allow it" (Ban, Washington Times, 8/6).
Kaisernetwork.org is the official webcaster of the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. Click here to sign up for your Daily Update e-mail during the conference. A webcast of the opening ceremony during which Ban spoke also is available online.