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December 5, 2004

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HIV/AIDS & Human Rights

"The goal of realizing human rights is fundamental to the global fight against AIDS. And in a world facing a terrible epidemic - one that has already spread further, faster and to more devastating effect than any other in human history - winning the fight against AIDS is a precondition for achieving rights worth enjoying."

- Dr Peter Piot, UNAIDS Executive Director
Several years of experience in addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic have confirmed that the promotion and protection of human rights constitute an essential component in preventing transmission of HIV, reducing vulnerability to infection and the impact of HIV/AIDS.

However, in practice:
*Fundamental human rights of people living with HIV/AIDS, such as the right to non-discrimination, equal protection and equality before the law, privacy, liberty of movement, work, equal access to education, housing, health care, social security, assistance and welfare, are often violated based on their known or presumed HIV/AIDS status.

*Lack of respect for human rights continues to increase vulnerability to HIV infection of individuals and the whole society. Individuals or groups who suffer discrimination and lack of human rights protection are both more vulnerable to becoming infected and less able to cope with the burdens of HIV/AIDS. Refugees, migrants, prisoners, men who have sex with men, sex workers and injecting drug users may be more vulnerable to contracting HIV because they often are unable to realize their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Further, gender inequalities spur on the spread of the epidemic and its disproportionate impact on women.

*The response to the HIV epidemic is hindered due to lack of enjoyment of freedoms of speech and association; the right to information and education by infected and affected groups, and the civil society at large.

Respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights is central to the AIDS agenda, and equally, HIV/AIDS needs to be at the centre of the global human rights agenda.

Source: UNAIDS website.

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