On World AIDS Day, a Call for Universal Access and Human Rights

 

On World AIDS Day, a Call for Universal Access and Human Rights

November 30, 2010

On a recent trip to Zimbabwe, an AJWS grants officer visited the home of a gentleman who was dying from AIDS. “How do you think you got infected?” the officer asked. The man replied matter-of-factly, “I was bewitched.”

This exchange is just one of many sobering reminders that universal access and human rights—the theme of World AIDS Day 2010—are preconditions for empowering our global community and are imperative for stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS worldwide.

According to UNAIDS estimates, there are now 33.3 million people living with HIV, including 2.5 million children. Increasingly, human rights efforts are being integrated into HIV/AIDS prevention around the globe. Eighty-nine percent of the world’s countries now explicitly acknowledge or address human rights in their HIV/AIDS strategies and 91 percent have programs in place to reduce stigma and discrimination.

Investments in HIV prevention programming are producing significant results in many of the most affected countries. Between 2001 and 2009, the rate of new HIV infections stabilized or decreased by more than 25 percent in at least 56 countries around the world, including 34 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Of the five countries with the largest epidemics in the region, four countries—Ethiopia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe—have reduced rates of new HIV infections by more than 25percent, while Nigeria’s epidemic has stabilized.

But despite this significant progress, punitive laws continue to restrict access to AIDS-related services. This is particularly true in the Asia-Pacific region, where 90 percent of countries have laws that inhibit the rights of people living with HIV.

AJWS supports over 70 grassroots organizations that are advocating for the health and human rights of people living with HIV/AIDS. Through education, advocacy and direct service, AJWS’s partners are expanding possibilities for universal access to antiretroviral treatment, providing “treatment literacy training” to help HIV-positive individuals adhere to their drug regimens, offering preventative care, assisting AIDS orphans, fighting stigma and discrimination, providing home-based care, and meeting the emotional needs of children, orphans and other bereaved family members.

Some examples of how universal access and human rights are being bolstered by AJWS’s grantees:

In Zimbabwe, Women and AIDS Support Network (WASN) addresses women’s issues associated with HIV/AIDS through advocacy, support and networking. The organization disseminates information on sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls, and provides skills training, services and counseling to help reduce the rates of sexually transmitted diseases. AJWS supports WASN’s initiative to give voice to how HIV/AIDS has affected disabled people. WASN is documenting and disseminate stories from women and girls with disabilities whose experiences with HIV/AIDS and sexual violence are too often overlooked.

In Nigeria, Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS), a media-based NGO working to provide innovative communications interventions to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS, is helping HIV-positive Nigerians to advocate for their rights, by strengthening their skills in program-management, advocacy and resource-mobilization.

In India, SAATHII engages individuals and organizations in the fight against HIV/AIDS through information dissemination, advocacy, networking, research, capacity building, care, support and treatment services. AJWS supports SAATHII’s health rights program to implement a government-sponsored project for HIV-infected children and families and to provide training modules and educational materials to the government to ensure that HIV/AIDS services become a core part of India’s Women and Child Welfare department.

Universal access and human rights remain central to AJWS’s work, not just on World AIDS Day, but every day of the year as we build a more just and equitable world.

World AIDS Day 2008 youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8KLSrJnRWM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8KLSrJnRWM _8KLSrJnRWM 16_9 /embed-source/youtube