U.N. Decision to Exclude Organizations Representing Most At-Risk Populations from the U.N. AIDS Conference Is a “Narrow-Minded Decision that Places Politics and Prejudice above Public Health and Human Rights”; AIDS Epidemic Will Not End Unless Affected Populations Have a Seat at the Table
Statement by Robert Bank, Incoming President of American Jewish World Service, in response to the barring of stigmatized groups from the U.N. global meeting to stop the AIDS epidemic:
“Around the world, some of the people who suffer the highest rates of HIV and AIDS—gay men, trans people, sex workers and intravenous drug users—have faced devastating stigma that impedes public health efforts to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. By blocking organizations representing these populations from attending the 2016 United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS, some countries are insisting that intolerance stand in the way of the global effort to stop the epidemic. In order to combat AIDS, the voices of the most stigmatized groups must have a seat at the table.
“We are deeply disappointed that the U.N., which was built on the foundation to address all human rights without judgment, would stand by as some of its members silence 22 groups representing some of the communities most severely affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This is a narrow-minded decision that puts politics and prejudice above public health and human rights. Most tragically, it replaces human compassion with callousness.
“The world cannot end the AIDS epidemic by 2030—one of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals targets—unless those who are on the frontlines of the battle are at the table. To ignore their experience and their expertise disregards the fundamental tenets of the United Nations and its goals.
“AJWS supports grassroots organizations at the forefront of the struggle against HIV and AIDS in the developing world. Fighting against powerful stigma and discrimination by national governments and mainstream health providers, these organizations have been critical players in addressing the HIV/AIDS crisis for over 35 years. They cannot be silenced, and we are proud to support their efforts.”
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