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Discrimination under fire on World AIDS Day

Shining light on rightsOn Red Ribbon Award calls for nominations to honour community leadership and action on AIDSthis year’s World AIDS Day the UNAIDS family and the XVIII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2010) are announcing a global call for nominations for the 2010 Red Ribbon Award. The Award honours community-based organisations for their contributions in responding to the AIDS epidemic.  The call has been made on World AIDS Day as people around the world come together in global solidarity for people living with HIV. This year’s theme is Human Rights and Universal Access which has been chosen to address the critical need to protect human rights and ensure universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.  “I am pleased by the emphasis this year on upholding human rights,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “Previous Red Ribbon honorees are an example to us all on how to act with dignity in the face of adversity. The work of community-based organizations will be more effective if not hampered by discrimination against people living with HIV and populations most at risk, including sex workers, drug users and men who have sex with men.”   The biennial award, which will be presented at next summer’s International AIDS Conference in Vienna, will be awarded to 25 organisations which have shown outstanding community leadership and action on AIDS.  “This prestigious award draws attention to the exceptional work of community organizations all over the world working at the forefront of the response to the epidemic,” said Mr. Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). “I look forward to hearing more about the outstanding work these groups are doing,” he added.  The Red Ribbon Award aims to provide a global platform for communities touched by HIV. All 25 awardees will receive a monetary prize of US$ 5,000 and five of the awardees will receive special recognition and an additional US$ 15,000 award. The five award categories for outstanding community leadership and action on AIDS are:

  • Ensure that that people living with HIV receive treatment
  • Support HIV prevention, treatment and care programmes for people who use drugs
  • Remove punitive policies and laws, stigma and discrimination that block effective AIDS responses and marginalize key populations (men who have sex with men, transgender, sex workers and people in prisons)
  • Stop violence against women and girls and promote gender equality
  • Enhance social support for those affected by HIV, including orphans and vulnerable children
  • UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador Naomi Watts, attending a World AIDS Day event in New York said. “I am proud to be part of this initiative. The award winners are small organizations, with limited resources at their disposal, yet they do outstanding work that will now be recognized globally. The efforts of these community organizations may seem like they create tiny sparks. Together, however, these sparks provide a vibrant light”.   The Red Ribbon Award is supported by the entire UNAIDS family and the organisers of the XVIII International AIDS Conference where representatives from the 25 winning organizations will anchor an innovative community dialogue space to discuss their priorities, highlight their challenges, and engage with global leaders.   “Building a robust response to HIV is essential for advancing the Millennium Development Goals. Community-based organizations play a vital role in this response – helping to empower women and girls, tackle poverty and stigma, and improve community health,” said United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark. “The Red Ribbon Award presents a unique opportunity to support the work of local organizations, whose efforts and successes will determine our ability to reverse the tide of the HIV epidemic and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.”

    Winning a Red Ribbon Award is highly coveted by community organizations around the world, because the recognition it brings often leads to other awards, more visibility, more funding and other types of additional support.  “This is more than an award programme,” said Daphne Gondwe from the Coalition of Women Living with HIV/AIDS in Malawi, a 2008 winner. “Ultimately, the Red Ribbon Award aims to support creative and sustainable ways to provide care, treatment and support to people living with HIV in our communities.”  Nominations will be accepted from 1 December 2009 through 28 February 2010. Information can be found on www.redribbonaward.org  or by contacting redribbonaward@undp.org. All community-based organisations working to halt and reverse the spread of HIV are encouraged to apply

    Calls for an end to discrimination against sufferers rang out on World AIDS Day on Tuesday as South Africa, the country worst affected by the pandemic, rolled out a new battleplan to beat the virus.  With more than 33 million people round the world carrying the virus, China said the incidence among homosexuals was gaining pace while there were warnings in Europe that heterosexual contacts had become the chief transmission route.  And French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy lent her star power to the global campaign against AIDS by calling for greater efforts Hu_Jintaoto beat mother-to-child HIV transmission.  In China President Hu Jintao called on people in the world’s most populous nation not to discriminate against those with HIV. You “must care more and better for AIDS patients and people living with HIV, and in particular guide society into not discriminating against them,” Hu told AIDS prevention volunteers in Beijing, comments aired by state television.  Levels of stigma and discrimination against sufferers remain high in large parts of Asia, such as South Korea where many foreign workers are forced to undergo mandatory HIV tests to secure visas.  A group representing HIV carriers, a migrants’ trade union and three other rights groups filed a petition Tuesday with South Korea’s human rights watchdog, saying the policy breaches the rights of migrant workers. Such practices are “in breach of the rights to human worth and dignity and rights to work” it said, adding that discrimination against foreigners on grounds of nationality, social status or illness was unconstitutional.  In an annual report released last week, the UN said that around two million people died of the disease in 2008, bringing the overall toll to around 25 million since the virus was first detected three decades ago.South Africa remains the world’s worst-hit country, a status which many campaigners have attributed to a history of “denialism” within government.     President Jacob Zuma, who was then head of the National AIDS jacob-zumaCouncil, provoked ridicule three years ago when he said that he had showered to wash away the risk of AIDS after having sex with an HIV-positive woman.  But since then, Zuma has been trying to reshape his image and used World AIDS Day to announce a raft of new measures to rein in the disease that has hit 5.7 million of South Africa’s 48 million people. “Let today be the dawn of a new era. Let there be no more shame, no more blame, no more discrimination and no more stigma,” he said in his speech.  The most eye-catching announcement from Zuma was that all babies with HIV would receive anti-retroviral treatment.   “All children under one year of age will get treatment if they test positive,” Zuma said.  He also announced expanded treatment for pregnant women, in a bid to prevent the transmission of HIV to their children.   China’s health ministry said homosexual transmission of the disease was gaining pace and called for health authorities nationwide to step up prevention work.  “Sexual contact continues to be the main channel of transmission with the speed of homosexual transmission clearly increasing,” the health ministry said.  “This is a new situation that we need to pay attention to.” By the end of October 2009, China had 319,877 registered cases of HIV/AIDS, including 48,000 new cases this year, while nearly 50,000 people have died in China to AIDS, the ministry said.  The ministry has estimated that up to 740,000 people in China live with HIV.  But in a sign the epidemic is mutating differently in other parts of the world, authorities in the Ukraine said heterosexual contacts had become the chief transmission route for the HIV virus. “Heterosexual contact has become the chief transmission path as the number of new cases transmitted through drug consumption has dropped,” the UNAIDS coordinator in Ukraine Anna Shakarishvili told reporters.  Ukraine is one of Europe’s worst affected countries. Some 340,000 people aged over 15 years are considered HIV-positive, which amounts to 0.86 percent of the adult population, government statistics showed.

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