Joit statement by Sergio Vieira de Mello e Paul Hunt, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health on World AIDS Day
29 November 2002
Informe sobre direito à saúde no dia Mundial da AIDS. 29 de novembro de 2002
HIV/AIDS thrives where human rights are denied: it attacks people already marginalized by poverty, gender inequality, racism and other forms of discrimination. Along with the burden of the disease, people living with HIV/AIDS too often face the misery of ostracism by their own societies. Children orphaned by AIDS face a future of exploitation and abuse.
Today, 42 million women, men, girls and boys are affected by HIV and AIDS around the world. More than 3 million people died of AIDS in 2002 alone. Around 14 million children have been orphaned. This is a human rights emergency.
Fundamental human rights including the right to dignity, equality and non-discrimination are essential to ending the stigma experienced by people living with HIV/AIDS. Fear of being villified stops people from coming forward to learn their HIV-status and from accessing care, treatment and support. Too often, these fears are grounded in the reality of the discrimination that people living with HIV/AIDS face: they are refused employment, deprived of health care services, stripped of education opportunities. Stopping this vicious cycle of fear and denial is a human rights imperative. It can also be a matter of life and death.
What needs to be done? One crucial step is ensuring access to treatment, care and support. Equally important are prevention measures, including access to appropriate information, education, goods and services. Efforts by governments and political leaders to speak out against stigma and combat discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS and members of vulnerable groups are essential. All of these steps are central to the solemn pledge made by all UN Member States in the Declaration of Commitment adopted at last year’s General Assembly special session.
This year’s World AIDS Campaign is an urgent appeal for action against discrimination. All of us – governments, religious and community leaders, the media, young people and health professionals – have a role to play in ensuring that the human rights of all people, regardless of their HIV status, are respected. Let each and every one of us do our part.