‘Safeguard people with HIV’
The need for legislation to protect people living with HIV/AIDS from discrimination was emphasised during a two-day symposium on HIV And Human Rights In The Caribbean held at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.
Susan Timberlake, senior human rights and law adviser, UNAIDS Secretariat, Geneva, Switzerland, said people with HIV/AIDS did not have more rights than other people, but they had the same rights as everyone else and should be entitled to the appropriate health care.
The symposium, organised by the University of the West Indies, UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS, brought to the surface underlying prejudices and fears that have to be dealt with.
Sir George Alleyne, UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean, said the genesis of the symposium, the nature of the problem, and what it was hoped would be achieved through the meeting were matters of importance to the gathering.
These areas were highlighted, he said, because of “an appreciation that throughout the world abuse or negation of human rights, stigma, discrimination were inimical to adequate public health and, of course, to the problem of HIV/AIDS that if people are stigmatised [or] discriminated against they would not come forward for treatment”.
“When people do not come forward for treatment you will never get hold of the epidemic,” Sir George said.
Progress was being achieved in the fight against HIV/AIDS as more people were coming forward for treatment and mother-to-child transmission had dropped, but progress could be faster if the rights of persons living with HIV/AIDS were not being abused, Alleyne added.
He said that the Caribbean was the only place in the Americas that had laws on its books that made homosexual practices a crime.
Those kinds of laws, he added, were inherently discriminatory and were one of the factors keeping that group from coming forward to be tested. (LK)