This year, the NGO Delegation report focuses on the importance of the legal environment to national HIV response. Last year, our report focused specifically on stigma and discrimination and its impact on the access to prevention and care services. This year, our report complements the information collected last year from more than 1000 respondents.
In 2011, we conducted a series of 27 focus groups in which approximately 250 participants from every region of the world participated, covering a broad range and diversity of people. All focus groups were developed with the same methodology ensuring a common result. The feedback and commitment all participants have shown is strong evidence of the need to share their experiences and also to bring solutions so that others avoid suffering similar violations and abuses.
These encourage us to be messengers of their experiences and voices.
The NGO Delegation is in a very difficult position today. In preparing the NGO report, we undertook an in-depth process of gathering testimonials from our respective constituencies around the planet. We heard terrible, heart breaking stories of injustices, which many of us experience and witness first hand ourselves on a day-to-day basis. The only logical starting position given what we heard and given what many of us know as the truth is to ask that unwarranted criminalization and punitive treatment of people living with and most affected by HIV stop – first because it is wrong and second because it is fueling AIDS.
Now we invite you to see the video that summarizes the report with the voices and faces of the real actors.
It is difficult to accept that after the testimonies and terrible indignities many of us must suffer and that we know are so painful, we are then asked to remain silent out of respect for political processes. After all, in an ideal world, sovereignty and protocols with respect to the State should not supersede human rights principles – they should be informed and governed by them. Similarly, public health should not be blindly led by empirical evidence alone but balanced by the same rights-based principles that should be guiding the State.
Sadly, this is not the case today, more than 30 years after the first case of HIV was diagnosed. The NGO Delegation is dismayed and disappointed by the realization that still there are so many obstacles to solving these real problems and violations experienced by people living with or affected by HIV and that the fight against HIV may not be won in our lifetime since defeating AIDS is so much related to political issues. All of us recognize that the fight against HIV is related to the elimination of stigma and discrimination and that punitive legal environments are unsolved barriers to defeat AIDS. We know that ending AIDS will not happen without the full, unwavering support for human rights for all people living with and affected by HIV. This will take political will, leadership and forethought. We also know that change at this level happens very, very slowly. Understanding that we must sometimes swallow the difficult pill, even knowing it is not the best OR wrong we do so today by withdrawing our proposed decision points with the hope that we keep a constructive dialogue open and we continue to slow long march towards the realization of human rights for all people.
So we ask: how will we promote and work for universal access if still so many of us avoid attending health care services because we are afraid we might be jailed or will be discriminated against, humiliated, blackmailed and/or stigmatized because of who we are? We invite UNAIDS and all PCB members to begin the dialogue about human rights with the Getting to Zero strategy in mind.
The development of enabling legal environment related to HIV transmission and the strengthening of legal literacy programs are issues that UNAIDS must continue to champion, if we are to make Getting to Zero a reality. UNAIDS has an important role to play, as was clearly express in the HLM report, in guiding stakeholders to adopt policies that address sexual and reproductive health and rights of all people living with and affected by HIV, including men who have sex with men, migrants, people who inject drugs, prisoners, persons who have sex in transactional consensual relations, transgender people, women and young people. Policies promoting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of people living with HIV are policies that facilitate access to contraceptives and to free choice decisions in the framework of their sexual and reproductive rights. They are also policies that end the practice of forced sterilization and the criminalization of HIV transmission or exposure. These practices have no place in evidence-informed, rights-based public health approaches.
We ask the PCB to take note of the NGO PCB Report as part of the official record of today’s meeting in recognition of all people living with and affected by HIV enduring the consequences of restrictive legal environments.