Agenda Item 5. Update on Actions to Reduce Stigma and Discrimination in All Its Forms
Delivered by Aditia Taslim, Rumah Cemara, Indonesia
People in Asia and Pacific are facing increasing risk of HIV and other viral infections, with 38 countries applying laws that create barriers to HIV response; 15 with compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation for people who inject drugs, including 13 countries without explicit reference to harm reduction for people who inject drugs in the national programme. Additionally, 37 countries criminalise some aspects of sex work and 17 criminalise same-sex relations. Yesterday, I spoke about failing leadership that put people who inject drugs at high risk of new HIV infections. The failure to see evidence and rights-based approaches, and the increasing force from intolerant groups will continue to leave us behind.
Just two months ago in our region, Asia and the Pacific, we were shocked by the recent raid by law enforcement authorities on a Gay Spa. Not that we were surprised with the continuous criminalisation, but the fact that condoms distributed by the Spa were used as evidence to detain at least 51 gay men. We have also seen countless forced-closure of brothels that create transactional sex on the streets and Social Media platforms. The state of war on drugs, as I mentioned yesterday, will only create new HIV infections. Indonesia, right now, contributes 18% of new HIV infections in Asia and the Pacific, after China and India.
With the advancement of medical technology, people living with HIV now have higher life expectancy compared to 20 years ago. However, if we are to die, we are not dying because of AIDS; we are dying because of stigma, discrimination, criminalisation and the continuously shrinking civil society space that silences our critical role in the response.
Business as usual is not enough. It is time that we make a collective and stronger political commitment, with funding and clearer targets, to end stigma and discrimination.