Our Perspective

      • A step forward against HIV abuses | Jeffrey O’Malley

        02 Aug 2012

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        A woman and her child at Epembe in Kaokoland, Namibia. UN Photo/Alon Reininger

        In a landmark but little noticed decision, a Namibian court ruled this week that state hospitals illegally sterilized three HIV-positive women. While the judge found no link to their HIV-positive status, his decision paves the way for legal action by other women who claim they were coerced into sterilization because they are infected with the virus that causes AIDS, as part of an effort to slow its spread in the southern African country. The women said they were given forms authorizing the procedure just before and after delivering babies by caesarean sections without being told what they were signing—while they were either in acute pain or in labor. This important decision affirms the rights of all women to the important standard of informed consent and points to the specific vulnerability of women and girls living with HIV with regard to their reproductive rights. A just-released report by the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, an independent Commission convened by UNDP on behalf of the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), highlights the issues of coerced sterilization and forced abortion among HIV-positive women. The report, HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights, and Health, found that “coercive and discriminatory practices in Read More

      • Humanitarian challenges loom in developing Myanmar | Ashok Nigam

        31 Jul 2012

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        A young girl from Myanmar attends school at a refugee camp in eastern Bangladesh. Photo: Jared Katz, UNDP Picture This

        Myanmar is vulnerable to natural disasters and humanitarian crises. The United Nations and its partners—including national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs)—are working with the people of Myanmar to help build greater resilience in the face of both. The worst recent natural disaster, Cyclone Nargis, struck Myanmar on 2-3 May 2008. Around 140,000 people died and 2.4 million were severely affected. On Oct. 22, 2010, in the western coastal state of Rakhine, Cyclone Giri left 45 people dead and affected some 260,000. An earthquake on March 24, 2011, in the southern part of the Shan State, near the Thai and Lao borders, registered 6.8 on the Richter scale. These and other natural disasters have caused untold human suffering. Thousands upon thousands have had to rebuild their lives from scratch. Communal conflicts have also displaced large numbers of people. In all instances, local communities and state actors have responded first. Neighbors have heroically helped one another, and religious groups and community leaders responded instantaneously. Myanmar has learned from these disasters and communities have become more resilient. But the government now recognizes that international support can help further. As a trusted partner, the UN has delivered both developmental and humanitarian assistance in Myanmar and Read More

      • AIDS 2012 offers hope, new responses | Emilie Pradichit & Mandeep Dhaliwal

        26 Jul 2012

        Washington—Science suggests an AIDS-free generation is within reach. We must reflect on lessons and human rights struggles of the last three decades of the AIDS response if we are to do better in delivering the best that science and innovation can offer to those most in need. More than 8 million people with HIV in poor and middle-income countries received AIDS medications last year, up from 6.6 million in 2010. Nearly 60 percent of the 1.5 million pregnant women living with HIV in poor countries also received medications in 2011, so their babies are less likely to be infected. Since this epidemic began, we have grappled with social and structural inequalities fuelling HIV. Presenters at the International AIDS conference this week called for enabling legal environments and urgent action against stigma, marginalization, discrimination, and criminalization on the basis of HIV status, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Recommendations by the UNDP-led Global Commission on HIV & the Law report, “Risks, Rights & Health,” address many of these issues. Increasingly we hear calls for the abolition of laws criminalizing HIV transmission, exposure, and non-disclosure. At a session convened by The Lancet, data showed that criminalization of male homosexual practice was associated in African Read More