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 and Caribbean countries with a doubling of HIV prevalence.

A UNICEF presentation called for urgent attention to end gender inequality and address the unique vulnerability of adolescent girls and young women—notably in early marriage, access to health services, and the need for more effective responses to violence against women and girls.

The Global Commission on HIV & the Law also called for laws prohibiting early marriage, an end to violence against women and girls, and removal of legal barriers to sexual and reproductive health services for women and girls.

Legal progress also means ensuring no HIV-positive woman, anywhere, will be subject to forced sterilization or forced abortion ever again.

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