Press Release

Confronting AIDS: Real Leadership on Hard Human Rights Issues

The following statement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, is issued on the occasion of World AIDS day, which is commemorated on 1 December 2007.

Geneva, 30 November 2007-- This year, as we mark World AIDS Day, we do so in a world where 6,800 HIV infections are occurring and 5,700 people are dying of AIDS daily. An individual’s survival prospects frequently hinge upon his or her place of birth, residence and socio-economic status. This is both an affront to human dignity and a challenge to leadership at global, national and local levels.

The first and primary leadership call is for governments to step forward and provide the basic human rights guarantees necessary for HIV to be overcome. Governments have committed themselves to achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support by 2010. This is a truly ambitious goal. It is also a human right.

To achieve this goal, we must harness our efforts on many fronts. Firstly, we must end the discrimination against people living with HIV and support them to become strong, active players in determining policies and programmes that will prevent further infections and provide treatment. There must be an end to punitive measures against people living with HIV, for instance, by enacting travel restrictions or criminalizing HIV transmission. Governments should enact and enforce laws that will protect women from infection, from violence inside and outside marriage, as well as laws guaranteeing their economic and social equality.

Finally governments must care for the most disaffected and marginalized in their societies, even those who engage in activities which may be illegal in some countries. Sex workers, prisoners and persons in detention, men who have sex with men, and injecting drug users must have their human rights respected and protected, including rights to health, non-discrimination and freedom from violence. These people are amongst the worst affected in the pandemic, yet their rights are disproportionately violated.

In the lead up to the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we must be reminded that keeping the commitment to human rights means keeping the commitment to stop HIV.