Medical advances, improved access to care, prevention initiatives, and revived determination are all good signs, but as a global culture, we will need to shift our perspective to stop the spread of HIV.
A judgment by the high court in Namibia in favor of three women who claimed they had been sterilized without their informed consent confirms the principle that in order for consent to be truly “informed,” it must be freely given and clearly understood.
If we are fighting HIV, we need to join hands no matter whether we are straight, gay, sex workers, whatever…but with no discrimination. This is high time we tell the US government they should respect all human rights – whether you are a sex worker, straight, gay, disabled. We are all equal.
The definition of criminal offenses, the selective implementation of the law, and the resulting stereotypes generate a self-enforcing loop of discrimination and exclusion to the detriment of all. The exclusion of so many legitimate voices from this year’s AIDS conference is just one example.
We will only be able to get people into treatment early, and retain them in treatment, if we finally move from rhetoric to real action on HIV and human rights.
A rights-based perspective for the global AIDS response requires addressing the comprehensive needs of women and girls, including those seen in areas that do not “conform” to the focus on motherhood and marriage.
The AIDS response is not just about an epidemic; the AIDS response is, has been, and must be, an instrument to fight for social justice. It requires us to confront and overcome the inequalities that wrongly separate people into “deserving” and “undeserving”.
The US immigration rules place restrictions on the ability of sex workers and people who use drugs to enter the country. These rules are but one example of the many ways in which national and international laws, regulations and policies are impacting on the HIV vulnerability of most at-risk groups across the world.
Integrated sexual and reproductive health services mean providing HIV prevention and testing, contraceptive care, and other services all under the same roof. With this simple and cost-effective solution, we could potentially save the lives of millions of women and children around the world.
We need to support the implementation of evidence-based health policy and effectively address the needs of communities infected and affected by HIV. We need to fully embrace the Washington DC declaration. Only then can we truly turn the tide together.