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UNAIDS urges scrap of laws that increase discrimination against HIV/AIDS patient

by Haruna Gimba

By Haruna Gimba

The United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has called for the scrapping of harmful laws that increase discrimination against HIV/AIDS patient.

The UNAIDS said on Tuesday, Zero Discrimination Day that everyone has the right to live a healthy, full, and productive life with dignity, regardless of their HIV or other medical status.

“People most vulnerable to HIV are often also the most marginalised in society,” said the UNAIDS Country Director for Indonesia, Krittayawan Boonto.

“Unfortunately, instead of receiving sufficient protection from discrimination, harmful laws still exist, putting marginalised populations at increased vulnerability.”

On Zero Discrimination Day, UNAIDS is highlighting the urgent need to act against discriminatory laws.

In many countries, legislation results in people being treated differently, excluded from essential services or being subject to undue restrictions on how they live their lives, simply because of who they are, what they do, or who they love, says UNAIDS.

“Criminalisation greatly undermines the HIV response,” explained Ms. Boonto. Such laws are discriminatory – they deny human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“States have a moral and legal obligation to remove discriminatory laws and to enact laws that protect people from discrimination.

“Everyone has a responsibility to hold states accountable, push for positive change and contribute to efforts to remove legalised discrimination.

“On this Zero Discrimination Day, UNAIDS calls for countries to take urgent action to protect vulnerable groups, including people living with HIV and key populations from discrimination,” the UN Country Director said.

Shelly recounted how she felt compelled to go from one treatment site to another, after overhearing nurses gossiping about patients’ medical histories, before landing at Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, on the Caribbean Island.

“I felt uncomfortable. If I am hearing about other clients, other clients can come inside and hear about me as well,” she said.

UNAIDS Country Director for Jamaica, Manoela Manova, explained that “comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation will strengthen the legal framework for the protection of human rights towards achieving equality for all.”

In 2019, authorities in the southeast Asian nation announced the Thailand Partnership for Zero Discrimination.

The partnership calls for intensified collaboration between the government and civil society to work on stigma and discrimination beyond healthcare settings, including workplaces, the education and legal systems.

UNAIDS has been involved since the outset of the initiative, by providing technical assistance to formulate the zero-discrimination strategy and the five-year action plan.

It is also to develop a monitoring and evaluation plan and operationalise the strategy as a joint effort between the government and civil society.

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