The head of the United Nations agency charged with coordinating the fight against HIV/AIDS is in Brazil this week promoting awareness of the link between the epidemic and tuberculosis and the necessity to address discrimination in the South American country’s response to HIV.
Brazil is home to some 40% of people (730,000) living with HIV in Latin America, the largest epidemic in the region, while the next most significant HIV-positive population lives in Mexico with 200,000 people.
However, AIDS mortality rates were halved between 1996 and 2002 thanks to the country’s commitment to providing access to both HIV prevention and treatment services, which has also helped stabilise the epidemic.
“We have to stop people living with HIV from dying of tuberculosis,” Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS UNAIDS, said at yesterday’s launch of a report by the World Health Organization, WHO on global TB control.
“Universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support must include TB prevention, diagnosis and treatment. When HIV and TB services are combined, they save lives,” stressed Mr. Sidibé.
Underscoring a message of solidarity with those affected by HIV and his opposition to laws blocking AIDS services, Mr. Sidibé will meet in Brasília with Government officials, the National Congress Parliamentary group on HIV, as well as civil society actors active in promoting HIV awareness, protecting human rights and ending stigma and discrimination.
One meeting will bring together national level representatives of groups representing people living with HIV, youth, women, and lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans-genders to discuss these issues within the national and local context.
Mr. Sidibé also plans to visit organizations providing vital services to children and young people in Rio de Janeiro as part of his first official trip to Brazil since becoming Executive Director of UNAIDS.