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Ban Ki-Moon urges fight against discrimination of HIV/AIDS patients

Wednesday, December 2nd 2009 - 15:25 UTC
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Ban expressed his appreciation to government leaders, who participated in the World AIDS Day events around the world Ban expressed his appreciation to government leaders, who participated in the World AIDS Day events around the world

The United Nations Secretary General on Monday called for efforts to fight discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS.

Speaking at the “Light for Rights” on World AIDS Day held at the Washington Square Park Memorial Arch in New York, Ban Ki-Moon said: ”We are here tonight to denounce the discrimination they (people living with HIV/AIDS) face -- the fear and stigma, the shame and rejection, the threat of losing their jobs.“

Braving a cold winter breeze, Ban said that ”for too long and in too many places, too many people have been pushed beyond the reach of prevention and treatment, care and support.

“We must respond by shining the full light of human rights on the challenge,” he said. “I call on all countries to dismantle legal frameworks that institutionalize discrimination against people living with HIV and people are at most risk of infection.”

The UN chief also urged that efforts be made to get rid of all laws, policies and practices that elicit responses that are counter-productive and unjust.

Fear, stigma, discrimination and even criminal laws have driven people with HIV/AIDS into the shadows, forcing them to often die in isolation, fear and shame due to their health condition.

To commemorate World AIDS Day 2009, the Foundation for AIDS Research (AMFAR), UNAIDS, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and World AIDS Campaign launched a new global “Light for Rights” campaign organized to draw the world's attention to the World AIDS Day theme of HIV Treatment Access and Human Rights.

The campaign was aimed to “Shine a Human Rights Light” on people with HIV/AIDS to allow them to emerge from the shadows, fear and shame associated with their health condition to live in the light, where they can gain access to the information, services, care and essential medical treatments they need to live long and productive lives.

The lights on the Washington Square Park Memorial Arch were turned off during the event to remember those who succumbed to AIDS and to symbolize how stigma drives people with HIV into the shadows.

After a brief period of darkness, the lights were turned back on to emphasize the need to shine the light on human rights for those living with HIV/AIDS around the globe. Floodlights on the Empire State Building, clearly visible through the arch, were also turned off and then back on at the same time.

At the ceremony, Ban also expressed his appreciation to government leaders, communities, activists and those who participated in the World AIDS Day events around the world.

He said he was pleased to see that the global mobilization against AIDS has produced remarkable results, but warned that the “gains must be protected and sustained.”

Ban added he was delighted to see that the number of casualties caused by HIV/AIDS has continued to decline. “Fewer people are being infected by HIV, and significantly more people are receiving treatment,” he observed.

Noting that the response to AIDS is crucial for the broader effort to improve global public health, he said that health is a tie that binds all of the Millennium Goals.

“If we fail to meet our targets on health, we will never overcome poverty, prevent hunger, lower childhood mortality, and protect the health and well-being of women.

”This is among the top priorities as secretary general,“ said Ban, who also warned not to cut back on investments in health.

”The current crisis should not be an excuse to abandon treatment,“ he said. ”Let us keep striving to achieve universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support. Let us keep fighting discrimination and changing the mindset that are perpetrated. Let us shine the powerful light of human rights on this challenge from darkness to light.

“We have lost too many loved ones,” he said. “And we are now more determined than ever to fight the AIDS epidemic.”

Ban also expressed his appreciation of the recent announcement by U.S. President Barack Obama that the United States will remove travel restrictions that have kept people with HIV/AIDS from entering the country.

He urged other countries to take similar steps.

Speaker of the New York City Council Christine Quinn and Naomi Watts, UNAIDS goodwill ambassador, also attended the event.

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