On this 15th annual World AIDS Day, December 1st., the United Nations is calling for an end to the stigma and discrimination associated with the disease.
UN AIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said (Saturday) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that the social prejudice against people with AIDS could be as destructive as the disease itself.
He said, “AIDS kill three million people this year and that’s up from 2.8 million last year. So it continues to kill more people. It continues to infect more people. There are five million new infections and we’ve now 42 million people living with HIV.”
In his World AIDS day message, Dr. Piot noted for the first time in the epidemic history, the number of women living with HIV has risen to 50 % of the global total.
He reminded that stigma and equality push women to the end of treatment queue, worsen HIV risks, sustain sexual violence and deprive girls of schooling.
Yet he said the world needs to remember that women’s organising in care, support and community education has been one key to success against the epidemic.
Saluting World AIDS day, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan deplored the burden of HIV-related stigma. He said the impact of stigma can be as detrimental as the virus itself. The solitude and lack of support it imposes are deeply wounding to those who suffer from it. Some people may be shunned by their community, or most tragic of all, by their own family.
The stigma leads to silence, and when it comes to fighting AIDS, Mr. Annan said, silence is death. Whatever laws and regulations are adopted, the most powerful weapons against fighting stigma and silence are the voices of the world’s people speaking up about AIDS.
By adopting the slogan “LIVE AND LET LIVE” , Mr.Annan said, this year’s World AIDS campaign challenges everyone that all people, with or without HIV, can realize their human rights and live in dignity.
On the same note, Burma’s democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi once told VOA in an interview, “This is a matter of concern for the whole country. National League For Democracy (NLD) does promote awareness on HIV/AIDS to both young and old. We need to be open about this issue. We have to be compassionate towards HIV/AIDS patients. We cannot discriminate against them. We must be open and educate people to make them understand how to prevent the disease from spreading."
Dr. Khin Saw Win from Alberta, Canada who promotes health and human rights also said fear of being stigmatized led HIV patients to come forward to be tested and seeking help for treatment.