Used to the Language of Diplomacy, Officials Find it Hard to Talk About AIDS
June 18, 2001
At the UN in New York, diplomats from more than 100 countries have found themselves negotiating for 10-12 hours almost daily over the phraseology of a document that will be presented June 25-27 at a UN General Assembly special session on AIDS. Many countries that view homosexuality as a punishable sin object to the phrase "men who have sex with men" used to describe a vulnerable group in need of protection. Egyptian diplomat Amr Rashdy proposed wording that calls homosexuality "irresponsible sexual behavior." But Western diplomats and health experts argue that Rashdy and others, including the Vatican, are ignoring the realities of AIDS. "We want this document to be a precise image of the situation on AIDS, how to attack it, how to prevent it and who to focus on," said Chilean deputy ambassador Christian Maquieira. "So why strive for precision on a variety of targets and goals but be vague about who those targets and goals should apply to?"Adapted from:
The United States has proposed substituting a list of groups targeted for protection with the phrase "vulnerable individuals," including those who engage in "risky sexual behavior." The proposed substitution would eliminate what US representatives call political problems and conflicts with the US Constitution, which recognizes the rights of individuals rather than groups. The US suggestion does not, however, name any specific group and is so far unacceptable to European and Latin American allies and most American AIDS advocates. But some say the discussions have at least forced an insular group of decision-makers to come to terms with the language of AIDS. "A year ago, it was hard for countries to say 'gay,' or 'sex,' in UN meetings," said top US negotiator Michael Southwick.
06.16.01; Dafna Linzer
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.