People With HIV/AIDS Still Face Violence, Repression: Human Rights Watch
July 18, 2006
Violence and government repression are undercutting the global AIDS battle, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Monday in Toronto, the city that is hosting next month's 16th International AIDS Conference.
"We can't defeat AIDS unless we end outrageous abuses against activists, outreach workers, people living with AIDS and those most vulnerable to infection," said Joe Amon, HRW's director of HIV/AIDS. "We know everything that we need right now to fight the epidemic. We need resources. We need governments to have a political commitment, to show a will and to protect those who are vulnerable."
Ukraine's prohibition of needle exchange and methadone programs in an effort to stem intravenous drug use is actually exacerbating the epidemic, said Amon. "If you take a hard-line, police approach, what you do is drive users underground, further away from services that protect them from HIV, and you'll spread the disease further," he said.
In Uganda -- which previously registered a sharp decline in HIV prevalence -- shifting political and social views backed by evangelical groups have led to HIV prevention policies that favor abstinence and fidelity and abandon the promotion of condom use, said Amon. Adult HIV prevalence had decreased to about 6 percent in 2002. But recently, Uganda's infection rate has begun escalating, he said.
In many African countries, women's infection rates are up to 10 times those of men, Amon said. Gender inequalities that allow a woman's home and property to be seized when her husband dies are leaving widows homeless, poor and vulnerable to HIV.
In Zimbabwe, the government's "Operation Cleanse the Filth" evicted thousands of people in low-income neighborhoods, where an estimated one-fifth of residents are HIV-positive. Now homeless, these people are also no longer able to access treatment, and services are lacking, said Amon.
HRW called for countries and the World Health Organization to formulate specific global treatment and prevention goals at the Toronto conference.
07.17.06; Sheryl Ubelacker
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.