Universal Access and Human Rights
Started on 1st December 1988, World AIDS Day is about raising money, increasing awareness, fighting prejudice and improving education. The World AIDS Day theme for 2009 is ‘Universal Access and Human Rights’. World AIDS Day is important in reminding people that HIV has not gone away, and that there are many things still to be done. According to UNAIDS estimates, there are now 33.4 million people living with HIV, including 2.1 million children. During 2008 some 2.7 million people became newly infected with the virus and an estimated 2 million people died from AIDS.1 Around half of all people who become infected with HIV do so before they are 25 and are killed by AIDS before they are 35.2
The vast majority of people with HIV and AIDS live in lower- and middle-income countries. But HIV today is a threat to men, women and children on all continents around the world.
The theme for World AIDS Day 2009 is ‘Universal Access and Human Rights’. Global leaders have pledged to work towards universal access to HIV and AIDS treatment, prevention and care, recognising these as fundamental human rights. Valuable progress has been made in increasing access to HIV and AIDS services, yet greater commitment is needed around the world if the goal of universal access is to be achieved. Millions of people continue to be infected with HIV every year. In low- and middle-income countries, less than half of those in need of antiretroviral therapy are receiving it, and too many do not have access to adequate care services.3
The protection of human rights is fundamental to combating the global HIV and AIDS epidemic. Violations against human rights fuel the spread of HIV, putting marginalised groups, such as injecting drug users and sex workers, at a higher risk of HIV infection. By promoting individual human rights, new infections can be prevented and people who have HIV can live free from discrimination.
World AIDS Day provides an opportunity for all of us – individuals, communities and political leaders – to take action and ensure that human rights are protected and global targets for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care are met.
From WHO (Philippines)
Violation of human rights or insufficient compliance with human rights principles, compounded by limited or no access to health services, could significantly contribute to the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Asia, the World Health Organization warned today.
WHO said that unless drastic measures are taken to address these issues, the Region’s HIV/AIDS problem could significantly worsen despite progress in some countries.
WHO, in collaboration with Member States, marks World AIDS Day on 1 December to raise awareness worldwide about HIV/AIDS and to promote solidarity in the face of the pandemic. This year’s theme, “Universal Access and Human Rights”, seeks to ensure that human rights are protected and that global targets for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care are met.
WHO said violations against human rights fuel the spread of HIV and put marginalized groups, such as injecting drug users, sex workers, and men who have sex with men and transgender people at a higher risk of infection.
These population groups are more vulnerable to contracting HIV because they are often unable to realize their full civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. They also lack access to information and education and to the services necessary to ensure prevention and care and treatment of infection.
While access to HIV services is expanding in some settings, most-at-risk population groups continue to face technical, legal and socio-cultural barriers to accessing those services, WHO said.
Globally, an estimated 33.4 million people are living with HIV, with the Western Pacific Region accounting for 1.4 million infections at the end of 2008. The epidemic continues to grow in the Region, although showing signs of stabilization, with an estimated number of new infections of about 136 000 in 2008, a slight decline compared to earlier years.
The burden of HIV continues to be predominant among men (69% of HIV-infected adults in 2008), due to the more predominant engagement of men in high-risk behaviours such as unprotected commercial sex, unsafe use of injecting drugs, and unprotected sex amongst men.
Of concern is the number of new infections among children in the Region, with the total reaching 5700 in 2008. This is mainly a consequence of the low provision of services related to the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) in most Western Pacific countries. By contrast, paediatric HIV has become very uncommon in other settings with better PMTCT coverage.