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Heads in the sand at UN over AIDS

June 2, 2006

Heads in the sand at UN over AIDS

It’s now twenty-five years into the global fight against HIV and AIDS, but some countries still have their heads in the sand when it comes to dealing with it, says the New Zealand AIDS Foundation.

Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier says NZAF has been dismayed at the shocking behaviour of some countries attending a special session of the UN General Assembly in New York this week on global responses to the AIDS pandemic. The session has been convened to review progress by member states against targets set in a 2001 UN Declaration of Commitment.

However, a re-affirmation of this document to be released tomorrow looks likely to be stripped of references to communities at high risk of contracting HIV – men who have sex with men, sex workers and injecting drug users – because of ideological objections from certain member nations.

Most disturbingly, says Ms LeMesurier, there has even been mention of removing the word “condom”, for the same reasons, along with references to stigma and discrimination. “With 500 people infected with HIV every minute, and 8000 dying per day, the world cannot afford to pander to blinkered sensitivities and cultural norms that support breaches of human rights,” she says.

Ms LeMesurier has represented NZAF as part of a New Zealand government delegation, headed by Health Minister Pete Hodgson, at the High Level Meeting in New York this week.

She says the delegation have fought hard to ensure that strong commitments made by the countries at the last special session in 2001 are not softened. “We must ensure that the success of our evidence-based programmes, provided by gay men, New Zealand’s most at-risk communities, and people living with HIV are not denied.”


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