"Zero new HIV infections, Zero discrimination and Zero AIDS-related deaths" is the theme of the upcoming 2012 World AIDS Day (December 1, 2012). UNAIDS, together with several partner organizations, sponsored an event at United Nations Headquarters on "Getting to Zero: Strategies for Addressing HIV-Related Stigma and Discrimination" on November 29, 2012.
The World Youth Alliance was present at the event and welcomed the many positive updates on the fight against HIV/AIDS, including more than a 25% drop in new HIV infections across Africa and a 22% drop in AIDS related deaths in the sub-Saharan region. The number of people accessing treatment has also increased by 63% globally compared to two years ago. Despite these successes, many challenges remain in reaching the three zero goals. As of 2011, there were still 2.5 million new infections and 1.7 million AIDS related deaths. The numbers have also risen in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
The event focused on the prevalence of stigma and discrimination. Approximately 123 countries have outlawed discrimination based on AIDS; however, these laws are often ignored or laxly enforced. For instance, 52% of the people living with HIV in Zambia still suffer from different forms of abuse, and 58% are without employment and 24% are under threat of serious physical attack.
The private sector has taken significant steps to combat discrimination. The CEOs of more than 40 international corporations have signed an unprecedented pledge, calling for governments to lift travel restrictions, which deny the right of entry, stay, work or residence for people living with AIDS in 45 countries around the world.
The World Youth Alliance stands with the United Nations in promoting the dignity of all people living with HIV/AIDS. To successfully tackle the epidemic, what is needed is an evidence-based and person-centered response, focusing on the provision of antiretroviral drugs, and prevention strategies, namely a reduction in concurrent partners and a delay in sexual debut. These strategies reflect the capacity of the person to make responsible decisions and to stop the high-risk behavior that exposes him or her to HIV. They also reflect the science of HIV transmission, as the virus spreads quickly, particularly in the initial phase of infection, when there are often no obvious symptoms to alert a person that he or she has contracted HIV, from partner to partner in sexual networks that expose even monogamous people to the risk of contracting HIV. At the heart of the solution is the creation of a culture of responsibility. Education and information are needed to empower individuals to avoid risk and build communities that are conducive to human flourishing.
For more information, read the White Paper on HIV/AIDS.