Marking World AIDS Day, Annan calls for concerted action against HIV-related stigma
The most powerful weapons against the burden of HIV-related stigma are the voices of the world's people speaking out freely about AIDS, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today in a message marking World AIDS Day.
“The impact of stigma can be as detrimental as the virus itself,” Mr. Annan said, urging all to replace such shame with support, “fear with hope, silence with solidarity.”
The fear of stigma suppresses public discussion and deters people from wanting to find out whether they are infected, thereby causing them to risk transmitting the virus rather than attract suspicion, Mr. Annan said.
He also noted that some people with AIDS are denied basic rights such as food or shelter and dismissed from jobs they are fit to perform. “The fear of stigma leads to silence and when it comes to fighting AIDS, silence is death,” he said.
However, the walls of stigma and silence are already weakening as the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS are being defended in courts and leaders speaking out at the highest level about the epidemic.
“By adopting the slogan 'Live and Let Live,' this year's World AIDS campaign challenges us to ensure that all people, with or without AIDS, can realize their human rights and live in dignity,” the Secretary-General said.
The President of the General Assembly, Jan Kavan of the Czech Republic, called for global action to fight the epidemic, warning that the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS and the discrimination against those suffering from the disease are still keeping many nations and communities in denial, contributing to its spread and further loss of life.
Ambassador Kavan also recalled that the General Assembly has adopted a Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS which provides specific guidelines for governments to follow and act upon.