The United Nations agency leading the world's HIV/AIDS response has kicked off the 2015 global edition of Zero Discrimination Day as part of the Organization's wider effort to spur solidarity towards ending discrimination.
“Discrimination is a violation of human rights and must not go unchallenged,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared in a press release issued for the Day. “Everyone has the right to live with respect and dignity.”
This year's theme Open Up, Reach Out encourages all members of the international community to unite under the banner of diversity and celebrate each other's difference in an authoritative rejection of discrimination in all its forms.
At the same time, Zero Discrimination Day, observed annually on 1 March, draws attention to the millions who still suffer from social and economic exclusion due to prejudice and intolerance. Millions of women and girls in every region of the world, for instance, experience violence and abuse on a daily basis and struggle to access adequate health care and education.
Meanwhile, globally, there are almost 80 countries that still have laws criminalizing same-sex sexual relations while some 38 countries, territories and areas impose some form of restriction on the entry, stay and residence of people living with HIV. Furthermore, legal and social environments are still failing to address stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and those most vulnerable to HIV infection.
In 2013, UNAIDS estimated that 35 million people globally were living with HIV, while 2.1 million people became newly infected with the virus and 1.5 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses.
“Some of the world's most challenging problems can be solved simply by eliminating stigma and discrimination,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “As we collectively strive for a fairer world we can be encouraged by the enthusiasm for achieving zero discrimination.”
The UN day will be marked by a number of events held around the world, with photo exhibitions in China, dancing in Gabon, concerts in Madagascar, a storytelling event for children in Mongolia and special film screenings in Nepal.