Caribbean people urged to join global and regional initiatives to end discrimination

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Ernest Massiah

On the occasion of World AIDS Day 2013 yesterday, UNAIDS launched a new Zero Discrimination campaign with Nobel Peace Prize Winner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The campaign aims to generate public support for ending discrimination. It is anchored by the premise that the world can only move towards ending the AIDS epidemic if it ends discrimination.

In the Caribbean, the HIV response has experienced remarkable progress toward ending AIDS. In 2012, 100,000 persons living with HIV in the region were on antiretroviral treatment. That’s 20 times more people than ten years ago. This has resulted in a 54 per cent decline in AIDS-related deaths since 2001.

Most countries in the region are on track to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission by 2015 due to pregnant women’s increasing access to HIV testing and treatment. Overall, new HIV infections have declined by 49 per cent since 2001.

However, the barriers of stigma, denial and complacency are still hampering efforts.

Prejudice towards people living with HIV and key populations such as men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, people who use drugs, homeless people and prisoners, remain a major obstacle to expanding access to HIV services. It also hinders people’s ability to live full and productive lives of dignity.

“We are making progress but we are still battling prejudice. These prejudices are based on fear, ignorance and judgment. We can get to zero new cases of HIV, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero stigma and discrimination, if we learn to talk about sex and sexuality and refuse to discriminate because of difference,” said UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team Director Dr. Ernest Massiah.

UNAIDS Caribbean is supporting the region-wide “Justice For All” effort spearheaded by the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for HIV in the Caribbean, Dr. Edward Greene, and the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP). The series of country-level and regional dialogues will engage government, civil society, faith groups, the private sector and young people on how to build solidarity and tolerance for all people, regardless of race, class, gender or sexual orientation.

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