Plenary rejects double standards
Nusa Dua, 12 August 2009 - The third plenary session at the 9th International AIDS Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP) on Tuesday highlighted the double standards governments around the region are employing in their response to the AIDS epidemic.
“What achievements can we hope for in empowering MSM while sex between consenting adult males remains illegal and subject to police harassment in at least 11 countries of the region?” asks chairman of the AIDS Access Foundation in Thailand Jon Ungphakorn in his presentation.
“How can harm reduction be fully achieved in Thailand, Indonesia and many other countries, when injecting drug users are still regularly sent to prison while the financiers of the drug trade remain free and powerful?”
In a session titled Inequality, Vulnerability and AIDS, Ungphakorn outlined that populations in society considered “vulnerable” to HIV infection were thus because they have been denied the basic human rights accorded to mainstream society, and are in fact victims of social prejudices and structural inequities.
These include the prison population, people who use drugs, sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender communities, ethnic minorities, migrant workers, refugees and stateless people, the homeless and street people, as well as women who have sex with men.
“Because of their vulnerability, they are regarded as ‘high-risk groups’ and as ‘threats to society’, which often result in them becoming even more stigmatized and criminalized,” Ungphakorn said, adding that the situation becomes worse when the groups overlap, such as when sex workers are also migrants.
Further, stigmatization aggravated by inequalities around class, gender, and sexual orientation becomes the underlying condition in which population groups are lacking access to care and treatment, medical anthropologist from the University of the Philippines Michael L. Tan said in his presentation.
“People who are vulnerable and socially disadvantaged have less access to health resources, get sicker, and die earlier than people in more privileged social positions,” Tan said, citing a study published in PLoS Medicine.
He compared a Filipino living in Germany who received proper treatment and care when he discovered he was infected with HIV in the 1990s, while during the same period another Filipino living in the Philippines succumbed because he had no access to antiretrovirals, essential medicines and health care
“Even with antiretrovirals subsidized by the government, the majority still have inadequate access to treatment and care because they could not afford the diagnostics, transportation and other expenses associated with such treatment and care,” Tan said.
“While we have learned of many praiseworthy efforts to direct fnancial resources and program interventions towards vulnerable groups in the region, unless the fundamental injustices which shape their circumstances are fully redressed, such efforts cannot lead to sustainable results,” Ungphakorn said in conclusion.
As reported by Tantri Yuliandini, the 9th ICAAP Post
The complete 9th ICAAP Post can be downloaded from the Virtual Media Centre section in this website
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