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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