Tuesday, November 24, 2009


The world is seeing signs of progress in reversing the AIDS epidemic in some countries. Investments in the AIDS response are producing results and saving lives.

At the same time, in global terms new infections are outpacing the gains achieved in putting people on treatment, and AIDS remains one of the leading causes of premature death globally.

On World AIDS Day this year, our challenge is clear: we must continue doing what works, but we must also do more, on an urgent basis, to uphold our commitment to reach universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010.

This goal can be achieved only if we shine the full light of human rights on HIV. That means countering any form of HIV-related stigma and discrimination. It means eliminating violence against women and girls. It means ensuring access to HIV information and services.

I urge all countries to remove punitive laws, policies and practices that hamper the AIDS response, including travel restrictions against people living with HIV. Successful AIDS responses do not punish people; they protect them.

In many countries, legal frameworks institutionalize discrimination against groups most at risk. Yet discrimination against sex workers, drug users and men who have sex with men only fuels the epidemic and prevents cost-effective interventions. We must ensure that AIDS responses are based on evidence, not ideology, and reach those most in need and most affected.

People living with HIV can be powerful role models in guiding us to better approaches to prevention, health and human dignity. We must recognize their contributions and promote their active participation in all aspects of the AIDS response.

On this World AIDS Day, let us uphold the human rights of all people living with HIV, people at risk of infection, and children and families affected by the epidemic. Let us, especially at this time of economic crisis, use the AIDS response to generate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. Most of all, let us act now.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Global Fund approves US$2.4 billion in new grants

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria’s Board of Directors has approved new grants with a two-year commitment of US$2.4 billion. The Global Fund Board concluded its 20th meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 11 November. High on the agenda were discussions on the implications of the global financial crisis for a fully funded AIDS response.

The Global Fund Board also announced the launch its next round of grants in May 2010. This round of funding will be considered for approval at a Board meeting to be held some time between November 2010 and January 2011.

“We are seeing a tremendous demand for funding,” said Michel Kazatchkine, the Executive Director of the Global Fund. “Countries are showing that they are able to effectively turn large amounts of money from donors into prevention, care and treatment of AIDS, TB and malaria, which in turn will save millions of lives.”

Addressing the Global Fund Board earlier in the week UNAIDS Executive Director, Mr Michel Sidibé congratulated Dr Kazatchkine on the excellent progress made over the last year.

Mr Sidibé expressed concern that because overall resource demand is higher than anticipated in the funding scenario of the replenishment meeting in Berlin in 2007, the Global Fund risks facing a resource gap for the period 2009-2010. He reiterated his call to donor countries to ensure that the Global Fund is fully funded. He also called for appropriate prevention investments that match the nature of the epidemic, for example in Eastern Europe where HIV is mainly transmitted via injecting drug use.

Speaking on the potential impact of the financial crisis on the AIDS response, Mr Sidibé called for innovative approaches and the need to establish new partnerships in the AIDS response.

With its key approaches – country ownership, inclusiveness, accountability and performance-based funding – the Global Fund is setting the standard in development financing and is strongly aligned with aid effectiveness principles. Praising this approach, Mr Sidibé encouraged even greater engagement with implementing countries and communities in decision-making processes.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Violence against women and HIV

Numerous studies from around the globe confirm the links between violence against women and HIV. These studies show that women living with HIV are more likely to have experienced violence, and that, women who have experienced violence are more likely to have HIV infection.

From 27-29 October the World Health Organization (WHO), on behalf of the UNAIDS family, convened a working group of experts and practitioners to review evidence around the links between violence against women and HIV, as well as programmatic interventions and strategies which address the intersections of violence and HIV. The aim of the meeting was to make policy and programmatic recommendations for national and international AIDS programmes as well as to develop an agenda for future programme development, evaluation and research efforts based on a review of evidence from different interventions.

The meeting was part of UNAIDS efforts to operationalize the Joint Action for Results: the UNAIDS Outcome Framework, which includes violence against women and girls as one of its nine priority areas.

Violence and HIV
According to a 2006 report by United Nations Secretary-General one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime, usually by someone known to her.

Violence and the threat of violence dramatically increase the vulnerability of women and girls to HIV by making it difficult or impossible for women to abstain from sex, to get their partners to be faithful, or to use a condom. The risk of HIV transmission increases during violent or forced-sex situations as the abrasions caused through forced penetration can facilitate entry of the virus.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

WHO report on the health of women: AIDS leading cause of death globally in women of reproductive age

In a landmark report on the health of women and girls across the globe, the World Health Organization (WHO) states that AIDS-related illness is the leading cause of death and disease among women of reproductive age in low and middle income countries, particularly in Africa. Also, globally, unsafe sex is the single leading risk factor contributing to deaths among women of reproductive age. These findings support the contention in Women and Health: Today’s Evidence, Tomorrow’s Agenda that in a multiplicity of areas female health is neglected and must now be considered an urgent priority

The report maintains that women and girls are especially vulnerable to HIV infection due to a variety of biological and social factors. These include low socio-economic status that can limit choices and lead to high risk behaviours and norms and laws that subjugate women and which discourage them from seeking and obtaining the information they need to keep themselves safe. For example, globally only 38% of young women are able to describe the main ways to avoid infection and they are less likely to know that condoms can protect against HIV than young men. Data from 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa from 2001-2007 also show that HIV prevalence is generally higher among adolescent girls aged 15-19 than their male counterparts. A significant cause of this is young girls partnering with older men who are more sexually experienced and more likely to be infected.

Violence against women

Violence against women is also a major cause of their increased vulnerability to HIV. It can make it difficult or impossible for them to control their sexual lives, abstain from sex or get their partners to use condoms. Violence, or the threat of it, can also result in women avoiding HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services.

For UNAIDS, this is a major area of concern and its Outcome Framework 2009-11 has stopping violence against women and girls as one of nine priority areas. According to Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS, “‘We know that there is a strong relationship between violence against women and HIV. We need to help young people develop the skills for mutual consent in sex and marriage and put an end to violence and sexual coercion. This is key to preventing HIV and to achieving gender equality in all aspects of life.”

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

UN Secretary-General urges countries to follow the United States and lift travel restrictions for people living with HIV

Geneva/New York, 31 October 2009 — UNAIDS welcomes President Obama’s announcement of the final rule removing entry restrictions based on HIV status from US policy. The removal of HIV-related travel restrictions in the US overturns a policy that had been in place since 1987. Such restrictions, strongly opposed by UNAIDS, are discriminatory and do not protect public health.

“I congratulate President Obama on announcing the removal of the travel restrictions for people living with HIV from entering the United States,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “I urge all other countries with such restrictions to take steps to remove them at the earliest.”

The United Nations Secretary-General has made the removal of stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV a personal issue. He called for the removal of travel restrictions for the first time in his address to the General Assembly during the High Level Meeting on AIDS in 2008. “That they should be discriminated against, including through restrictions on their ability to travel between countries, should fill us all with shame,” said Secretary-General Ban in a speech to the Global AIDS Conference in August last year.

At his request, several countries including his home country, the Republic of Korea, are in the last stages of removing travel restrictions. Other countries that are considering removal of travel restrictions include China and Ukraine. In 2008, the UNAIDS board strongly encouraged all countries to eliminate HIV-specific restrictions on entry, stay and residence and ensure that people living with HIV are no longer excluded, detained or deported on the basis of HIV status.

“Placing travel restrictions on people living with HIV has no public health justification. It is also a violation of human rights,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “We hope that other countries that still have travel restrictions will remove them at the earliest.”

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UNAIDS welcomes announcement to remove entry restrictions based on HIV status from US policy

"If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it," President Obama said Friday.

Washington DC, 30 October, 2009 — UNAIDS welcomes President Obama’s announcement of the final rule removing entry restrictions based on HIV status from US policy. The removal of HIV-related travel restrictions in the US overturns a policy that had been in place since 1987. Such restrictions, strongly opposed by UNAIDS, are discriminatory and do not protect the public health.

“Today’s announcement reinforces the position of the US as a global leader in HIV policy and practice," said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. “This policy change is a significant step forward by the United States towards promoting human rights in the AIDS response.”

In an earlier rulemaking notice, the US government concluded, “Maintaining HIV infection on the list of excludable conditions for entry into the US would not result in significant public health benefits. Further, this approach is not in line with current international public health practice. This approach continues discriminatory practices and contributes towards the stigmatization of HIV-infected persons.”

The announcement came alongside President Obama’s signature of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009. The Ryan White Program is the largest program dedicated to providing life-saving and life-extending treatment and support services to people living with HIV in the United States.

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