Wednesday, August 25, 2010

AIDS 2010: Rights Here, Right Now

The largest global AIDS conference, which takes place in Vienna 18 to 23 July, emphasizes the central importance of protecting and promoting human rights as a prerequisite to a successful response to HIV.

Under the theme “Rights Here, Right Now”, the biannual conference “AIDS 2010” also stresses that concrete human rights measures are needed to protect those most vulnerable to and affected by HIV such as women and girls, people who use drugs, migrants, prisoners and sex workers.

“The lack of respect for human rights, including stigma and discrimination, is fueling the epidemic. It is perhaps the greatest barrier to developing an appropriate global response to HIV,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in a video to be screened at the conference.

For example, more than 50 countries worldwide continue to have laws prohibiting the cross-border movement of people living with HIV. Experts say that such laws are discriminatory, contrary to sound public health principles, and are preventing an appropriate global response in the fight against the spread of the virus.

The United Nations Human Rights office (OHCHR) is calling for the repeal of national legislation which imposes blanket restrictions on the entry, stay and residence of people based on their HIV status alone.

“HIV knows no borders. It is therefore important to ensure that international migrants have the same rights as everyone else. A person’s HIV status alone should not be seen as a reason for refusing to employ him or her,” Pillay said.
UNAIDS Executive Director Michéle Sidibé supported the message. “And for me it’s time to call all the countries to remove travel restrictions.”

“One of the major challenges with HIV response in the world today is stigma, discrimination and criminalization. In a nutshell, it’s… about human rights – the basic human rights of people,” he said.

The AIDS conference, which attracts 25,000 participants worldwide, also features a Human Rights Networking Zone where individuals and organizations can involve visitors to campaign against HIV-related human-rights violations. The Zone is showing a video produced by OHCHR about the deportation of a migrant worker after he was tested HIV positive.

Combating HIV/AIDS is one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). OHCHR stresses that pursuing development hand-in-hand with human rights gives countries a better chance of achieving the MDGs by 2015.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Young Olympians get the HIV message

AIDS-inspired dance workshops, sports games with an HIV awareness-raising twist and make-your-own plasticine prevention messages were highlight activities coordinated by UNAIDS at the first-ever Youth Olympic Games, as part of the culture and education programme designed to encourage young Olympic athletes to learn more about issues of well-being, healthy lifestyle and social responsibility.

Throughout the proceedings of the Youth Games, held in Singapore from 14 to 26 August, a UNAIDS booth and a series of workshops addressed sexuality and HIV transmission, including myths and misconceptions, through interactive games, peer-to-peer discussion and innovative dance and drama methods.

Hosted in the Olympic village, the activities were accessible to the 3600 participating young athletes aged 14-18 and 1400 team officials. Every day, hundreds of young athletes visited the UNAIDS booth and workshops, with all activities coordinated and delivered by volunteers from UNAIDS event partners Y-PEER from the Philippines, Singapore-based organization BEADS as well as Youth Olympic Games volunteers.

“Despite language barriers, we were able to unite and channel energies of athletes coming from different cultures and backgrounds to talk about HIV and reiterate the need for protection and awareness,” said Y-PEER volunteer Mario Balibago.

While visiting the UNAIDS booth, athletes were encouraged to post updates to the UNAIDS Facebook page. “HIV is a good thing to talk about with the youth and to share… all over the world. Protect yourself and show love for people with HIV,” posted Kernesha Spann, a young 400m runner from Trinidad and Tobago.

The UNAIDS booth also received a number of high-profile visitors including Mr Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee, and Mr Wilfried Lemke, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on Sport and Development, who both commended the use of innovative formats to reach young people with HIV messages through sport.

The partnership with the Youth Olympic Games is geared towards emphasizing UNAIDS’ priority area of empowering young people to protect themselves against HIV and as part of activities in support of the International Year of Youth, which commenced on 12 August. Following the successful interventions in Singapore, UNAIDS will continue to work with the International Olympic Committee to strengthen the partnership, including exploring the development of a cadre of Youth Athlete Champions for HIV.

“Sport is an incredible channel for getting HIV messages out to young people. As well as the athletes, the volunteers working with us at the booth also became hugely sensitized on HIV issues and wanted to spread the word further,” said Dawn Foderingham, Partnerships Advisor at the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific who coordinated UNAIDS’ participation in the Youth Games. “Young people are champions both on and off the field and their leadership on HIV can have critical impact,” she added.


Friday, August 20, 2010

World Humanitarian Day

Today marks the second World Humanitarian Day. It is an opportunity to learn about what it means to be a humanitarian aid worker by hearing about their work, reading the principles that guide them and being aware of the hazards they face in the course of their work. The Day also honours those who have been killed or injured in the course of their humanitarian work. The General Assembly established the day in 2008 and invites all countries, UN entities and international and non-governmental organizations to observe the day.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore

During the next two weeks, Singapore is making Olympic history by being the host of the first-ever Youth Olympic Games, opening on 14 August 2010.

The Youth Olympic Games, to be held every two years (alternating Summer and Winter), is an international high-level sporting event for young people, which offers a balance of sport, culture and education. The Games were created to educate, engage, and influence young athletes, inspiring them to play an active role in their communities.

Around 370,000 spectators will gather to watch young athletes, aged 14 to 18 from around the world, participate in Singapore 2010. The inaugural games include high-level competition in 26 sports categories and a Cultural and Education Programme focused on a variety of themes including the Olympic values. It will also consist of skills-building sessions for participants, including on HIV.

As young people account for 40% of all new HIV infections globally, placing young people in the driving seat to halt and to begin to reverse the HIV epidemic is crucial.

“Young athletes are role models in their communities. We need to call on these young people to lead the prevention revolution if we are to reach UNAIDS vision of Zero new infections,” said Mr Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director, “Sports can be a powerful vehicle to come about change in societies around the world.”

UNAIDS has partnered with the Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee (SYOGOC) in the context of its overall partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in order to provide HIV prevention information and raise awareness about HIV among young people during the two weeks of the Games.

“HIV awareness and prevention campaigns are most effective when addressed to the youth” said Mr Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee. He added: “Sport is a powerful tool for reaching out to today’s youth on all continents and for educating them early on about healthy and responsible behaviours.”

UNAIDS, together with civil society organizations, will conduct a series of workshops focusing on adolescent sexual and reproductive health as well as stigma surrounding HIV under the educational theme “Well-Being and Healthy Lifestyle.” Workshops will be open to the estimated 3,600 young, athletes and 1,400 officials in the Olympic Village.

The workshops will be run in collaboration with Y-PEER, a youth-to-youth initiative, and BEADS, a Singapore organization. The sessions will use dance and competitive games to address topic such as sexuality and HIV transmission, and addressing myths and misconceptions about HIV.

The content of these interactive sessions has been developed specifically for the Youth Olympic Games to engage athletes. In addition, condoms have been made available for free at the medical clinics.

Sport is recognized as a powerful communication tool and is unique in its ability to unify and galvanize people all over the world. In recognizing the importance of sports for development, the partnership with the Youth Olympic Games is geared towards one of UNAIDS’ ten priority areas namely to empower young people to protect themselves against HIV.


Monday, August 9, 2010

PhilHealth draws up benefit package for HIV/AIDS patients

By Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) has come up with a benefit package for people with HIV/AIDS to fortify efforts to meet Millennium Development Goal No. 6, which is to “halt or reverse the spread” the virus.

In PhilHealth Circular 19-2010, the agency said outpatients with HIV/AIDS are entitled to a P30,000 insurance package for one year, provided that the infection has been “confirmed” by the Sexually Transmitted Disease/AIDS Central Cooperative Laboratory or Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

This benefit package aims to increase the proportion of the population having access to effective HIV/AIDS treatment and patient education measures,” said PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Dr. Rey Aquino.

But according to Dr. Susan Gregorio, medical specialist of the multi-sector Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC), the benefit package is “small,” considering that the monthly cost of anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment that an HIV patient needs is P15,000.

“I don’t know why it is like that because during our previous meetings, the amount we were eyeing was much higher,” she said.

ARV is a treatment protocol given to HIV patients when the level of their CD4 cells, which the AIDS virus attacks, goes down to 300 from the normal count of 1,200. ARV treatment helps prevent the progression of HIV into full-blown AIDS.

Gregorio said the P15,000 per month does not include the cost of other medicines, laboratory examinations and other medical needs of an HIV patient.

Some 500 HIV patients in the country are receiving free ARV treatment from the Department of Health (DOH) through the funding provided by non-government organizations.

The PhilHealth package shall cover the “drugs and medicines, laboratory examinations including CD4 level determination test and test for monitoring of ARV toxicity and professional fees of providers.”

“The package will be released in four quarterly payments; each sub-package is worth P7,500 payable to the recognized treatment hub of accredited facilities. A maximum of four treatment sub-packages per year may be claimed by the treatment hub,” the circular stated.

From January 1984 to June 2010, the DOH registered a total of 5,233 HIV cases, 847 of which have progressed into AIDS.