UNAIDS chief praise young as 'actors of change' in fight against HIV | Asia Pacific

UNAIDS chief praise young as 'actors of change' in fight against HIV

UNAIDS chief praise young as 'actors of change' in fight against HIV

Updated 29 November 2013, 13:47 AEDT

The head of the United Nations peak HIV AIDS body has reported sustained progress in the world's response to the disease, but cautioned that many countries are still not on track.

The executive director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe says it's imperative no one is left behind in the response, that HIV services are available to all.

This includes groups most at-risk, such as men who have sex with men, sex workers and people injecting drugs.

Michel Sidibe says discrimination is a major hurdle to testing and treatment, and punitive laws need to be confronted.

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speaker: Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS

SIDIBE: We cannot continue to exclude people because they're sexual orientation or exclude people because they've injected drugs. We're not making the promotion of a drug use or homosexuality or prostitution. What we are making is a promotion of the protection of vulnerable people. It is their right to have access to services. Unfortunately, in many of those places, we are still facing those obstacles of prejudice, discrimination, stigma and criminalisation of those people.
LAM: And indeed, I understand that UNAIDS has also adopted a zero discrimination as this year's theme for World Aids Day?
SIDIBE: Yes, because we believe that if we really wanted to be successful, to end this epidemic by 2030, after the post-2015 goals, we need to start working together with people on this last miles by addressing the issues of discrimination.
LAM: Community groups and NGOs in these affected countries have already been pushing the zero discrimination message for sometime now. Is UNAIDS going to put, perhaps not pressure, but to get through to local governments that this is the way to go, push through the zero discrimination message to governments?
SIDIBE: You know for me is just the way to go and more than that one, what UNAIDS will do is probably to work with people like  Aung San Suu Kyi and all our great advocates throughout the world to make sure that we transform this slogan of zero discrimination into concrete programs, by looking on policies which are not the most adapted to reach people and trying to look at which type of program we need to review, to be going to community level and also empower our networks, to make sure that we don't have our networks just being marginalised and not receiving enough resources and that's why the Global Fund replenishment is important for us, because it will give us a new a new generation, a new generation of actions and also new generation of programs which will be focusing more on inclusiveness and creativeness.
LAM: The World Health Organisation just this week reported that HIV infection rates among adolescents have risen by a third over the past ten years. What's the picture in the Asia-Pacific region, where adolescent or child transmissions are concerned?
SIDIBE: You know for me is a big concern, because if you take the case of Australia, for example. I am in Australia, they have an increase of ten per cent. Australia is one of the best countries  for us who have been able early to really put the right policy and fight against those punitive laws, but we are still seeing an increase amongst men having sex with men and we know that this ten per cent increase, 30 per cent are adolescent or young people and we need to really bring the young people at the centre of our approach. And like I always said, young people today, they are not any a passive beneficiaries of our action. They want to be actors of change. So we need to equip them, we need to work with them and we need to make sure that universal sexuality education becomes central to our effort, so they're equipped with information and they can play their role in the society with their peers in order to change completely the risk which is growing amongst adolescents. 
But also when we look at even outside of Australia in the whole region. I am scared about young girls, because they are still unfortunately highly exposed and we need to pay attention to this group with early pregnancies, with risk of unsafe abortion. So all the reproductive health aspects are critical and rights.
LAM: And with reproductive health, the Philippines, for instance, is grappling with its own reproductive health laws and the government failed to push through these laws largely because of the Catholic Church. How do we address problems such as that, these kind of internal problems, inherent in countries like the Philippines?
SIDIBE: I think we need to really probably continue to advocate, to make a difference between religions and certainly a public health measure. When we are talking about public health measures, we are talking about saving life, we are talking about compassion, we are talking about equipping those young girls to make sure that they don't end up with early pregnancy and safe abortion and death. And I don't think Catholic Church is against that. They should be part of the process which could help us to give the possibility to those young people, to have access to skills, so they can negotiate their sexuality in a responsible manner. It's a matter of engaging the church and that is in positively engaging them.
LAM: As we approach the Millennium Development Goals 2015 deadline, how do you see UNAIDS positioning this health issue, to keep it alive on the international health agenda?
SIDIBE: I think is very important that we continue to say to the world that we made a success, is amazing what happen in HIV AIDS. 
During the last 30 years, we didn't experience any other disease where we had such global solidarity. People came together, unified forces, it changed completely the paradigm of financing, demonstrating that science could accelerate their capacity to produce new drugs.  We have moved from 18 pills a day to one pill  a day and we are seeing an increase of the coverage of people in need of treatment, but for post 2015 is to say to the people, you can do all of that, but if you don't put people at the centre of your approach, when you don't make global health build you're own inclusiveness, restoring dignity of people. It is not just a pill which will make a difference.
Telling to people, by 2030, we can end of this epidemic by having probably zero new infections, zero discrimination, zero death as a motto for stopping this epidemic.


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