Are We Honest About HIV & AIDS?

Press Release: WAD 2008: Are we honest about HIV & AIDS?
Asian People’s Alliance for Combating HIV & AIDS (APACHA)

Asia is facing an unprecedented challenge of HIV&AIDS, with possibly huge economic and social consequences. Despite series of claims and commitments of the governments, donors and civil society in seriously pursuing the epidemic, large numbers of people continue to face a crisis of existence.

The debilitating human rights condition, increasing democratic deficit, unabated conflicts and increasing religious fundamentalism in most of the countries of Asia, pose great challenges to address the causes and consequences of HIV&AIDS. To add, increasing inequalities, mass exodus and exacerbating violence, particularly against women make the issue of HIV&AIDS more complex.

Families, particularly poor families, with HIV cases have started to face serious and multiple crises. They have not been able to meet treatment costs and are compelled to sell their land and properties hence trapped into the vicious circle of poverty and illness. Children are compelled to drop out of schools. Stigma and discrimination on the other hand is challenging people’s right to lead a dignified life. Women and children are among the hardest hit.

Weak Public Health Care systems in the region do not have capacity to bear the burden of the disease. Governments are still reluctant to allocate sufficient budgets in this sector. Most of the ongoing programs are donor funded which constraint the liberty of national institutions as well as putting them under the fear of psychosis. In the mean time, most of the ongoing programs in the region are not sustainable.

Governance is another serious area which needs immediate attention. Money is not reaching the communities and this raises BIG and ethical questions- Are there quality funding mechanisms? Are there effective monitoring and evaluation systems? Are there enough and transparent governance mechanisms at global to local levels?

It is true that global economy and globalization strategies, structures and processes have directly and indirectly affected the governance structures both at the global and the national levels. Moreover, they operate through the networks of power which are created to sustain the interests of the ruling class élites consequently people at the bottom of society have been systematically marginalized, excluded and treated badly.

In the specific context to Asia, the Asian civil society has a long history of struggles for rights, justice and democracy. There are also powerful political and social movements and campaigns going on in the region. However, political interests being the driving force, issues which do not carry considerable political weight fail to arouse much interest to Asian civil society and the politics. Issues that fester marginal population having little political significance barely receive their attention.   Both the civil society and the ongoing social movements in the region are still reluctant to talk about HIV&AIDS. Time has come for Asia to see democracy from the perspectives of the margin.

In June 2001, 189 Heads of State and government representatives signed the United Nations Declaration of Commitment on HIV& AIDS. They promised to fight stigma and discrimination, promote prevention, mobilize resources, advocate universal access to treatment and promote accountability. At a time of economic crisis, this should not be an excuse to reverse their promises.

Asian People’s Alliance for Combating HIV & AIDS (APACHA) calls upon all the key stakeholders of [the] HIV response to carefully monitor the implications of current global economic crisis and the worsened food sovereignty crisis. The global HIV leadership must carefully monitor the situation and efforts should be taken to protect the poorest among the population, a group who are vulnerable to HIV infection and made vulnerable by HIV & AIDS. We call upon The Governments to "Keep the Promise!" Financial crisis should not be an excuse to turn away from the promises they have made. At a time when the global HIV&AIDS programs are witnessing potential funding gap we call upon the donors and the governments to fulfill their commitments.

Similarly we call governments to immediately introduce humanitarian relief programs for PLHA in poor families in Asia. We call for just and democratic governance in all HIV&AIDS related interventions from global to local levels.

Time has come for the leaders and citizens of Asia and the world to honestly link what they preach with what they do. APACHA calls for a wider collaboration of the governments, donors, UN agencies, civil societies, social and political movement groups to come together and take immediate action to respect human dignity and save millions of lives on face of HIV&AIDS.

Besides series of commitments- the question remains- Are WE Honest about It?

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