Changing Attitudes about HIV/AIDS is Necessary for Prevention

At the recent 18th International AIDS Conference in Vienna, held from July 18-23, 2010, Director of UN-AIDS’ Caribbean program, Ernest Massiah, has said that curbing the rate of infection of HIV and AIDS in the region is not helped by attitudes towards sex and sexuality; people in the region are not comfortable talking about sex and sexual behavior. He adds that such attitudes, including the criminalization of certain sexual practices, must be changed in order to successfully address the disease. Nevertheless, the region has made amazing strides in universal access to HIV prevention treatment and care over the last 10 years.

Over 250,000 people in the Caribbean are affected by HIV/AIDS. Although the rate of infection varies greatly across the region, taken as a whole, Caribbean rates of infection in the region are around 20,000 a year, and it is not decreasing, according to Michele de Groulard, Senior Regional Program Advisor with the Caribbean branch of UN-AIDS. De Groulard emphasizes that a change in attitude is the only way to control the rates of infection. Societal discrimination and refusal to speak about sex makes it very difficult to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and protection. UN-AIDS is working with CARICOM to develop model legislation and policies to address discrimination against people living with HIV and those at particular risk of infection.

It is important to note that this year’s International AIDS Conference had the theme “Rights Here, Right Now,” emphasizing the central importance of human rights and promoting universal access in responding to the AIDS epidemic and mitigating its extent and effects. The conference blog post Universal Access Requires Universal Support states: “Although there has been notable progress in many areas, punitive laws, policies, practices, stigma and discrimination continue to undermine the achievement of universal access targets including access to prevention for those who need it and the health related MDGs. Mark Heywood of Section 27 (formally AIDS Law Project) emphasised that the struggle for universal access is a broader struggle for social justice and giving a voice to the voiceless. He reminded us that activists have played a key role in turning the tide on AIDS and making it one of the most successful global public health interventions ever launched, and that activists will play a critical role in taking universal access beyond 2010. The conference emphasised the importance of framing the fight against AIDS within a broader human rights framework.”

For more information on AIDS 2010, see

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