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Oct 30, 2007

Workshop looks at H.I.V. as human rights issue

Story PictureActivists in the field of HIV have long maintained that stigma and discrimination form a barrier to combating the disease and this week, two workshops by separate organisations are focussing on that issue. This morning at the Biltmore Plaza the National AIDS Commission and Pan American Health Organization opened a two-day seminar examining the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people living with HIV and AIDS, especially as they relate to health.

Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Dir., National AIDS Programme
“If we are to have a success story in HIV/AIDS, then this is the first step we need to take in ensuring that all those infected and affected by the disease are treated the same as everybody else.”

Dr. Beverly Barnett, PAHO Rep., Belize
“HIV and AIDS provide good examples of a situation where discrimination drives people away from prevention and care programmes that they need. Access to prevention, care and treatment is a fundamental right. … Those responsible for planning, implementing, and evaluating health systems and services should ensure that they respect, protect, and fulfil the right to health, and not by default or subconsciously, but rather with full awareness and in a deliberate and explicit way. Health systems and services should therefore ensure the right of all people to the highest attainable standards of health.”

Facilitating the workshop is regional Human Rights Advisor for PAHO, Javier Vasquez. According to Vasquez and local PAHO Technical Director, Sandra Jones, they are hoping to achieve several objectives during the session, among them networking and updating stakeholders on Belize’s latest international responsibilities.

Sandra Jones, Technical Advisor, PAHO Belize
“There are various regional and international conventions that as a country we have signed on to and most of the time we are not aware of what these conventions are. So this workshop is to basically put them out on the table for people to be aware of them and in that way we will be able to, as we continue to address HIV as which the country has developed a policy and the next step forward, we will be able to integrate those, the whole human rights approach, not into the policy but also into the delivery of services to people who are living with the HIV infection.”

Javier Vasquez, Human Rights Advisor, PAHO
“We are hoping to facilitate a network of public health officials, civil society organisations, family members, members of the judiciary congress that could discuss strategies to protect more effectively the human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons living with HIV, but especially linking health as a right with other fundamental rights of persons living with HIV.”

Another three-day workshop focussing on stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS is being conducted by the Alliance Against AIDS at the Radisson.

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