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Promotion of Human Rights guides the U.S. Approach to the Fight Against HIV/AIDS
Panel on Human Rights and HIV/AIDS
March 20, 2012

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Margaret Wang

Human Rights Council 19th Session

The United States applauds the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS: Intensifying Global Efforts to Eliminate HIV/AIDS, which builds on previous momentum and provides a framework for moving us toward greater national ownership and a shared response to the global HIV and AIDS epidemic.  The Declaration reaffirms that strengthening protection for human rights and reducing stigma and discrimination are key elements of the response to HIV.

The United States supports the inclusion of members of key populations in this Declaration as critical both to protect their human rights and to promote their access to HIV services.  The Declaration also reaffirms the importance of addressing the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls around the world, not only by providing HIV service expansion, but also by confronting key structural factors, such as gender inequality and gender-based violence that contribute to their greater vulnerability.  Women with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to experiencing these barriers due to the additional layer of discrimination that they often face.

Promotion of human rights guides U.S. health and development efforts overseas, particularly our approach to the fight against HIV/AIDS.  We recognize that disregard for human rights can fuel the spread of HIV; therefore, promoting respect for human rights undergirds our efforts to reach vulnerable populations with life-saving health programs.  For example, our reproductive health programs help us address gender inequalities and gender-based violence, which limit a woman’s ability to negotiate safer sexual practices, disclose HIV status, and access medical services and counseling.  Women with disabilities confront these problems at even higher rates.  Likewise, stigma and discrimination toward people living with HIV and members of other vulnerable populations can create barriers for access to lifesaving HIV prevention, treatment, and care services.

As such, evidence-based public health interventions must be grounded by a respect for human rights if we are to achieve our goals in combating the HIV epidemic.

The United States, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, has taken a leadership role in promoting effective policies to combat HIV.  The United States recognizes that successful HIV prevention, treatment, and care programs are dependent on institutional and social changes that strengthen the environment that enables individuals to access these services, including sexual and reproductive health services.

The United States will continue to partner with other governments, multilateral organizations, civil society, people living with HIV and other vulnerable populations to improve legal environments, law enforcement, and legal literacy.  Through these efforts and partnerships, we affirm and protect the rights of individuals living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

In closing, we wish to express particular gratitude and admiration for the many courageous leaders who have prioritized public health and who have taken a stand against stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and LGBT persons, often in the face of attacks from vocal segments of their societies.

Thank you.