Bias Adding Fuel to AIDS Epidemic
Jul. 02, 1998
GENEVA (AP) _ Ending discrimination against HIV-positive people is the key to stemming the spread of the AIDS virus, speakers at the World AIDS Congress said Thursday.
Many HIV-positive people face bias throughout the world, including denial of the right to marry, refusal of medication and other treatment and job discrimination, the delegates said.
But fear of being branded an outcast keeps many from mounting legal challenges and also stops some from getting tested for HIV, helping fuel the spread of the virus.
``People won't come forward if they face being killed in the streets,'' said Susan Paxton of APN-plus, an organization documenting human rights abuses against people with HIV/AIDS in Asia.
Her group is using HIV-positive people in eight Asian countries to interview others stricken with the virus about their experience with discrimination.
The problem is a global one.
In a study of 100 people who complained of HIV-linked discrimination in Mexico's Jalisco state, only 21 went to court with their complaints, said Armando Diaz Camarena of the AIDS Prevention Council.
Mandeep Dhaliwal of the Lawyers' Collective, an Indian group, insisted that programs to provide condoms and clean needles to high-risk groups are important but ``have proven to be insufficient.''
But delegates stressed that legal challenges can succeed.
Antonio Matamoros of Costa Rica's National University told the conference of a successful legal challenge by AIDS patients to require the national health system to pay for the expensive drug combinations used to fight the virus.
The U.N. AIDS agency says more than 30 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, yet only one in 10 knows it.