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AIDS 2014: Burnet Institute endorses Melbourne Declaration

Tracy Parish

03 July, 2014

Burnet Institute has joined with world leaders and the international community in endorsing the Melbourne Declaration, issued on the eve of the AIDS 2014 conference.

The Melbourne Declaration affirms that non-discrimination is fundamental to an evidence-based, rights-based, and gender transformative response to HIV and effective public health programs.

Burnet Institute Director and CEO, Professor Brendan Crabb said the declaration would bring international attention to the challenging issues facing people living with HIV, to the barriers for universal access to treatment, to social stigma, and the rise in discriminatory laws in a number of countries.

“The declaration enables Burnet to join with the international community in reaffirming that the HIV response has always been about universal access, non-discrimination, and working directly with affected people and communities to improve their health and lives,” Professor Crabb said.

“At Burnet our capacity extends from basic, discovery and translational research to working with local non-government organisations, at risk communities, high-level government agencies and international partners to make a significant impact on HIV and AIDS.

“We are proud to be a signatory and endorser of the Melbourne Declaration and AIDS 2014 will provide a significant platform to spotlight the global epidemic and ensure a lasting legacy of better health outcomes.

“It’s been more than 30 years since HIV was discovered and while we have had successes and advances in prevention, treatment and care, there is still much work to be done.

“Without adhering to the principles of the declaration, an effective response to HIV is doomed,” Professor Crabb said.

Excerpt from the Melbourne Declaration:

To defeat HIV and achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support – nobody should be criminalised or discriminated against because of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, disability, religious or spiritual beliefs, country of origin, national status, sexual orientation, gender identity, status as a sex worker, prisoner or detainee, because they use or have used illicit drugs or because they are living with HIV.

We affirm that all women, men, transgender and intersex adults and children are entitled to equal rights and to equal access to HIV prevention, care and treatment information and services. The promotion of gender equity is essential to HIV responses that truly meet the needs of those most affected. Additionally, people who sell or who have sold sex, and people who use, or who have used illicit drugs are entitled to the same rights as everyone else, including non-discrimination and confidentiality in access to HIV care and treatment services.

We express our shared and profound concern at the continued enforcement of discriminatory, stigmatising, criminalising and harmful laws which lead to policies and practices that increase vulnerability to HIV. These laws, policies, and practices incite extreme violence towards marginalised populations, reinforce stigma and undermine HIV programs, and as such are significant steps backward for social justice, equality, human rights and access to health care for both people living with HIV and those people most at risk of acquiring the virus.

In over 80 countries, there are unacceptable laws that criminalise people on the basis of sexual orientation. All people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people are entitled to the same rights as everyone else. All people are born free and equal and are equal members of the human family.

Health providers who discriminate against people living with HIV or groups at risk of HIV infection or other health threats, violate their ethical obligations to care for and treat people impartially.

We therefore call for the immediate and unified opposition to these discriminatory and stigmatising practices and urge all parties to take a more equitable and effective approach.

In conclusion, we reaffirm our unwavering commitment to fairness, to universal access to health care and treatment services, and to support the inherent dignity and rights of all human beings. All people are entitled to the rights and protections afforded by international human rights frameworks.

An end to AIDS is only possible if we overcome the barriers of criminalisation, stigma and discrimination that remain key drivers of the epidemic.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Professor Brendan Crabb AC

Director and CEO; Co-Head Malaria Research Laboratory; Chair, Victorian Chapter of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI)

Telephone

+61392822174

Email

brendan.crabb@burnet.edu.au

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