We need to be bold and courageous to reverse spread of HIV in prison populations, says UNODC Chief on World AIDS Day
Speaking from Myanmar UNODC Executive Director notes world at decisive moment in AIDS fight with future responses to be shaped by UNAIDS family's collective experience and achievements
Yangon/Vienna, 1 December (UNODC) - In his statement on World AIDS Day, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Yury Fedotov said: "HIV epidemics in some countries are levelling off with a decreasing number of new infections over the past ten years. Twelve years after adopting the Millennium Development Goals, we are now discussing the implications of HIV for development and shaping the post-2015 agenda."
These achievements, however, must be seen in context, stated Mr. Fedotov. There were still grave increases of HIV infections among drug users. This has led to the rise of new epidemics in countries where previously the epidemics were not driven by unsafe drug use. Just as importantly, there is also a marked reluctance by countries to address the severe HIV situation in prisons and other closed settings.
"Halting and reversing the spread of HIV among drug users and in prisons remains an important but ambitious target. However, I remain optimistic. HIV epidemics among drug users and in prison populations are completely avoidable and can be reversed. We have all the tools at hand, but bold and courageous responses are required based on evidence, human rights and gender equality," he said.
Mr. Fedotov's comments came during the Myanmar leg of a 14-day mission to South-East Asia to view UNODC's work and to meet with political leaders to discuss priorities for the region. The latest assessments show that HIV prevalence in Myanmar's adult population is around 0.53 per cent. The rate of new infections in Myanmar fell by more than 50 per cent between 2001 and 2011. This shows that strong Government commitment during the past decade to address HIV, combined with a strategic focus on HIV prevention interventions among key affected populations, has succeeded in controlling and reversing the earlier epidemic trend.
However, there were around 200,000 people living with HIV in Myanmar in 2011 and HIV prevalence remains high among key affected populations with 22 per cent among people who inject drugs, nine per cent of female sex workers and eight per cent of men who have sex with men living with HIV. As a result, there is still much work to be done.
UNODC continues to provide countries with specialist technical assistance, and emphasizes the need to create a favourable political and legal environment for evidence-based prevention and treatment options. UNODC focuses heavily on convincing countries that they cannot afford to ignore their key populations, such as female sex workers, men who have sex with men, prisoners and injecting drug users.
World AIDS Day is a day of international solidarity with all people affected by HIV; a day, on which the world reaffirms the commitments to reaching the HIV and AIDS goals set by the global community.
To commemorate World AIDS Day, a red ribbon will illuminate the building of the United Nations Office in Vienna on November 30, starting from 4:00 pm (Central European Time).
The red ribbon is the universal symbol of awareness and solidarity with people living with HIV. It was introduced in 1991 and is used to remember those who lost their lives to AIDS and to emphasize the importance of human rights for people living with HIV and others who are vulnerable to HIV.
To read the UNODC Executive Director's full statement on World AIDS Day, please go to: http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/speeches/world-aids-day-statement-2012.html
For further information, please contact:
David Dadge Spokesperson, UNODC
Telephone: (+43- 1) 26060-5629 | Email: david.dadge[at]unvienna.org