An imperative for secrecy, a barrier to services, a driver of an epidemic . . . We’re reading about a public health hazard commonly called stigma

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NewWWR‘The mercurial piece of the puzzle’: Understanding stigma and HIV/AIDS in South Africa – The role of stigma in challenges to HIV responses, including adequate funding, sound policies, access to services, the numbers of people diagnosed, the numbers of people for whom treatment is uninterrupted, and more, is difficult to assess because the word, used on its own, sheds little light on the phenomenon of shame, blame and bias surrounding an illness. That’s why this examination of what it notes Jonathan Mann called the “third epidemic” is helpful. Beginning with the first WHO global AIDS program leader’s description of the challenge of  “the social cultural, economic and political reaction to AIDS,” this analysis looks at some of the common bases for “deeply discrediting” others based on a single characteristic, and discusses some of the developments that might have been expected to lessen stigma surrounding HIV, but didn’t.

Advancing HIV Justice 2: Building momentum in global advocacy against HIV criminalization – Laws specifically targeting people with HIV discourage testing, hamper treatment, silence expression of need, contribute to bias and shame — all in addition to violating basic, accepted human rights. These are among the countless ways that travel bans and laws criminalizing HIV exposure and transmission run counter to the purported aim of protecting public health, but as this report underscores, the United States, while world’s leading funder of HIV responses also leads the world in legislation on the books and enforced to intimidate and punish people living with the virus. In addition to an up to date look at HIV criminalization around the world, the report provides examples of successful efforts to overturn the laws and the fear, ignorance and demagoguery behind them.

Should prostitution be a crime? – Amnesty International committed more than two years of intensive on-the-ground, as well as scholarly research before taking its stand that earning income through sex work should not be a crime. This article, in turn is painstakingly balanced, highlighting the range of circumstances confronting people involved in sex work, before concluding “you can only really help people if you respect them.”

Realizing Rights – The numbers here show how in the more than three-decade obstacle course to putting science to work against HIV, discriminatory views, laws and policies remain the greatest barriers standing, starting with one out of eight people living with HIV reporting they were denied health care. How can that be? one might ask. The rest of the numbers give the answer: 72 countries (with the worlds largest HIV donor, the US leading the pack) with laws specifically targeting people with HIV, 75 countries (It’s actually up to 81, 76 Crimes blog shows here) with laws criminalizing same-gender sexual relations, and 35 countries with barriers to entry for people with HIV. All of this will make member nations’ comments and suggested revisions to section 61 (Removing punitive laws, policies and practices that block access to HIV services and ending HIV-related stigma and discrimination will promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies) of the draft political declaration for the 2016 UN high-level meeting on HIV to be finalized in June all the more interesting.

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