Growing up in the 90’s, it is not easy to forget those who mustered up the courage to appear on national syndicated talk programs, where they detailed impactful incidents while addressing how they managed to not let it interfere with their lives. Hydeia Broadbent embodied that example, and years later she is still addressing an issue: smiling in the face of AIDS.

Since her birth on June 14, 1984, Broadbent, a Las Vegas native, has been HIV positive. Abandoned by her drug-abusing biological mother and raised by adoptive parents, the young Broadbent sought medical treatment throughout her early life, traveling from state to state in a desperate attempt to find an answer to the life-threatening disease.

The time would come when Broadbent, at five-years-old, was enrolled at the Maryland-based National Institutes of Health (NIH). There, Broadbent garnered attention from famous AIDS activist Elizabeth Glaser, who branded Broadbent her hero and willingly asked Broadbent’s mother, shortly before her death, if the young AIDS sufferer could speak publicly of her experience.

Her mother agreed, and what soon followed were iconic visuals featuring Broadbent advocating for increased awareness of the misconceptions concerning HIV/AIDS.

Among those pieces included the 1992 Nickelodeon televised special featuring famed basketball player Magic Johnson. The televised event presented a group of kids whose lives had been altered by the contraction of AIDS, and also featured a weeping Broadbent who cried and yearned for the comfort of former playmates that lost their lives to AIDS.

The awareness statement soon accumulated not only news coverage, but also assorted views from several activists and entertainers, including Broadbent’s favorite singer, Janet Jackson.

Just two years following the child-targeted special, Broadbent already possessed various experiences and accolades under her belt. The young activist toured with the likes of Billy Ray Cyrus at AIDS-benefit concerts, established the Hydeia L. Broadbent Foundation and soon attained her first honorific recognition from the Black Achievers Awards, as documented in the March 1994 issue of JET Magazine.

The philanthropic win would open the door to more opportunities for Broadbent to voice the adjustments she had to make as means to survive with an AIDS infection.

From guest college lectures to documentary segments, Hydeia Broadbent earned eligibility as a guest attendant on a 1996 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show.

During her televised appearance, Broadbent disclosed the horrors of how AIDS altered her immunity and health. The tiny advocate shared that fungus was growing on her brain and that blood infections increased her chance of dying, but among the most difficult for Broadbent to fathom was the reality that AIDS-infected friends of her own had died.

Her emotional plea was not the only massive reception-generator of 1996; an esteemed hearing at a Californian Republican rally would position Broadbent for popular philanthropic stardom.

“I am the future, and I have AIDS” served as vital words that emphasized Broadbent’s command upon the political stage and would go on to captivate a nation, placing pressure on politicians to up the ante on awareness of and medical tactics towards combating the harrowing sexual disease.

With high achievements and laudable recognition channeling from coast to coast, Broadbent felt inner torment eating away at her as she struggled with the overwhelming responsibilities of being a humanitarian success, all while battling deep depression. By the late 90’s, it became all too much for the young AIDS sufferer.

From 1998 to 2011, Broadbent kept a low profile to explore what she had left of her youthful years. But during her public absence, Broadbent’s name still managed to surface in scarce reports and rare public television appearances.

The Broadbent family’s book, “You Get Past the Tears,” published in 2002, and their 2004 feature on ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” were close enough to what the nation would get as far as Hydeia Broadbent’s health progress was concerned.

However, she would not be missing from the public eye for long. In May 2012, Broadbent’s name reemerged when she was tapped for commentary in a CNN article detailing her involvement with the ESPN documentary “The Announcement,” a visual featuring AIDS sufferer Magic Johnson, who had previously met Broadbent in his Nickelodeon-sponsored special decades prior.

Within the news report, Broadbent was deemed a “life changer” by Johnson for her courage in sharing her turbulent struggles of living with AIDS at such a young age.

Further media buzz skyrocketed when Broadbent was highly requested by audiences to be featured in a 2014 “Where Are They Now” special on The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), catching viewers up on how her personal life has progressed, specifically concerning romantic relationships and steady donative work.

Broadbent, now 31-years-old, is still vowing to remain a pivotal voice in the HIV/AIDS community to convey her message that AIDS is neither something to play around with nor something that should be viewed as an easy way of living.

Broadbent feels the burden day-in and day-out of taking a handful of medications each day to prevent potential AIDS-induced infections, citing the responsibility as a “life sentence” rather than a “death sentence,” especially when dealing with financial hardships relating to medical insurance.

Nevertheless, the series of frustrations stemming from medical visits has not interrupted her diligent work ethic as a key speaker for AIDS awareness programs.

As recently as February 2015, Broadbent has added another endorsement to her extensive list of accolades: she was chosen as a partner for “Ampro Pro Style” beauty line to raise awareness of the National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This was part of a campaign to increase efforts to educate black communities on the basics of how to prevent the sexual disease.

Yet it is not only endorsements that Broadbent continues to accumulate on her shelf of awards. Known for the lectures and speeches she gives yearly in college and academic settings, in early June 2015, she secured a keynote speaker role at Louisiana-based Southern University’s annual O.M.G. Youth Conference, to elaborate on the AIDS crisis with young women in a “girl talk-style outlet.”

With further academic orations and pending documentary plans still going strong, Broadbent works effortlessly to remind the unaware of the dangers that await them if protection is not fully recognized when engaging in sexual activity.

Broadbent, whose hometown of Las Vegas has commemorated a holiday in her honor, believes that with time and the right medical innovations, HIV/AIDS will eventually be fully eradicated. She concedes, however, that it is going to take time and full knowledge from the public to understand that this is not a disease to joke around with.

As the optimistic Broadbent proclaimed to CNN reporting staff: “[The current generation] thinks [they] can pop a pill and be OK, [but] they don’t know the seriousness of the disease, [let alone medicated] side effects and financial realities of the situation. They really don’t know that you can die.”

– Jefferson Varner IV

Sources: CNN, People, Las Vegas Sun, The Advocate, Huffington Post, PR Newswire, POZ
Photo: APB

Human Rights and Gender Equality on the Rise in Africa-TBP
Recently in Dakar, Senegal, UNAIDS and the Alliance Nationale Contre le Sida, or ANCS, held a three-day capacity workshop. This workshop was designed to discuss the continued political, legal, cultural and social challenges that hinder efforts addressing the HIV epidemic in Africa.

So then, why are human rights and gender equality so important? According to UNICEF, “A lack of respect for human rights fuels the spread of HIV and exacerbates the impact of the epidemic … at the same time, HIV undermines progress in the realization of human rights and hampers the scale-up of high-impact interventions.” Without proper education of human rights and gender equality, atrocities like gender-based violence not only increase the vulnerability of the area, but also the likelihood of transmitting the HIV infection.

The discussions focused on the fact that human rights, gender equality and the involvement of people living with HIV were rarely factored into the national programs and planning aimed at reducing or preventing HIV. In the few instances where human rights, gender equality and the involvement of people living with HIV were included, they were not addressed at the cost and budgeting phase; with little ability to track progress, these programs were not evaluated or taken to scale.

Over fifty participants from ten countries across Western and Central Africa, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Chad, participated in the workshop.

Participants stressed the importance of different approaches and tools for ensuring the inclusion of programs to advance human rights and gender equality. Each country elaborated on individual national action plans with specific commitments to integrate these human rights and gender programs into their national HIV/AIDS response.

Leopold Zekeng, deputy director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for West and Central Africa, said, “Unless the legal and social environments are protective of the people living with and vulnerable to HIV, people will not be willing or able to come forward for HIV prevention and treatment. Human rights need to be at the core of our Fast-Track efforts towards ending the AIDS epidemic in the region.”

At the end of the meeting, the delegation concluded that human rights and full access to services for everyone in West and Central Africa should be the core of the “Fast-Track” declaration, now named the Dakar Declaration, which aims at scaling up the HIV response in West and Central Africa. With this new plan, one hopes to see positive and significant change—such as erasing AIDS from the region by 2030.

Alysha Biemolt

Sources: UNICEF, UNAIDS, HRW

AIDS_activism

It is pretty hard to miss Rosie Perez these days, considering the fact that the outspoken actress currently serves as a regular on ABC talk program “The View.” Yet, prior to daytime work, when she was stealing eyes with impeccable dance moves with Spike Lee in the renowned classic “Do the Right Thing,” the Puerto Rican entertainer frequently made a cherishing landmark in HIV/AIDS activism.

Like so many in the late 1980s, Rosie Perez was unaware of the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic. Her knowledge of the crisis would soon be redefined after noting personal acquaintances contracting the disease and the “[once-undivided] sexual lives” within New York City “slowly but surely” separating.

As early as 1991, Perez ventured as an AIDS activist, when she first lectured in local inner-New York City high schools about alarming statistics concerning the treacherous sexual disease and educated youths on safe-sex protection.

It would not be until mid-April 1993, following her feature in the theatrical “Untamed Heart,” that Perez would move more into the philanthropic scene by taking part in events like a 5-hour fundraiser AIDS Dance-a-thon, where proceeds would benefit several AIDS foundations, especially AIDS Project Los Angeles. Perez would go on to become a recurring donor for the event years to come, including a high-profiled 2004 feature with fellow philanthropist Lil’ Kim.

By 1995, Ms. Perez used her star power to educate national audiences of the AIDS epidemic through various media outlets, from radio guest spots on Hot 97 to televised co-hosting slots on ABC’s “In a New Light: Sex Unplugged.” The latter would prove essential with praise boasting from “POZ” magazine, of which the publication cited Perez’s contribution as the “most effective sex-ed […] ever aired by [prime time] commercial grids.”

But what would soon be even more significant came in May 1996 when the Latina megastar delivered an outspoken speech during the charitable event Central AIDS Walk. Throughout her oration, Perez achingly recollected a close friend dying of AIDS and went on to urge New York politicians to increase attention of the crisis.

With Perez’s address attracting headlines like “The New York Daily News,” the annual AIDS Walk would accumulate a staggering $5 million for the nonprofit Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC).

Three years following the success, Perez created even more buzz with her bold statement to “MTV,” in which the Nuyorican star denounced pop stars like Britney Spears for not using their “star power” as an advantage to voice greater awareness of the AIDS crisis, instead “wast[ing]” it upon meaningless nonsense.

As Rosie Perez’s philanthropic routines continued to grant her access within the multimedia stream, Perez’s estranged mother, Lydia, contacted “The New York Daily News” in July 2000, alleging that her daughter was not “returning her phone calls,” in the wake of her decreasing health caused by AIDS. The ignored phone call allegation was immediately shot down when Perez and her publicist confirmed that financial assistance offered to Lydia was accepted, yet strangely, assistance from Perez’s philanthropic allies was declined.

Despite her mother’s proposed claims, Rosie Perez attended the bedside of dying Lydia shortly before her passing.

From the aftermath of her mother’s death to a backfire of her April 2006 protest outside the United Nations building, the vibrant “In Loving Color” choreographer never steered away from her activism, instead, embarking further in enhancing her charitable causes.

A December 1, 2006 visual showcased such, where Rosie Perez served as a director and feature in the Spanish PSA “Join the Fight,” an advert aimed at the Latino community that disclosed a statistically increased rate of AIDS within men, specifically closeted gays who “hide” due to difficulty of acceptance. Six days following the televised release, Perez elaborated further on the growing matter during the annual Voices of Color Lecture at Hamilton College.

The tireless efforts yielded by Perez may have been at once “minimally news-covered,” but the AIDS activist would earn her dues beyond unpredictable measures.

Immense recognition occurred when President Barack Obama appointed Perez to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA). On February 1, 2010, Perez was officially sworn into office, securing her title to transmit information and tips to the president, alongside providing input for the National HIV/AIDS strategy.

Since her astounding honorific title, the hard-working Perez has never stopped raising awareness of HIV/AIDS, regardless of recent-age medical treatment and a showering of accolades (among them an annual Cielo Latino Award named after her). Utilizing her power on “The View” as the perfect platform to remind audiences of the dangers triggered by AIDS, Rosie Perez is among the brave working to put an end to an epidemic that holds 33 million global lives infected and that adds a new victim every 9.5 minutes within American grounds.

– Jefferson Varner IV

Sources: NY Daily News 1, POZ, Kismet Films, White House, Hamilton College, blackfilm.com, MTV, ‘Latin American’ Rhythm Magazine Spokesman, PR NewsWire, Los Angeles Times, NY Daily News 2
Photo: Inquisitr

all_in
It takes only 30 seconds for another person between the ages of 10-19 to be diagnosed with HIV. In total, 2.1 million adolescents are currently living with the disease. While work is being done to combat HIV/AIDS for all ages, many people do not know that a particularly vulnerable population it affects is adolescents.

Globally, only 20 percent of girls and 29 percent of boys ages 15-19 fully understand all the ways the disease can be transmitted. That is why President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta and big organizations like NAIDS; UNICEF; UNFPA; WHO; PEPFAR; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; the MTV Staying Alive Foundation and the HIV Young Leaders Fund on behalf of the PACT and Y+ are “all in” on a new campaign meant to lower the HIV/AIDS rate in the youth population—called “All In.”

Those involved with “All In” have several motivations for this initiative. AIDS is not only the leading cause of death among adolescents in Africa, but the second leading cause of death globally, which Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, referred to as a “moral injustice.” In addition, only one in four people under 15 have access to any kind of treatment for HIV.

“All In” hopes awareness will spread by creating hashtags: #AllIn and #EndAdolescentAIDS. Hashtags are typically used by adolescents themselves, so it could very well be teenagers helping out their fellow teenagers around the globe.

“We need to reach the adolescents we are missing and engage all young people in the effort to end adolescent AIDS,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “In fact, we cannot achieve the goal of an AIDS-free generation without them.” So far, youths have shown they are on board: 200 young people from various organizations were present at the official launch of “All In.”

The ultimate goal for “All In” is to eradicate adolescent HIV/AIDS diagnoses entirely by 2030. They plan to do this by increasing prevention and treatment and, of course, getting the information out. Whether it is through trips around the globe or a simple tweet, lives can change by merely speaking up.

Melissa Binns

Sources: All In, UNAIDS
Photo: U.N.

mothers2mothers

“We can’t end poverty if we fail to save the lives of our world’s mothers.” – Liya Kebede

According to the Foundation for AIDS Research, 70 percent of all people living with AIDS live in sub-Saharan Africa, including 91 percent of the world’s HIV-positive children. One organization called mothers2mothers is dedicated to educating and providing proper healthcare to mothers living with HIV.

Pediatric AIDS is preventable, but nearly 700 children are infected with HIV each day. Most of these children acquire HIV from their mothers during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. Up to 40 percent of children born to HIV-positive mothers will contract the virus; however, mothers2mothers hopes to provide numerous opportunities to infected mothers, ranging from education to healthcare. With medical interventions during pregnancy, that percentage of children infected with HIV could shrink to two percent.

It can be difficult getting proper treatment in sub-Saharan Africa, where many medical centers are understaffed or miles from villages. Many women live in fear due to the stigma of HIV and do not get the treatment they need to save their lives or the lives of their children.

Mothers2mothers’s slogan is “Empowered women nurture healthy families.” The organization focuses on empowering and educating women and expecting mothers in the hope to alleviate the stress of HIV and provide proper care. One wing of their organization involves Mentor Mothers, who are mothers living with HIV. Mentor Mothers work alongside doctors and nurses by becoming part of the healthcare team in the health center. Mentor Mothers serve as counselors and confidantes to other mothers living with HIV and educate women on how to protect their children from HIV.

So far, mothers2mothers has discovered that women involved in mothers2mothers are more likely to take antiretroviral drugs that prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV; infants are better protected and are given an early diagnosis test to determine their health status.

Mothers2mothers plans on expanding and hopes to reach even more women than the 1.9 million women they currently serve. Mothers2mothers provides life-saving opportunities to women living with HIV as well as children.

Mothers bring children into this world, and children are the future. By saving the lives of mothers, the world can begin to see a healthier, brighter future that moves out of poverty and disease.

– Alaina Grote

Sources: Mothers2mothers, Aid for Africa
Photo: LGTVP

world_aids_day
As World AIDS Day 2014 fast approaches, organizations strive to promote awareness and support for the cause. Led by groups such as the World Health Organization, World AIDS Day takes place on December 1 each year. This year’s campaign aims to promote social change and focuses on closing the access gap to important treatment.

Over 39 million people have lost their lives to HIV over the last few decades, and an estimated 35 million people were living with the disease in 2013. World AIDS Day is intended to pay homage to those who have died while advocating awareness and support for an HIV-free future.

The 2014 campaign asserts that closing the gap in HIV testing accessibility would help 19 million unknowingly affected people receive care and support. Additionally, the 35 million HIV-positive people across the world would gain access to vital medicine.

The campaign also aims to allow for children to receive better access to HIV treatment, as currently only 24 percent are able to receive care.

Organizations declare that by closing the access gap, the world could see an end to the AIDS pandemic by the year 2030.

The WHO plans to honor World AIDS Day by releasing new information and recommendations to assist countries in their progress toward HIV prevention and treatment. The new WHO guidelines will cover recommended use of antiretroviral drugs for those that have been exposed to HIV including healthcare professionals, sex workers and rape victims. The manual will also include information regarding the treatment of infections and diseases that can be detrimental to HIV patients.

For the last several years, the WHO has been a strong advocate of antiretroviral, or ARV drug treatment for HIV infections. The latest statement reported, “The ARV regimens now available, even in the poorest countries, are safer, simpler, more efficacious and more affordable than ever before.”

As World AIDS Day approaches, many are showing their support for the cause and the 2030 virus-free goal. Leader of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, states, “With collective and resolute action now and a steadfast commitment for years to come, an AIDS-free generation is indeed within reach.”

However, WHO officials urge that there is still a great deal of work to be done in order for these treatments to become accessible to communities in need. Officials hope that the new HIV guidelines will help to close the gap in prevention and treatment for everyone affected.

In honor of World AIDS Day 2014, many companies are providing special offers that allow for proceeds to go toward the fight against AIDS. The (RED) campaign has partnered with businesses including the Apple Store, Starbucks, CocaCola, Bank of America and many more to raise awareness and gain support for the cause.

Getting involved this holiday season, either by participating in the campaign or helping as a consumer, can make an enormous difference in the future of our world.

– Megan Douches

Photo: World Aid Day UN AIDS, WHO
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS
Sex workers, along with other marginalized groups, are at high risk for contracting HIV/AIDS due to a multitude of reasons. The levels of risk vary greatly from country to country, depending on whether they work on the “streets” and have access to contraceptives, among other things. Even within countries, there can be great variance with the rates of HIV/AIDS. In Mumbai, India, sex workers have a HIV/AIDS prevalence of 4.6 percent, whereas brothels in Maharashtra have a rate of 29 percent. No matter the diversity, sex workers all over the world share common obstacles that increase their exposure to HIV/AIDS.

A sex worker usually has an extremely high number of sexual partners. If condoms are used consistently, then transmission of the disease is diminished, but that is not likely to be the case abroad. The 2010 UNAIDS global report found that only a third of the 86 countries researched reported 90 percent of workers using condoms with their last client. In many instances, sex workers lack access to condoms or are not aware of their importance. Moreover, many sex workers are not able to negotiate condom use, because it can mean he or she will be paid a lesser amount.

In addition, laws in many countries do little to protect sex workers, often ostracizing them from society. Although sex work can be partially legal in a few countries, legislation and policies do not punish the action of clients that can put these sex workers at risk for HIV/AIDS. For instance, a sex worker who has been raped will most likely be unsuccessful in taking the perpetrator to court. The lack of protection in these cases puts sex workers at very high risk of getting HIV/AIDS.

Despite all of this, there has been progress in places like Nairobi, Kenya, where women are taking charge of their own fate. Viviane Muasi, a female sex worker, is a peer educator with the Sex Workers Outreach Progamme. When she is not working at night, she spends most of her time advocating for HIV testing and consistent condom use. SWOP, run by the University of Nairobi and Canada’s University of Manitoba, has enabled over 3,000 women to get tested for a variety of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS. During the clinic visits, medical staff hands out prevention packages to halt the transmission of HIV/AIDS. These packages include instructions for condom use, different family planning methods and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. Hopefully by promoting and supporting condom use and early detection, the rates of HIV/AIDS among sex workers will greatly decrease.

Leeda Jewayni

Sources: IRIN News, ADVERT
Photo: BAM

origin_of_AIDS
A group of international scientists have recently released findings that show the origin of AIDS to have been in the 1920s in Kinshasa, which is now the capital and largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Senior author of the paper and from Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, Professor Oliver Pybus said of the study: “For the first time we have analyzed all the available evidence using the latest phylogeographic techniques, which enable us to statistically estimate where a virus comes from. This means we can say with a high degree of certainty where and when the HIV pandemic originated. It seems a combination of factors in Kinshasa in the early 20th Century created a ‘perfect storm’ for the emergence of HIV… ”

The study, led by Oxford University and University of Leuven scientists, gives three probable factors of how the disease spread: population growth, sex trade and railway access.

The population of Kinshasa grew rapidly in the 20s, as male laborers piled into the city for work, causing the ratio of men to women to raise two to one. Because of the rise in males, sex trade began to increase. Because HIV is primarily transmitted through sex, sex trade increasing from population growth can be seen as a highly probable cause.

The study also noted that by the end of the 1940s, millions of Africans were traveling through Kinshasa by way of railway. Once some became infected with the virus, it spread throughout the DRC, Africa and eventually the world.

This study comes after news broke that HIV strings from chimpanzees and their infected meat transmitted the disease to African hunters through “the hunting or handling of bush meant.”

Since the 1920s, the infection has spread rampant and as of today, has infected close to 75 million people worldwide.

– Kori Withers

Sources: BBC, AOL, EurekAlert
Photo: Flickr

disease in africa
At the recent U.S.- Africa Leaders Summit, President Bush spoke to the spouses of African leaders about the need for greater efforts in combating not only AIDS, but cancer as well.

Bush has spent a great majority of his time after being president fighting AIDS and getting treatment to women in order to prevent breast and cervical cancer in Africa. Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon’s 2013 annual report stated that in sub-Saharan Africa, more than 93,000 women develop cervical cancer per year and an estimated 57,000 women die annually because of it. In the region, 94,000 cases of breast cancer a year have been found with 50,000 women unable to win their battle with breast cancer.

Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon is an organization that improves existing healthcare programs in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Organizing members of this partnership include the George Bush Institute and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. These groups collaborate to find improvements in preexisting health programs which aim to reduce the number of deaths caused by breast and cervical cancer.

While Bush was in office, he headed a program for the fight against AIDS called the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. PEPFAR fights AIDS globally and provides testing, counseling and medical treatment. In 2003, PEPFAR pledged $15 billion in spending on combatting AIDS through 2008. This was three times the amount the U.S. had spent fighting this disease before.

In his African Summit address, Bush urged the importance of collecting better data, and improving treatment and education. He also urged the importance of avoiding discrimination when it comes to healthcare given that, in Uganda, homosexuality is criminalized.

Bush explained that “Applied with clear goals and accountability, this saturation approach presents an amazing opportunity. It also requires something from the rest of us. It is impossible to direct help where it is needed most when any group is targeted for legal discrimination and stigma. Compassion and tolerance are important medicines.”

– Kori Withers

Sources: New York Times, Political Ticker, World Health Organization, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon 1, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon 2, Huffington Post
Photo: Look to the Stars

decriminalization-of-drug-sex-work
In its continued, seemingly amplified crusade against HIV, the WHO spoke out from convention by advising nations all over the world to reform their laws that inadvertently enable the spread of HIV/AIDS. Most notably, the WHO advised for the decriminalization of drug use, especially intravenous drugs, and protections for sex workers.

The report, titled “Consolidated Guidelines on HIV Prevention, Diagnosis, Treatment and Care for Key Populations,” was released in July 2014 and contained the following declarations:

• “Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize injection and other use of drugs and, thereby, reduce incarceration.”

• “Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize the use of clean needles and syringes (and that permit needle and syringe programmes) and that legalize opioid substitution therapy for people who are opioid-dependent.”

• “Countries should work toward decriminalization of sex work and elimination of the unjust application of non-criminal laws and regulations against sex workers.”

• “Countries should work towards legal recognition for transgender people.”

• “Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize same-sex behaviors.”

Each of the groups addressed in these statements, including sex workers, drug users, homosexuals and transgendered people, falls into the category of “key populations” at risk for HIV/AIDS. These populations also typically face laws and cultures that ostracize their lifestyles, leading to cycles of abuse and incarceration.

These factors create a formula that consistently punishes populations most in need of sound medical counseling, preventative education and medical treatment. As stated in the report, the key populations in question are “disproportionately affected by HIV in all countries and settings.”

Another notable aspect of the WHO’s report lies less in the substance of the text itself, but more so in the fact that it directly opposes the United Nation’s stance on the same issues. According to The Economist, the U.N. still holds to the 1988 position that every nation should dictate the criminalization of intentional possession and use of illegal narcotics under domestic law as it sees fit.

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime shares the dissenting attitude toward the WHO’s report, as well, the idea that rehabilitation and societal reintegration tactics should be considered as alternatives to criminal sanctions.

Carefully worded, the report does not call for the legalization of activities such as drug use, but urges legal reform that focuses on rehabilitation versus criminalization.

In a statement to the Huffington Post, the senior adviser on strategy, policy and equity in the WHO’s Department of HIV Dr. Andrew Ball stated, “The guidelines recommend decriminalization of a range of behaviors of key populations…on public health grounds, so as to improve access to and utilization of health services, to reduce the likelihood of the adoption of riskier behaviors and to reduce incarceration rates.”

The HIV/AIDS world crisis is one of those issues that transcend border lines and cultures. The WHO has noted an increase in the number of cases in large cities in the United States, Europe, Asia and Africa. However, the poorest countries with the harshest incarceration laws, prominent cultural stigmas or least resources available are positioned to strongly heed the WHO’s reform considerations as they apply to each nation individually.

Edward Heinrich

Sources: io9, Washington Blade, The Economist, Huffington Post, PRI
Photo: io9