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Thousands Rally in Mexico City and Call for Human Rights Protections in Global AIDS Response
Date:8/7/2008

MEXICO CITY, Aug. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- Thousands of AIDS activists gathered today for the first-ever international rally for human rights and HIV/AIDS, a key event of the XVII International AIDS Conference. The activists called on governments to ensure greater human rights protections for people living with HIV and those most affected by the epidemic, including women, sex workers, prisoners, people who use drugs, and men who have sex with men.

"We need laws and policies that enable and encourage people to access prevention and treatment services, not policies that criminalize people, drive them underground, or block HIV-positive people from entering the country," said Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS. "We need more concrete programs to empower marginalized people to claim their rights. Only then will we overcome the forces of inequality and injustice that drive this epidemic."

At the rally, a coalition of human rights and HIV/AIDS organizations presented Piot and other high-level officials with a declaration that had received resounding support from over 600 organizations in 105 countries. The declaration, "Human Rights and HIV/AIDS: Now More Than Ever," represented the most significant outcry for HIV-related human rights protections ever at an International AIDS Conference. Groups representing human rights, HIV, development, public health, gender, and other issues showed unprecedented solidarity in endorsing the human rights declaration.

"This rally should mark a turning point in the global response to HIV," said Jonathan Cohen, director of the Law and Health Initiative at the Open Society Institute's Public Health Program. "The demand that human rights occupy the center of the HIV response has united activists from all sectors and corners of the world."

The declaration charges that universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, and care programs will never be achieved without a full range of human rights protections for grou
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SOURCE Open Society Institute
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