Groups urge better access to HIV medication, care for socially marginalised
Stabroek News
December 2, 2006

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The Network of Guyanese Living with and affected by HIV/AIDS (G+) and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) have joined with regional HIV/AIDS advocacy groups in calling for greater access to medication and care for socially marginalised groups.

A press release from the groups said they joined with the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) and the Caribbean Treatment Action Group (CTAG) in calling for support for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) especially those in high risk and vulnerable groups such as sex workers, men who have sex with men, drug users, prisoners, youth in difficult circumstances and children who have lost one or both parents to AIDS-related illnesses.

The release said the United Nations General Assembly Special Session plus Five (UNGASS+5) Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, which was signed by all governments, states that all signatories agree to intensify efforts to enact, strengthen or enforce legislation, regulations and other measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination against and to ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by PLWHAs and members of vulnerable groups. The declaration also catered for strategies to be developed to combat stigma and social exclusion connected with the epidemic.

At a meeting earlier this month, in Bayahibe, the Dominican Republic, the groups found that while access to care and treatment has improved in the Caribbean, it has been limited or non-existent for members of marginalised groups who are especially vulnerable to the impact of the disease because of stigma and discrimination.

The CVC and CTAG, in a statement, said a document, called the Bayahibe Declaration, was developed which calls on Caribbean governments, regional and international health authorities and international donors to take immediate action to redress the problem of access to drugs and support faced by marginalised groups whose members are infected with or affected by the disease. It provides an outline by which governments, civil society actors, service providers and human rights defenders can assure all Caribbean PLWHAs of proper care, treatment and support.

The advocacy groups said the document also makes provision for persons in detention, including foreign nationals, by mandating that they are informed of their right to obtain HIV-related information and services; the assurance that health care providers afford drug users the same access to appropriate services; the training of health care workers to provide effective services for men who have sex with men; implementing programmes that aim to eradicate homophobia and heterosexism, informing service providers at treatment sites about the human rights of sex workers; building or expanding outreach facilities in areas where sex work is common and educating children and youth about their human rights and advising them of the steps to take when reporting physical, sexual and other cases of abuse.

The declaration was signed by individuals and agencies working in different speech communities across the Caribbean, including representatives from G+ and SASOD.

The CVC and CTAG believe that implementing this document will assure members of vulnerable groups of their fundamental rights to life and health.