A Mexican AIDS
activist is stabbed to death in his condom shop. In China,
23 people infected with HIV are put under house arrest. A
Kenyan man kills his HIV-positive 15-year-old nephew
with a pitchfork as villagers, fearing infection,
stand idly by.
These are just a
few of the ''outrageous abuses'' suffered by
HIV-positive people in the last year--and such acts of
violence and government repression are undermining
efforts to fight the global epidemic, Human Rights
Watch told a Toronto news conference this week.
years into the epidemic, people living with HIV or AIDS are
still feared and stigmatized,'' said Joe Amon, the New York
City-based organization's director of HIV/AIDS
programs. ''We can't defeat AIDS unless we end
outrageous abuses against activists, outreach workers,
people living with AIDS, and those most vulnerable to
It is a message
Human Rights Watch will speak loudly and often at the
International AIDS Conference, to be held next month in
specifically failing to apply the lessons that have
been learned from the epidemic over the last 25 years,'' he
whose HIV prevention policies were paying off in lower
rates of new cases have begun to lose ground with a shift in
political and social attitudes. Uganda, for instance,
had a sharp decrease in HIV prevalence rates, which
leveled off at about 6% of the adult population in
2002. But recently, the infection rate has started to climb,
government, backed by evangelical groups, has changed its
policy of providing comprehensive education on AIDS
prevention and--following the U.S.
lead--is now emphasizing sexual abstinence until
marriage and abandoning the promotion of condoms, he said.
In most African
countries overall, only about 10% of the men, women,
and children who need anti-HIV drugs are receiving them,
said Amon. ''Without them, they die within about two
deputy director for Africa for Human Rights Watch, said
government policies in Zimbabwe were also starting to erode
the progress that country has made against HIV.
In an action last
year dubbed ''Operation Cleanse the Filth,'' hundreds
of thousands of people were evicted from their homes in
low-income neighborhoods of many Zimbabwean cities. An
estimated one fifth were HIV-positive and were no
longer able to access treatment, said Gagnon.
are still destitute and homeless,'' she said. ''Many have
been forced to move to rural areas where they have no access
to food or medical treatment."
''So this is a very clear example of where very
outrageous human rights violations have exacerbated the
epidemic. More people became vulnerable to getting the
infection because of the lack of services.''
Watch is calling on delegates to the Toronto
conference--in particular representatives from
governments, the United Nations, and the World Health
Organization--to work together to stop abuses against
HIV-positive people and to set reasonably attainable targets
for battling the epidemic. (AP)