Campaigners ‘disappointed’ with Lorna Golding’s speech on HIV/AIDS



HIV/AIDS campaigners said they were disappointed by Jamaica’s presentation as the spouses of government and state leaders spoke on a UNAIDS programme to eliminate new infections of the disease, now passing its 30-year milestone.

Lorna Golding, wife of Prime Minister Bruce Golding, was among 30 ‘First Ladies’ from the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa and Asia who gathered at the United Nations in New York last week to mobilise support around achieving the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS’ (UNAIDS) vision of zero new HIV infections among children by 2015. The event was held while their spouses and diplomats met for a UN high-level meeting on AIDS.

Panos Caribbean, the information and communication non-governmental organisation, reported on reaction to the session involving Golding and her counterparts which was focussed on first spouses’ role in eliminating new HIV infections in children.

In a brief presentation that invoked the Jamaica national pledge, Golding announced that Jamaica has successfully reduced HIV transmission from mother to child since the inception of its Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission programme in 2004, Panos said.

“The number of HIV-positive pregnant women receiving antiretroviral medication has increased significantly from 47 per cent in 2004 to 83 per cent in 2009. This has led to a dramatic reduction in mother-to-child transmission of HIV from 25 per cent in 2002 to below five per cent since,” she said.

HIV/AIDS campaigners representing civil society who attended the session told Panos Caribbean they felt Golding’s presentation was disappointing and lacked clarity in what her plans were for eliminating vertical transmission of HIV.

“I’m disappointed that there were no specific commitments made by the First Spouse on this very critical issue. She only quoted from our national prayer that ‘under God’ Jamaica will play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race. I’m surprised she didn’t seize the opportunity to seek specific assistance from the international community to support prevention of vertical transmission in Jamaica,” legal advisor, Marginalised Groups AIDS-Free World, Maurice Tomlinson, told Panos Caribbean.

“She gave no indication as to what she or the Government plans to do. This makes it palpably clear she and the Government failed to understand the issue of vertical transmission which is not going away but is festering and threatens to explode in our high-sex and multiple/concurrent partners’ context,” Tomlinson added.

Director of programmes and training at Eve for Life, Joy Crawford, also told Panos Caribbean that Golding’s contribution lacked specifics or any clear action plan, strategies or projects that she would undertake.

“In her promise to play her part in upholding the national pledge ‘Before God and all mankind’ we anticipate she will develop clear advocacy and interventions that will reduce the current societal, familial and moral stigma and discrimination faced by the young pregnant adolescent female especially those identified as HIV positive,” Crawford said.

Sophia Martelly, the wife of Haiti’s newly inaugurated President Michel Martelly, committed to working to involve more Haitian men in reducing the rate of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. She also pledged to improve sex education for teens and to support programmes that empower women and improve their economic status.

Around 1,000 babies worldwide are infected with HIV every day, UNAIDS estimates, 90 per cent of whom are in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV is also the leading cause of maternal deaths in developing countries.

The spouses agreed to advocate for comprehensive and integrated access to maternal and child health services. They also committed themselves to pressing for an end to gender inequality, gender violence, discrimination and unfair laws that prevent pregnant women from accessing HIV testing and counselling, prevention, treatment and support services.

UN Human Rights Resolution on Gender Identity & Sexual Orientation is adopted

Friday June 17, 2011 the United Nations voted 23 in favour 19 against and 3 abstentions to adobt its first ever human rights Resolution including gender diversity and sexual orientation.

Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity

The Human Rights Council, Recalling the universality, interdependence, indivisibility and interrelatedness of human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and consequently elaborated in other human rights instruments such as the international Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other relevant core human rights instruments;

Recalling also that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in that Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status;

Recalling further GA resolution 60/251, which states that the Human Rights Council shall be responsible for promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in fair and equal manner;

Expressing grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

1. Requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to commission a study to be finalised by December 2011, to document discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, in all regions of the world, and how international human rights law can be used to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity;

2. Decides to convene a panel discussion during the 19th session of the Human Rights Council, informed by the facts contained in the study commissioned by High Commissioner and to have constructive, informed and transparent dialogue on the issue of discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity;

3. Decides also that the panel will also discuss the appropriate follow‐up to the
recommendations of the study commissioned by the High Commissioner;

4. Decides to remain seized with this priority issue.

Who voted:

Yes”: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Hungary, Japan, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, Thailand, UK, USA, Uruguay.

“No” : Angola, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Djibouti, Gabon, Ghana, Jordan, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Moldova, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Uganda.

Abstentions: Burkina Faso, China, Zambia

Absent: Kyrgyzstan, Libya (suspended)

Co-Sponsors of the resolution: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, and Uruguay.

Earlier in this 17th session of the Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo, reported to the Council that:

“Contributory factors for risk of violence include individual aspects of women’s bodily attributes such as race, skin colour, intellectual and physical abilities, age, language skills and fluency, ethnic identity and sexual orientation.”

The report also detailed a number of violations committed against lesbian, bisexual and trans women, including cases of rape, attacks and murders. It is therefore regrettable that a reference to “women who face sexuality-related violence” was removed from the final version of another resolution focused on the elimination of violence against women during the same session.

“Despite this inconsistency, we trust the UN resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity will facilitate the integration of the full range of sexual rights throughout the work of the UN.”, said Meghan Doherty, of the Sexual Rights Initiative.

A powerful civil society statement was delivered at the end of the session, welcoming the resolution and affirming civil society’s commitment to continuing to engage with the United Nations with a view to ensuring that all persons are treated as free and equal in dignity and rights, including on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Now, our work is just beginning”, said Kim Vance of ARC International. “We look forward to the High Commissioner’s report and the plenary panel next March, as well as to further dialogue with, and support from, those States which did not yet feel able to support the resolution, but which share the concern of the international community at these systemic human rights abuses.”

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