UNAIDS chief defines “Zero Discrimination Day”

Xinhua News, China

01/03/2014

BEIJING, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) — Michel Sidibe, executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), has detailed how he hopes the first-ever “Zero Discrimination Day” will be a force for global inclusivity.

With an event in Beijing on Thursday, UNAIDS launched the initiative to be observed annually every March 1.

“Zero Discrimination Day is a call for nobody to be left behind,” Sidibe said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua on Friday.

“The day will serve as a reminder that we are privileged, but many other people are not having the same luck as us. We need to bring them into the light, and let them have the same advantages as we have,” he said.

ANTI-DISCRIMINATION

Sidibe stressed that anti-discrimination efforts hold the key to the fight against HIV/AIDS, even playing a bigger role than medicine.

There is no point having pills if dignity is denied, he argued. “Stigma and discrimination is killing more people today than HIV/AIDS. Even with enough pills, if people are not able to come out and ask for services, pills will remain on the desk.”

Eliminating discrimination falls within UNAIDS’ “three-zeroes” vision, namely “zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.”

The organization’s chief said it aims at promoting social movement by raising the “three-zeroes” vision. Even if it is not achieved entirely, a movement can be created, so that men and women feel they are agents of change, according to Sidibe.

APPLAUDING CHINA’S ANTI-HIV EFFORTS

In his interview, Sidibe also applauded China’s progress in fighting HIV/AIDS, saying the country is also contributing to the global initiative.

“I saw leadership commitment, which has produced results for the people,” he said, citing the fact that HIV/AIDS infections have been almost reduced to zero among newborns in China, and the country is running the world’s largest Methadone program, benefiting injected drug users.

Besides, China is partnering with BRIC nations in the health sector, including HIV/AIDS prevention and control, and helping African countries to improve their health conditions.

Also on Friday, Sidibe met with Peng Liyuan, the World Health Organization’s goodwill ambassador for tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Sidibe told Xinhua after the meeting that Peng has made remarkable contributions to countering HIV/AIDS in China.

“For me, she is a symbol of fighting discrimination, and she’s also a lady with heart,” he said.

UNAIDS’ executive director also met with Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong during his trip. Liu said the Chinese government attaches great importance to HIV/AIDS prevention and medication, and has increased financial input and improved measures in this regard,

Liu also voiced her hope for enhanced China-Africa cooperation in HIV/AIDS prevention, and vowed to share with the world China’s successful experience in this field.

Sidibe told Xinhua, “We need to work more on how we can use China to produce medicine for African countries, to really transfer knowledge, to transfer confidence.”

PARTNERING WITH XINHUA NEWS AGENCY

During his China trip, Sidibe granted a Global Leaders Citizenship Circle award to Li Congjun, president of Xinhua News Agency, to honor his leadership and innovative spirit in promoting HIV prevention worldwide.

Sidibe voiced appreciation for Xinhua’s contribution to the global “three-zeroes” campaign, saying the media is helping UNAIDS break the silence, “the worst thing in fighting HIV/AIDS.”

“The media is the first line of defense against discrimination,” in his view. “We hope our successful partnership with Xinhua will reach new heights in ensuring people everywhere have the information and the opportunity to end discrimination.”

Li Congjun told Sidibe that Xinhua would continue to support the cause of global HIV/AIDS prevention, enhance its reports, and make greater contributions to society.