Friday, July 27, 2012

Suu Kyi speaks to international HIV/AIDS conference

Friday, 27 July 2012 14:13 Mizzima News

Aung San Suu Kyi, speaking via video to the International HIV/AIDS Conference in Washington D.C. on Thursday, said the stigma against HIV/AIDS patients found in many countries must end.

Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during a World AIDS Day ceremony at the National League for Democracy headquarters in Rangoon in December 2010. Photo: Mizzima

People need to understand HIV and know that this “is not something that we need to be afraid of, that people who have contracted HIV need not be discriminated against, that they’re not a danger to society at large.”

“Once this message has gotten through, we will be able to base activities on the natural compassion of human beings and of course as the great majority of people in Burma are Buddhist, there’s a special emphasis on the value of compassion,” she said.

Based on this, she said she hoped that Burma will be able “to become one of those innovative societies where we approach a problem as human beings –  as intelligent, caring human beings.

“In this way, we will be able to handle not just the issue of AIDS and new ideas, but issues related to those who are subjected to particular suffering and particular discrimination," she said.

This year's conference featured speakers such as Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Laura Bush and others.

Also on Thursday, former US first lady Laura Bush stressed that women continue to play a crucial role in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.

“When you look around the world, you see that women are in the forefront of life changing progress,” she said in her speech. “Women have been central in the fight against AIDS.”

The head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday said that he is confident that an end to the HIV epidemic is near.

“Ending the epidemic really means reducing the numbers of new infections which are occurring as well as protecting the lives of those who are infected,” said Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention.

“The cure discussion is very exciting. I think we’re moving along and understanding what the elements of a cure are likely to be, but it will take some time to reach there. Ending the epidemic I think is within our grasp, and we must continue to push for a cure as well,” he said.

The last time the International AIDS Conference was held in the United States was in San Francisco in 1990. In 1987, the U.S. Congress enacted legislation banning the entrance of all HIV-infected persons into the country over the age of 14 years. The U.S. issued a waiver allowing HIV-positive delegates to attend the 1990 conference in San Francisco but refused to raise the ban outright.

As a result, every IAS meeting since has been held outside of the United States, until now. In 2010, President Barrack Obama overturned the 22-year-old travel and immigration ban, opening the doors for this week's gathering.

A lot has changed since the 1980s, when the United States was a country with one of the greatest numbers of people infected with HIV.

In 2010, HIV claimed the lives of 1.8 million people in the world, yet that still leaves an estimated 34 million more to continue living with the disease; 17 million of those infected are women.

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