Remarks to the Global Dialogue on HIV and the Law by Jan Eliasson, the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations

Mr. President,
Madam Administrator,
Mr. Executive Director,
Colleagues and friends,

It is a great honour for me to join you in marking the launch of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law’s latest report, “Rights, Risks and Health”.  Let me also acknowledge President Cardoso, the Chair of the Commission, who could not be with us.  We thank him for his leadership and his fellow Commissioners for their work.

As you might know, I began my term as United Nations Deputy Secretary-General only one week ago today.

This meeting is one of my first public engagements.  Under the delegated authority of the Secretary-General, I will have a special responsibility on Global Health.  You can count me as friend and ally in your work.

This for me marks the first of many opportunities I will take to advocate for greater protection of dignity and human rights, and the elimination of HIV-related stigma and discrimination wherever it may be found. 

Thanks to so many of you in this room, we have made great advances in our understanding of the value of  human-rights-based responses in the fight against AIDS. 

We have worked with governments to ensure that laws and institutions protect the rights of their citizens.

We have shown how the law can promote equality and dignity, empower women, and safeguard marginalized communities from harassment and prejudice.

We have demonstrated how it can help drive down new infections by encouraging voluntary HIV testing and creating supportive environments – in homes, workplaces and communities — where people feel safe to discuss their HIV status.

The law can also ensure that all people living with HIV, regardless of their financial means, have access to life-saving anti-retroviral treatment.  We need both donors, as well as national governments, to make universal access truly sustainable.  And UNAIDS working with countries, like China and India, has new models that show this can be done.

This shared responsibility is at the very core of the United Nations charter.  Last year, we saw the power of international cooperation at work when world leaders made groundbreaking commitments in the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS.  This included a commitment to review laws and policies that impede effective HIV responses.

And yet, as Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s recent progress report concluded, persistent stigma and discrimination continue to undermine our efforts to end the suffering caused by this epidemic.

I have seen for myself the unjust and unacceptable discrimination to which people are subjected simply because they are living with HIV.  This discrimination has served to increase HIV-related stigma and drive the AIDS epidemic underground. 

It has made it extremely difficult for us to reach the most vulnerable people with prevention and care.  We must do more – and we must do better.

I am pleased that The Global Commission on HIV and the Law is pointing the way forward by highlighting the crucial role of law in addressing HIV at this turning point in the global AIDS response – a time when our efforts to contain and reverse the spread of HIV are starting to bear fruit.

That is why Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon continues his passionate and persistent advocacy for legal reforms that will help eliminate
HIV-related stigma and discrimination and by that accelerate our progress against the AIDS epidemic. I join the Secretary-General in urging Member States to eliminate HIV-related travel restrictions and abolish laws that permit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender.

This Commission’s report presents compelling evidence and recommendations towards meeting these and other vital goals. 

We have a chance to advance these goals by strengthening law-based responses to HIV today – and at the high-level meeting in the GA on the Rule of Law which is to be held on 24 September.

Thank you once again for your efforts to save lives, save resources in our efforts to move closer to the transformative vision put forward by UNAIDS: a world of zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero discrimination.

Thank you.