UNAIDS Executive Director Calls For Continued Investment In HIV/AIDS Prevention, Treatment and Removal of Travel Bans

During a meeting of lawmakers from 150 countries in Bangkok, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe on Sunday warned that the global economic crisis could reverse recent gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS, Reuters reports. An estimated 33.4 million people in the world are living with HIV/AIDS, the news service notes. 

“This is no time to stop. If we stop helping those people, the majority of whom are coming from the poorest segment of society, what we will face is a universal nightmare,” Sidibe said in an interview, according to Reuters.

In addition to calling upon donor countries to maintain their funding support for HIV treatment and prevention, “Sidibe countered criticism that the focus on HIV/AIDS had led to a neglect of other fatal diseases, saying that the agency was working to integrate programs for both HIV and tuberculosis, which is a common cause of death in HIV patients,” Reuters reports.

Also at the Bangkok meeting, Sidibe along with the Inter-Parliamentary Union called on countries to remove travel restrictions for people infected with HIV, which he called “outdated” and “obsolete,” according to Reuters (Win, 3/28).

Travel restrictions for people living with HIV/AIDS remain “in place in 52 countries, including 15 in the Asia Pacific region,” the Australia Broadcasting Corporation reports in a piece that explores the travel bans. The piece includes comments by Sidibe, Theo-Ben Gurirab, speaker of Namibia’s National Assembly as well president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and AIDS advocate Suksma Ratri (Corben, 3/29).

Earlier this year, the U.S. ended its HIV travel ban, VOA News writes (Corben, 3/28).

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