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Zero Discrimination Day 2023: The urgent need to focus on the rights of people with HIV

Zero Discrimination Day is a global event observed on March 1, each year by the United Nations (UN) and other international organizations. The day was first celebrated in 2014 and was launched by United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Executive Director, Michel Sidibé with a significant event in Beijing. In 2023, the theme for Zero Discrimination Day is “Save lives: Decriminalize,” highlighting how decriminalizing key populations and people living with HIV saves lives and helps in the fight against the AIDS pandemic. 

According to this year’s theme for Zero Discrimination Day, a more just and equal world can be created by removing discriminatory and punitive laws, where everyone has the right to live a healthy and fulfilling life.

Criminal laws violate the human rights of people with HIV

Criminal laws targeting key populations and people living with HIV violate human rights, aggravate the stigma people face and put people in danger by creating barriers to the support and services they need to protect their health. According to the data available from the United Nations, 48 countries still place restrictions on entry into their territory for people living with HIV, while 53 countries report that they require mandatory HIV testing, for activities from getting marriage certificates to performing certain professions. Parental consent for adolescents to access HIV testing is required in 106 countries.

Focus on removing structural inequalities

It is crucial to remove discriminatory and punitive laws to achieve a world with zero discrimination. People should be allowed to access health services without fear of criminal prosecution or stigma, regardless of their HIV status or other characteristics.

Zero Discrimination Day is an annual reminder of the need to end all forms of discrimination and promote equality. Discrimination can take many forms and can impact people from all walks of life. It is crucial to address discriminatory laws and policies that create barriers to accessing HIV services and to work towards a world where everyone is valued and treated with respect and dignity.

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