AIDS 2010: Rights Here, Rights Now

From check-in to landing, the flight home to Paris late last evening from Vienna, where I was attending the XVIII International AIDS Conference, was anything but smooth. Admittedly, once airborne and while flying through lightening, the Air France flight attendant had to slightly console me, even though the African woman adjacent to me had a chenille turquoise blanket wrapped around her eyes and head, and was clutching it outright every time we rocked or dipped. She had put away the book she was reading with the chapter entitled, “Living with HIV/AIDS.”

We landed safely. At baggage claim, while standing next to Professor Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, pictured here because she was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2008 for her shared discovery of HIV in 1983, I realized had the plane experienced fatal issues, the whole world would have recognized a monumental loss. Professor Barré-Sinoussi’s life is that significant to everyone.

With the “Rights Here, Rights Now” theme, the significance of human life and rights were forefront at AIDS 2010. I heard many participants, especially youth advocates and Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, invoking The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

In 1948, The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted UDHR and signed it here in Paris in response to the Holocaust, which The United States Holocaust Museum web site says allowed for the murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi. Therefore, UDHR asserts that the “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

According to a report published by UNAIDS in November 2009, HIV/AIDS is the world’s fourth leading cause of death. Since 1981, the disease has killed 25 million people. In 2008, it claimed 2 million lives, yet that year an additional 2.7 million people became infected. At the same time, there were 33.4 million individuals living with HIV.

With over 770 volunteers, 228 sessions, 6,000 abstracts, and 193 countries, AIDS 2010 breathed human rights. Vienna’s Messe Wien conference center became a microcosm of a world where top researchers and doctors, people living with AIDS/HIV, Nobel Prize Laureates, activists, advocates, and artists, journalists, NGOs, GOs, and politicians (though less than desired) all converged to assess how the world will meet the AIDS/HIV United Nations Millennium Development Goals to:

1. Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.

2. Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it.

3. Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.

On Monday, July 19, AIDS 2010 opened with a speech by Bill Clinton and Bill Gates. By Wednesday, UNAIDS announced that top world personalities like Desmond Tutu, Irene Khan, Jacque Chirac, and Professor Françoise Barré-Sinoussi are joining with UNAIDS to bring about a prevention revolution. In that press conference’s release, Professor Barré-Sinoussi cites, “Today, for every 2 persons starting treatment, 5 new infections occur.”

That is, 7000 new infections daily.

Check back starting in August for more Her Blueprint posts in which Kate talks about other AIDS 2010-related issues, from the link between Gender-Based Violence and HIV/AIDS to Haiti’s tuberculosis crisis post-quake.