July 16, 2014

20th International AIDS Conference

The 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) will take place in Melbourne, Australia. It is the premier gathering for those working in the field of HIV, including scientists, medical practitioners, activists, policymakers, people living with HIV and others committed to ending the epidemic. It will be a tremendous opportunity for researchers from around the world to share the latest scientific advances in the field, learn from one another’s expertise, and develop strategies for advancing all facets of our collective efforts to treat and prevent HIV. AIDS 2014 is expected to convene over 12,000 participants from nearly 200 countries, including over 800 journalists. The conference will be held from 20–25 July 2014 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Armenian Delegation is already on the way to Australia. Representatives of Armenian civil society, International organizations and Ministry of Health are among them. This year PINK Armenia will be represented at the conference by our social worker.

Organizers of the 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) announced that Bill Clinton, founder of the Clinton Foundation and 42nd President of the United States, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé and artist and activist Sir Bob Geldof will be among the high-level speakers at AIDS 2014.

The International AIDS Conference Programme seeks to promote scientific excellence and inquiry, encourage individual and collective action, foster multi-sectoral dialogue and constructive debate, and reinforce accountability amongst all stakeholders.

Sessions will focus on the latest issues in HIV science, policy and practice and will also seek to share key research findings, lessons learned, best practices, as well as identify gaps in knowledge.

The conference will feature abstract-driven sessions, a daily plenary session, a variety of symposia sessions, professional development workshops, and independently organized satellite meetings. In addition, the conference programme will include a number of programme activities, such as the Global Village and the Youth Programme, which are an integral aspect of the International AIDS Conference.

Follow AIDS 2014 per-conferences and the plenary sessions of the Conference at www.AIDS2014.org.

July 14, 2014

Consolidated guidelines on HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations

People at higher risk of HIV infection are not getting the health services they need, according to a new report by the World Health Organization entitled Consolidated guidelines on HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations.
Released on 11 July, the publication warns that failure to provide adequate HIV services for key groups, such as men who have sex with men, people in prison, people who inject drugs, sex workers and transgender people, threatens the global progress of the HIV response.
The consolidated guidelines outline the steps for countries to take to reduce new HIV infections and increase access to HIV testing, treatment and care services by populations at higher risk. The report aims to provide a comprehensive package of evidence-informed HIV-related recommendations for all populations, increase awareness of the needs of and issues important to key populations, improve access, coverage and uptake of effective and acceptable services, and catalyse greater national and global commitment to adequate funding and services.
"Failure to provide services to the people who are at greatest risk of HIV jeopardizes further progress against the global epidemic and threatens the health and well-being of individuals, their families and the broader community."
Gottfried Hirnschall, Director of the HIV Department at the World Health Organization
source: UNAIDS

June 10, 2014

Scaling up evidence-informed HIV prevention for adolescent girls and young women

Adolescents are a critical priority in HIV prevention programming. Today’s adolescents have never known a world without AIDS. People born with HIV and those becoming sexually active in an era of HIV and AIDS face complicated risks and challenges that were unknown to previous generations.

Today, 1.8 billion young people ages 10–24 comprise 44 percent of the world’s population. Many of the countries with the highest HIV prevalence are experiencing a massive “youth bulge” in population, so even with decreasing HIV prevalence, the absolute number of young people living with HIV or at risk of acquiring HIV will grow in the next five years. There is also growing evidence that many high-risk behaviors among key populations begin during adolescence.

Young women are especially vulnerable, with HIV infection rates nearly twice as high as those for young men. At the end of 2012, approximately two-thirds of new HIV infections in adolescents aged 15 to 19 years were among girls. An AIDS-free generation is not possible without addressing the specific needs of adolescents—especially girls—that put them at risk for HIV acquisition.

Scaling up evidence-informed interventions for adolescents is essential. This brief offers priority interventions for programmers based on evidence from successful programming for women and girls; though a number of the interventions listed also benefit men and boys. The brief is divided into three parts: evidence-informed priority areas for programming; implementation and research gaps that must be addressed; and considerations for scaling up successful programming for girls and young women.

What Works for Women & Girls is supported by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and Open Society Foundations and is being carried out under the auspices of the USAID-supported Health Policy Project, the Public Health Institute, and What Works Association, Inc.

August 22, 2013

CivilNet video-report: We are pretty intolerant

picture from the CivilNet videoBased on the report:

In Armenia, many people do not want to live next-door to couples who are not married, speakers of other languages, or people who are disabled or wealthy. Ninety-four percent also do not want to have neighbors who are gay.
  • A large majority of Armenians, more than 80% said they would not want their neighbors to be drag-addicts, AIDS patients or alcoholics.
  • Lots of people would also not want their neighbors unmarried couples (48%), speakers of other languages (28%), people with disabilities (37%) or rich (29%).
  • 94% would not want their neighbors to be gay.
  • 70% do not want neighbors of a different religion.

Another survey also conducted in Armenia in 2012 showed that the main reason for intolerance is lack of communication and unfamiliarity with other cultures. This is the primary reason for intolerance in mono-ethnic countries such as Armenia, where more than 90% of the population is Armenian.

We deserve better!

Read also: Attitudes towards Homosexuality in the South Caucasus (CRRC - Caucasus Research Resource Centers)

sources: CivilNet and Unzipped: Gay Armenia

July 4, 2013

Constitution Day: Dignity and Justice for All

Every July 5, the Republic of Armenia observes Constitution Day. This official holiday commemorates the adoption of a new Constitution and a new era in Armenia’s history.Armenia is a beautiful land fraught with historical travesties. Having endured one of the worst genocides in written history and then being occupied by iron Soviet rule with intermittent wars and battles throughout, Armenia was able to finally break free and gain its independence on September 21, 1991.

Like most new nations in the last century, Armenia sought to adopt a Constitution that would allow it to glimpse at its unfortunate history and ensure it did not get repeated again in the future. Armenia’s Supreme Council Constitutional Commission approved a draft Constitution to be voted on in a referendum and on July 5, 1995, the Constitution was approved by the people with 68% voting in favor of it according to official statistics. Years after the birth of an independent Armenia, the country finally had a framework and foundation for democracy, citizenship, and the rule of law.

The Constitution provided for freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of press, and freedom of assembly among other things. It also had a number of shortcomings, such as concentration of power in the presidency and a lack of independence of the judiciary. Calls for political reform as well as Armenia’s international obligations led to the proposal of constitutional amendments. Numerous drafts were submitted and it was the draft written by the coalition of ruling parties, as well as the recommendations of the Venice Commission, that was voted on and passed in another referendum on November 25, 2005.

The amended Constitution was a huge step towards democratic reform. Though far from perfect, the amendments introduced a separation of powers, more independence of the judiciary, and higher regard for human rights and human dignity. It opened up dual citizenship, abolished the death penalty, and gave Yerevan community status-allowing for election rather than appointment of the mayor.

Reflecting on the current state of human rights in Armenia, and especially the treatment of LGBT people, it is important to revisit what the Constitution says about human rights and discrimination.

The first chapter of the Constitution starts by boldly asserting in Article 3 that “the human being, his or her dignity, fundamental rights and freedoms are the highest values. The State shall ensure the protection of fundamental human and citizen’s rights and freedoms, in conformity with the principles and norms of international law. The State shall be bound by fundamental human and citizen’s rights and freedoms as directly applicable law.”

The Constitution then begins to outline these rights in Chapter 2 beginning with Article 14.1 stating that “all human beings shall be equal before the law. Discrimination based on sex, race, skin colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion, ideology, political or other views, membership to a national minority, property status, birth, disability, age, or other personal or social circumstances shall be prohibited.”

Though there is nothing constitutionally that explicitly protects the rights of LGBT people, the spirit of the language on human rights outlined in the Constitution clearly is something that is applicable to all. Additionally, Armenia adopted the UN Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in 2008. Yet discrimination claims currently fall on deaf ears and there remains institutionalized discrimination against the LGBT community, despite the Constitution’s initial language above swearing to uphold fundamental rights “in conformity with the principles and norms of international law.”

Armenia’s history gave birth to the idea of establishing a Constitution that would once and for all to give its people what they havehistorically lacked over the last few hundred years: fundamental inalienable rights. However for several reasons, we are yet to see the effects of this Constitution take hold. Armenia is no different with respect to many lands and peoples across the world in that culture is harder to break than the new rules that govern it. There is also the problem of the authorities having no desire to uphold the Constitution and often acting in opposition to the spirit of it. Thus on Constitution Day, it is important for Armenians to reflect on the meaning of the Constitution and to fight for the rights of all, especially the most vulnerable groups, to finally be realized.