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Nina Sun|21.03.2016|Campaigns Uncategorized

Talking HIV On International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

On 21 March 1960, police killed 69 demonstrators in Sharpeville, South Africa who were peacefully protesting against apartheid. In commemoration of the massacre victims, the UN General Assembly proclaimed the 21 March as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

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This year’s theme looks at the challenges and progress that countries face in fulfilling their commitments under the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted at the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

The Durban Declaration is an agreement among countries to fight racism and related forms of intolerance and discrimination. It is a comprehensive framework that touches on various issues related to racial discrimination, including slavery, the Holocaust and access to justice for victims of discrimination. Importantly, the Declaration also touches upon the inequalities that racism can perpetuate in society, including health and access to medical care. It calls for countries  to:

- concentrate additional investments in health care systems and public health for communities of African descent;

prevent racial discrimination in health care settings; and,

improve the health status of marginalized communities, and in particular, victims of racism.

Racial discrimination often indirectly results in disparities on people’s health and access to medical care. Beyond genes and biology, a person’s health is determined by a number of factors, including the amount of information, money and resources that she or he has (CDC). Whether or not a person experiences racial discrimination can make a significant impact on whether she or he has the ability to take care of their health (for example, whether they have a job that pays enough money to afford medical visits, or whether they have access to accurate information on health issues). Unfortunately, communities that face racial discrimination, in addition to facing overall disrespect and diminution of human dignity, also suffer negative health-related consequences. They often lack education and information on health-related issues, have limited to no access to tools to protect their health and lack access to quality health care and medication.

A look at countries’ HIV epidemics is particularly revealing:  a recent study from the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that the lifetime risk for an African-American man to acquire HIV is 1 in 20, while the risk of a white American man is 1 in 880.

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In the UK, though people of sub-Saharan African descent comprise 1.8% of the general population, they account for 34% of all people living with HIV (NAT). Aboriginal people in Canada are also disproportionately affected by HIV – the rate of new HIV infections among this group is 3.5 times higher than among the general population (PHAC).

More than ever, it is important to fight against racism – both to ensure the dignity and respect for all, as well as to ensure that we can fight against HIV and AIDS.

Making a change.

Here at MTV Staying Alive we believe change comes from grass-roots. To combat racial disparity in the fight for HIV it’s important to tackle it from it’s lowest levels upward by working with local communities who fall victim to discrimination. Here are a couple of examples of some amazing organisiations working to do this:

ValArt – Portugal

Young people in Portugal are addressing the issue head-on.  ValArt works with marginalized teenagers in and around Lisbon, most of whom are from African descent and who are not only at higher risk of HIV, but also often experience discrimination because of their origin. ValArt aims to empower them and to create awareness of, and fight against, discrimination in any form.

Rwanda Youth Voice for Change

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Rwanda Youth Voice for Change (RYVC) is implementing a three year project on HIV Prevention in Rwanda’s Southern Province. The project aims to provide accessible and comprehensive knowledge to young people on HIV, STIs and other aspects of sexual and reproductive health. One of the highlighted groups of this initiative is the Batwa indigenous community. The Batwa face major challenges, including lack of employment and income opportunities, poor housing and sanitation conditions, poor health overall and lack of access to education. These conditions put the Batwa at high risk of HIV. RYVA works with this group to improve their access to HIV information and prevention tools.

What can you do?

Connect with an expert!

On 21 March from 4:00-5:00pm New York time, Ms Gay McDougall, member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, will take any questions from the public via Reddit. Ms McDougall is an American lawyer who has devoted her career to fighting racism.

Join the UN’s campaign against racism – Let’s Fight Racism!

Do you want to learn more about human rights and discrimination or do online volunteering to fight against racism? Take a look at the Let’s Fight Racism campaign and spread the word!

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