HIV Prevention and Treatment: A Health & Civil Rights Issue

New HIV infections are increasing among homosexuals, drug users and prostitutes who don’t seek help because of laws that criminalize these practices…

In developed and developing countries alike, HIV/AIDS is considered to be one of the dominant causes of mortality worldwide. Although HIV/AIDS is a global concern that is not bound to any specific geographic region, the virus is spreading more rapidly in countries that criminalize homosexuals, drug users, and prostitutes. Many countries view these minorities as criminals who engage in practices that defy both religious and social norms. They are classified as less than human and, thus, are denied basic civil rights. Offenders of such legislative conduct face a difficult life that is often short lived due to capital punishment or HIV/AIDS left untreated. Due to limited access to care and poor knowledge of HIV prevention, homosexuals, drug users, and prostitutes remain greatly disadvantaged when it comes to preventing the onset of HIV. This social disadvantage raises a controversial question: Do these “criminals” have the right to access HIV/AIDS treatment?

After reading the article “New HIV Infections Increasing Among Homosexuals”, I have come to realize that criminalizing these people for their practices is only exacerbating the spread of HIV/AIDS. Although I do not necessarily agree with the practices of drug users and prostitutes, I believe that no one has the right to deny another human being of his or her right to access health services and to learn about HIV/AIDS treatment. It is only natural for individuals to acknowledge their right to live by trying to prolong their lives as long as possible. People infected with HIV/AIDS would seek help if it were not for the laws that criminalize their practices and prevent them from accessing proper health services.

Perhaps HIV/AIDS education and greater integration with these minorities could help to alleviate some of the misconceptions of their practices and HIV/AIDS in general. Many people are still under the impression that HIV is contracted similarly to tuberculosis, a contagious airborne disease. In fact, HIV is an infectious virus that is transmitted through blood and through sexual contact. Lack of proper treatment and diagnoses ultimately leads to increased infection through sexual contact, use of syringes, etc. This scientific fact raises another point. HIV/AIDS is NOT exclusive only to homosexuals. In the past, HIV/AIDS was called GRID (Gay-related immune deficiency) because it was first founded primarily among homosexual men. This misconception led to years of mistaking the true spreading mechanism of HIV/AIDS and still places a huge burden on the homosexual community.

According to Michael Sidibe, the head of UNAIDS, “a prevention revolution” is needed in order to achieve universal access to HIV treatment. This revolution against the virus is not only a health issue, but has become a civil rights issue as well. Campaigning for HIV prevention and treatment will help to not only alleviate health disparities, but may also help to raise awareness of the inequity seen among countries that criminalize homosexuals, prostitutes, and drug users for their practices. If aggressive action is not taken against HIV/AIDS the epidemic will continue to spread and people will not be given the care they need and the proper education to prevent further dispersal.

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