Zero Discrimination Day 2023

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This blog post was written by Rachana NaryIntern at the Phnom Penh Office

Zero Discrimination Day is highlighted by the United Nations (UN) and other international organizations annually on 1st March, since 2014. It is the day to celebrate and promote the equal right of every human being to live a full and productive life with dignity regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, culture, religion, where they come from or whom they love. Every year, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) prepare for the highlight upon different themes and goals to combat the rising issues. This year, the theme “Save lives: Decriminalize” will be addressed to feature on how decriminalization of key populations and people living with HIV protects lives and mitigates the spread of the AIDS pandemic.

People living with HIV and the key populations tend to receive ill-treatment from others, which mostly violates their human rights and creates barriers for them. HIV-specific criminal laws were first introduced in the United States in the early 1980s, and later spread to other countries. HIV criminalization is the use of criminal law against people who are living with HIV-positive status to refrain from the act of transmission, potential or perceived exposure to HIV and non-disclosure of HIV status.

Criminalization can be seen as an act of prevention, but on the other hand, it affects the rights of people, causes discrimination, and increases vulnerability. According to UNAIDS, there are 134 countries executed criminal laws targeting HIV exposure, non-disclosure or transmission; and around 48 countries still put restrictions on people with HIV, while 53 countries mandatorily require HIV testing on entry into their countries. Goal 3 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) addresses good health and well-being is crucial to ensure the long-term development and good human resources. In all the goal targets, the SDGs want to end the epidemic of AIDs by 2030. However, criminalization can be an obstacle to success.

UNAIDS and the World Health Organization’s Global Health Workforce Alliance launched the Agenda for Zero Discrimination in Health Care on 1 March 2016, which the main purpose is to encourage people living with HIV to receive proper health care without any discrimination or inequalities and simultaneously, make sure that the health care workers are free from stigma and discrimination. Under this agenda, action plans were set to promote collaboration, adherence, and efficiency among stakeholders and involving countries.

On the Day of Zero Discrimination this year, we promote the equality and rights of the key population and people with HIV-positive to live the best of their lives without discrimination. To achieve such a goal, decriminalization should be lifted so that everyone can receive wide-ranging access to proper health care and other public goods and be free from stigma. The world should not leave anyone behind because everyone deserves to be treated respectively and equally.

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