Rajiv Shah, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, linked human rights to the fight against HIV/AIDS during remarks he made during a World AIDS Day forum reports the Washington Blade. The forum highlighted a USAID-backed initiative through President Obama's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to combat the global epidemic among gay men, transgender people and other affected groups.
"Getting to where we need to go to a genuine AIDS-free generation will perhaps require even more determination, innovation and capacity to link the fight against HIV and AIDS to a broad range of critical issues, including the very basic and unassailable fight for human rights for all individuals.
"The only way to achieve the end goal of an AIDS-free generation is to more systematically embrace and empower this broader range of partners in this fight."
George Ayala, the executive director of the Global Forum on MSM and HIV, said that the U.S., Canada, Russia and Australia are among 61 countries with laws that criminalize people who have the virus. Lisa Carty, the director of the U.S. Liaison Office of U.N. AIDS, added that an estimated 80 countries have a policy or statute that, "Is a barrier to the communities we care about to get the services they need."
The State Department announced on Monday a $210 million public-private partnership with Bill and Melinda Gates and Nike Foundations through PEPFAR that is designed to lower new HIV infections in girls and women in 10 countries; an additional $116.5 million is going toward African nations' healthcare systems as well. However, the Associate Press reported that USAID hired nearly a dozen men from three Latin American countries to undermine the Cuban government through an HIV prevention workshop, among other means. U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, expressed dismay about the actions of USAID in the matter.
"I am appalled by recent reports that the U.S. government orchestrated and funded clandestine democracy promotion efforts under the guise of public health and civic programs.
"I am particularly concerned by the revelation that HIV-prevention programs were used as a cover. This blatant deception undermines U.S. credibility abroad and endangers U.S. government supported public health programs, which have saved millions of lives in recent years around the world."
Shah made no references to Cuba in his speech. The head of international development continued to discuss helping marginalized populations and linked human rights to national security.
"Efforts that we will discuss today and take forward will help not only address HIV in marginalized populations, but will help society after society through that experience recognize that the universal reach of human rights is in our collective social and national security interest."