July 25, 2014

MPs commit to rights-based approach to tackle AIDS

At a UNAIDS-AFPPD forum at the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Papua New Guinea Health Minister Michael Malabag committed to introducing legislation to decriminalise sex work as a key reform to tackling HIV/AIDS in his nation.

Other Asia-Pacific MPs from the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD) also committed to dialogue with drug users and sex workers in Nepal and Indonesia while engaging in the UNAIDS-AFPPD “Meet the Leaders: Asian and Pacific Leaders meet the Communities”.

“I will bring in the legislation. We must remove the stigma. We are all equal,” Minister Malabag told the audience of civil society representatives, academics, parliamentarians and AIDS activists.

Nepal MP Rajeev Shah told the audience that: “We are Members of Parliament but we don’t know everything.  MPs must listen and work with civil society to bring about rights-based changes to end HIV AIDS.”

While acknowledging Nepal had made great strides in recognizing transgender rights, he said he would work with the lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex communities to address discrepancies in rights between the civil and criminal codes.

Indonesian MP Dr Okky Asokawati also vowed to meet with vulnerable communities on rights legislation and to keep up the fight to lift Indonesia’s health expenditure from the current 2.1% of national budget to the agreed 5%.

After the meeting, AFPPD vice-chair, Australian Senator Claire Moore, said AFPPD had a key role to bring MPs to the world’s major international AIDS conference in Melbourne and help arm them with evidence-based solutions and meet with their own national advocates for HIV/AIDS on neutral ground.

“Ending the AIDS epidemic requires parliamentarians to remove barriers that deter young and key populations from accessing comprehensive information and services on AIDS, with sexual and reproductive health as their right,” said Senator Claire Moore.

For media inquiries, please contact John Hyde on +61 419201024 or john[at]afppd.org