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August 11, 2009

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AIDS experts seek law changes

LEADING international health experts yesterday called for a repeal of "outdated" laws criminalizing prostitution and homosexuality so that people suffering from HIV/AIDS or at risk from the disease could get medical treatment.

"The main challenge is overcoming the whole issue of stigma and discrimination, repealing of outdated laws and legislation that countries have got," Prasada Rao, director of the UNAIDS Asia Pacific regional support team, said on the margins of an HIV/AIDS conference on the island of Bali, Indonesia.

Rao and other experts, kicking off a four-day meeting, said that while progress had been made in research and getting people treated for AIDS, huge challenges lie ahead and much more needs to be done.

"All this progress is not meaningful if we don't address the stigma and discrimination in this region. Young children (whether infected themselves or having family members who are infected) are still being evicted from schools," Rao told the conference.

"This must change. Without this, progress is not possible."

The conference heard that women and children were particularly left out of the treatment loop.


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