Feature story

UN Plus members discuss stigma and health insurance with UN Secretary-General during 2011 High Level Meeting on AIDS

08 June 2011

UN Plus meeting with the Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and UNAIDS Cosponsor Executive Heads at UN Headquarters on 8 June 2011.
Credit: UNAIDS/B. Hamilton

UN Plus, the United Nations group of HIV positive employees, met with the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 8 June to discuss stigma and discrimination as well as the various health insurances existing in the different UN agencies that are hampering the access of staff members living with HIV, and their families, to continued, comprehensive care.

“I am very committed to issues that UN Plus advocates and whenever I meet with its members I am personally motivated to take action against such issues as stigma and discrimination,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “I reiterate the UN’s commitment to continue to collaborate with UN Plus to improve the work environment for UN staff living with HIV,” he added.

The meeting was an opportunity for UN Plus coordinator John Oshima to give an update on the work of the UN system-wide advocacy group. Since its last meeting with the UN Secretary-General in 2009, UN Plus has grown from 165 members to 220. Approximately 70% of its members are women and the majority of them are staff members working in sub-Saharan Africa. UN Plus is currently focusing efforts on reaching out to more staff living with HIV in other regions including Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America.

UN Plus organizes activities across the UN system to support UN staff living with HIV and their family members globally. These activities include advocacy to promote better access to care and support, removing stigma from the workplace, ensuring confidentiality, and lifting entry and travel restrictions for people living with HIV.

I reiterate the UN’s commitment to continue to collaborate with UN Plus to improve the work environment for UN staff living with HIV

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Martina Clark from UNICEF talked about access to care and health insurance among HIV-positive staff members. She briefed the Secretary-General on the fact-finding exercise that UN Plus is conducting to identify gaps in health insurance schemes adopted by different agencies as well as several proactive initiatives by a number of agencies to lessen financial burdens caused by costly treatments.

Jacqueline Cortes from UNAIDS in Brazil briefed the Secretary-General on stigma and discrimination at workplace with her own experience and introduced a new campaign co-produced with UN Cares titled Stigma Fuels HIV which is hoped will lead to behaviour change among UN staff members and end HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

Mr Ban said that it is the duty of all Heads of Agency to speak out and act against discriminatory or stigmatizing behaviour at any level. This includes working towards equitable and fair access to health care services for people living with HIV and those with other long-term chronic conditions. In addition, Mr ban said that a person’s HIV status should not adversely impact his or her career progression and that HIV positive staff should have the same opportunities as anyone else.

The UNAIDS Executive Director closed the meeting thanking the Secretary-General, Cosponsor Executives, and UN Plus representatives. Mr Sidibé restated his personal commitment to the importance of the UN in providing an enabling environment for staff living with HIV.

UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS

Thirty years into the AIDS epidemic, and 10 years since the landmark UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS, the world has come together to review progress and chart the future course of the global AIDS response at the 2011 UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS from 8–10 June 2011 in New York. Member States are expected to adopt a new Declaration that will reaffirm current commitments and commit to actions to guide and sustain the global AIDS response.