Washington DC – Leading Caribbean activist in the fight against HIV and AIDS, Ian McKnight, delivered a tongue-lashing Friday as he urged an end to “half-baked” attempts and “tokenism” to end the epidemic, during the close of the International Aids Conference.
The executive director of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) was referring to the exclusion of sex workers, transgenders and drug users among others, from the summit due to the US banning entry to such persons.
When applying for a US visa such categories of persons would have to deny their status or profession to have a real shot at receiving the travel document.
Those who chose not to “be untrue” to themselves, as one transgender person told OBSERVER Media earlier, had the option of attending the parallel sex workers’ Aids Conference called “Freedom Festival” in India.
However, McKnight told the closing ceremony in Washington that organising the India hub was a “nice” gesture but the relevant voices and issues needed to be heard at the US summit.
Meantime, the activist acknowledged that the vulnerable community was encouraged by advancements in science, research and treatment as the world moves to “end the epidemic.“
But he was quick to caution that more emphasis must be placed on the behavioural and social determinants that are leading to the transmission of the disease ahead of the 2014 Aids Conference in Australia.
“As we move to Melbourne, we need to link the medical and social approaches,” he advised.
McKnight pulled no punches as he highlighted the human rights violations of those being killed because they are HIV positive as well as lesbians who are “repeatedly raped” in South Africa and sex workers “extorted” by law enforcement officers.
“Let us not fool ourselves, we will not achieve the three zeroes without ensuring human rights for all,” he told the international audience, which included former US President Bill Clinton.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)