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"Now More Than Ever" Campaign gives voice to thousands restricted from attending the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C.

Newly re-launched and social media channels will share the stories, videos and messages from people who use drugs, sex workers and their allies unable to attend the world's largest AIDS conference.

Washington D.C. (July 19, 2012) - People who use drugs and sex workers are facing legal restrictions from attending the upcoming International AIDS Conference (IAC) in Washington, D.C., despite the fact that they represent two of the world's populations at highest risk of being or becoming infected with HIV.

Current U.S. law denies visa eligibility to anyone who has ever abused or been addicted to drugs or engaged in prostitution in the last ten years. To participate in conference proceedings, these groups are resorting to one of the off-site hubs organized by the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (the "Sex Workers Freedom Festival" in Kolkata, India) and the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network ("AIDS 2012: Ensuring that Our Voice is Heard" in Kiev, Ukraine).

The "Human Rights and HIV/AIDS: Now More Than Ever" campaign is sending bloggers and digital storytellers to Kolkata and Kiev to share the stories, videos and messages from excluded groups online at , on Facebook and Twitter , and under the #hivrights hashtag. Videos and messages will also be shared in Washington in the Human Rights /Social, Economic and Prevention Justice Zone of the conference's Global Village.

"If it weren't for the power of web and new media tools, these populations would be silenced from a discussion that directly affects their health and lives," said Jonathan Cohen, Deputy Director of the Open Society Public Health Program. "We hope that conference delegates in Washington will listen to their stories and come away feeling outraged by their exclusion from the most important global dialogue on AIDS."

25,000 delegates from over 200 countries are projected to attend the IAC, which will take place from July 22 through 27. Holding the conference in Washington, D.C. in an election year presents a rare opportunity to consolidate political support for the U.S. response to HIV.

"We are denying an enormous spectrum of people access to what could be one of the most important conferences of the decade," said Allan Clear, executive director of the Harm Reduction Coalition. "We're asking the most affected groups to press their noses against the window of a conference that is talking about them, but isn't letting them in."

President Obama's 2009 repeal of the U.S. ban against people living with HIV entering the country paved the way for the conference to be held in the U.S. for the first time since 1990. While the repeal of the HIV travel ban was a watershed, current U.S. law still prohibits the entry of many of those likeliest to be living with the virus.

Although sex workers and drug users can apply for a waiver of inadmissibility for a visa, this process is time-intensive, costly, and at the discretion of U.S. consular officials. Even if the waiver is granted, it guarantees only a one-time entry for the individual and means that one's record is permanently marked as being a drug user or sex worker. This not only stigmatizes travelers, but may also prevent entry into the U.S. on other occasions in the future.

Suggested tweet: Thousands of people are unable to attend #AIDS2012. @HIVhumanRights gives a voice to those voiceless at: #hivrights

About Human Rights and HIV/AIDS: Now More Than Ever
Human Rights and HIV/AIDS: Now More Than Ever is a global initiative that has advocated for greater attention to human rights in the global AIDS response since the Toronto International AIDS Conference in 2006. It is based on a 10-point joint statement coordinated by the Open Society Foundations on behalf of 25 leading HIV and human rights organizations and networks endorsed by hundreds more. For more information, please visit: , Like us on Facebook , and Follow us on Twitter . Join the discussion with #hivrights.


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"Reproduced with permission - Human Rights and HIV/AIDS: Now More Than Ever "

Human Rights and HIV/AIDS: Now More Than Ever

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