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Call for UNHCR staff to join goal of ending HIV/AIDS-related discrimination

News Stories, 2 December 2013

GENEVA, December 2 (UNHCR) UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres marked World AIDS Day with a call on the refugee agency's staff to join the campaign to end discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS.

Noting that this year's theme was "Zero Discrimination," Guterres said that "stigma and discrimination continue to be a major barrier for people trying to access HIV prevention and treatment, driving them away from the information and services they need; exacerbating HIV risk and undermining the effectiveness of the response."

The High Commissioner, in a special message on Sunday to staff, said that refugees and other people of concern to UNHCR continued to be excluded from the national AIDS strategies in several host countries and their needs were not consistently addressed in proposals submitted to major donors. "Their exclusion is discriminatory and undermines effective HIV and AIDS prevention and care efforts both for refugees and host communities," he said.

Guterres stressed that UNHCR continues to strive towards optimal HIV and AIDS service provision for refugees, internally displaced people and others of concern. By the end of 2012, refugees in 93 per cent of host countries had access to antiretroviral therapy at a level similar to that of the surrounding population, he noted.

During the conflict this year in the Central African Republic, UNHCR was instrumental in working with the government and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to address the disruption of antiretroviral treatment, as part of its co-leading role with the World Food Programme in the UNAIDS Division of Labour for HIV in emergencies.

"Another priority is the provision of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to rape survivors, an area in which most countries have shown sustained improvement in this area from 2010 to 2012. For example, in Tanzania the percentage of rape survivors receiving PEP rose from 49 per cent to 80 per cent during that period, and in Kenya from 54 per cent to 98 per cent. However, stigma and discrimination are among the challenges that have many countries still struggling to reach the standard of 100 per cent," Guterres said.

"Key populations at a higher risk of HIV infection including sex workers, people who use drugs and others continue to face high levels of stigma and discrimination," he noted while adding that UNHCR and its partners implement a number of initiatives to address the protection and health needs of sex-workers as well as sexually exploited and abused adolescents, for example in East Africa and Latin America.

Stressing the important role that all UNHCR staff can play in eliminating HIV-related stigma and discrimination from the workplace, Guterres said: "Discrimination and intolerance diminish us all, and they can affect not only our persons of concern, but also our staff and loved ones."

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HIV and AIDS

Read about UNHCR's provision of HIV and AIDS protection, prevention, treatment and more.

International Women's Day 2013

Gender equality remains a distant goal for many women and girls around the world, particularly those who are forcibly displaced or stateless. Multiple forms of discrimination hamper their enjoyment of basic rights: sexual and gender-based violence persists in brutal forms, girls and women struggle to access education and livelihoods opportunities, and women's voices are often powerless to influence decisions that affect their lives. Displaced women often end up alone, or as single parents, battling to make ends meet. Girls who become separated or lose their families during conflict are especially vulnerable to abuse.

On International Women's Day, UNHCR reaffirms its commitment to fight for women's empowerment and gender equality. In all regions of the world we are working to support refugee women's participation and leadership in camp committees and community structures, so they can assume greater control over their lives. We have also intensified our efforts to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence, with a focus on emergencies, including by improving access to justice for survivors. Significantly, we are increasingly working with men and boys, in addition to women and girls, to bring an end to dangerous cycles of violence and promote gender equality.

These photographs pay tribute to forcibly displaced women and girls around the world. They include images of women and girls from some of today's major displacement crises, including Syria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and Sudan.

International Women's Day 2013

International Women's Day 2014

Every year on March 8, the UN refugee agency joins people around the world to celebrate International Women's Day. This year's theme, "Equality for Women is Progress for All," recognizes that we do not live in a world in which all women and girls are treated equally and without discrimination. UNHCR puts great importance on achieving progress in gender equality and advancing the empowerment of women.

But while many forcibly displaced women and girls around the world are making strides every day towards improving their lives and achieving equality, there are countless women who are victims of sexual violence and have no access to justice or support, girls who are unable to complete their education and fulfill their promise and mothers who cannot provide enough food for their children.

With this photo set, UNHCR celebrates the lives of forcibly displaced women and girls around the world, remembers their needs, and supports their right to a normal, safe and dignified life and to one day return home.

International Women's Day 2014

Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

In 1991, some 250,000 refugees from Myanmar's Northern Rakhine state fled by boat and on foot to neighbouring Bangladesh, where they were sheltered in 20 camps in the Cox's Bazar district. While the majority of these refugees eventually returned home, some 20,500 people – mostly Rohingya, a Muslim minority ethnic group – remain in two of the original camps.

Conditions in these camps are below standard, with many refugees living in overcrowded shelters in desperate need of repair. Frequent heavy rains inundate the area, further damaging shelters and spreading disease. Harassment and discrimination add to the plight of the Rohingya refugees, the majority of whom say that they do not want to return home until there is peace and democracy in Myanmar.

The UNHCR has expanded its routine protection monitoring in Cox's Bazar to address the problems of sexual and gender-based violence as well as trafficking of women and children. The UN refugee agency continues to work with governments, other UN agencies and non-governmental organisations to try and find a durable solution for the Rohingya refugees.

Posted on 27 November 2006

Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh