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UN rights committee calls for repeal of anti-leprosy laws

The UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee [official website] on Friday called for the repeal [press release] of all laws that discriminate against people affected by leprosy. The committee also drafted a recommended set of principles and guidelines [UN News Centre report] to be used by countries in enacting legislation to protect leprosy patients and their family members from being discriminated against in employment, health, marriage, and the use of public utilities and places. The committee stated that although leprosy has been eliminated as a public health problem in most countries and is curable if caught in its early stages, the disease still carries a strong social stigma. According to the UN World Health Organization [official website] over 15 million cases of leprosy have been cured over the past 25 years. Leprosy is one of the oldest known diseases and is most prevalent in poor and disadvantaged regions.

The UN has also recently taken action to create legal environments beneficial to those affected by HIV/AIDS. In July the UN Development Programme (UNDP) [official website] released a study [JURIST report] claiming that laws criminalizing homosexual activity are contributing to the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Asia-Pacific region. The report comes one month after the launch of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, created by the UNDP and the UNAIDS Secretariat [official websites] in order to better understand the role played by the law [JURIST report] in facilitating universal access to AIDS prevention and treatment. The commission is charged with developing "actionable and evidence-informed recommendations" to create national legal environments with effective and efficient HIV/AIDS responses. UNAIDS strongly opposes any laws that restrict movement based on HIV-positive status, holding that such restrictions are discriminatory and do not prevent HIV transmission or protect public health.

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