"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."
The first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a milestone document that set out in 1948 for the first time fundamental human rights to be universally protected, reminds us of one simple truth: We are all part of the human family.
On 17 May, International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria recognizes the importance of advancing human rights for all. It sees the importance of ending inequality and stigma faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people all over the world.
At a time when some countries have passed punitive laws that criminalize belonging to gay rights organisations, we want to honour the courageous role LGBT communities are playing in the response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Across the world, men who have sex with men and transgender people are disproportionately affected by HIV, among other challenges. Stigma, discrimination and criminalization only drive them further away from counselling, testing and treatment.
Today, we have the tools and the experience to achieve victory over this epidemic. But any successful health strategy needs to remove all human rights barriers to LGBT and other vulnerable groups and make care and scientific advances available to everyone.
In Africa alone - which has the largest number of people living with AIDS in the world - there are 38 countries that deem homosexuality criminal. Gays, lesbians and transgender people across the world are still in 2014 being harassed and vilified, needlessly and harmfully.
The Global Fund renews its call on all governments and states to protect the dignity and the human rights of LGBT people.
We know that the battle against hatred and stigma will not be won only in courtrooms or parliaments. We need to celebrate diversity as well in our homes, our classrooms, at work and in our neighbourhoods and villages. Community-based organizations are an essential component of the HIV response. They need to provide services without facing harassment and intolerance.
The Global Fund is committed to implementing policies and strategies to address these challenges. In line with the Global Fund’s mandate to better integrate human rights into health interventions, the Global Fund’s new funding model is intended to allow partners to expand country dialogue and to work in closer partnership with vulnerable communities and community-based organizations to affirm their role in the response to the diseases.
We will all benefit if we strive to live up to the commitment to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.