Follow us on: 
facebook
youtube
flick
 

Speech of Dr. Kristan Schoultz, UNAIDS Viet Nam Country Director at the Advocacy meeting to improve access to justice for PLHIV in Viet Nam

Print Email

 

Date: Tuesday 1st March 2016

  • Dr. Nguyen Van Quyen, Chairperson of Viet Nam Lawyer Association
  • Dr. Hoang Dinh Canh, Deputy Director General of Viet Nam Administration for AIDS Control
  • Colleagues and friends,
  • Good morning:

I would like to start by saying how happy I am that we have come together today on the International Zero Discrimination Day to further rights protection for people living with HIV through strengthened legal aid.

This is a very meaningful and important effort, because of the widespread and continuing stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV, in Viet Nam and throughout the world.

During the course of our discussion today, you will hear about recent studies on this topic, and you will also hear directly from those who have been affected by past, and continuing, stigma and discrimination. You will also hear how people living with HIV have been refused their legitimate rights to social services due to stigma and discrimination related to their HIV status. I’m sure that you, like me, will be surprised and saddened when you hear how difficult it has been for these citizens to defend and enjoy their rights.

Let us all be reminded that Viet Nam’s 2013 Constitution clearly states that non-discrimination is considered to be a human right in this country. Viet Nam also has more specific legislation to protect the rights and legal interests of people living with HIV, including the 2006 Law on HIV/AIDS prevention and control, and law and regulations on remedies for rights violations of people living with HIV.

However, HIV-related stigma and discrimination and the associated rights violations are still common in many settings, including in healthcare facilities, the work place and in the community, preventing people living with HIV from equal access to essential health, social protection and legal services. Many people living with HIV who are discriminated against and suffer from rights violations do not even seek help because they are afraid, and they feel that they have nowhere to turn for protection.   

I am happy to learn that the amendments to the Legal Aid Law propose to expand beneficiary groups of state-funded legal aid services to include people living with HIV. We have a strong evidence base about HIV-related stigma and discrimination to support this proposed revision, and people living with HIV should be recognized as a population which is highly vulnerable to discrimination, and who deserve legal aid services provided by the Government.

As Viet Nam is now a middle-income country, and will increasingly be self-reliant on resources for development and social protection assistance, it is vitally important that any scale-back in budget and the service package for the legal safeguard of the most vulnerable populations will be informed by solid knowledge of the potential regulatory and social impacts. People living with HIV should be able to enjoy a wide range of legal aid services, including legal education and communications, legal advice, legal assistance and representation in civil, criminal and administrative cases, and litigation.

On this note, I would like to recognize the significant contributions over many years of civil society and non-state legal aid providers in providing legal education, legal advice and representation to people living with HIV in Viet Nam.

I would also like to express appreciation for the leadership of the National Agency for Legal Aid and all stakeholders present in this room for the proposed improvement of the Legal Aid Law, and for your aim of building a society of justice and equality for all, especially for the most vulnerable populations.

I look forward to the consideration and incorporation of the outcome of today’s discussions in the final draft of the amended law, to ensure that the development of new legislation is firmly rooted in reality, and meets the needs of the most vulnerable citizens of this country.

Finally, as today is International Zero Discrimination Day, let us all make a personal commitment to help build a society where everyone is treated equally and can live a life free from stigma and discrimination. Zero discrimination is both a condition and a goal if Viet Nam is to achieve health, happiness and prosperity for all.

Let us each pledge to be an agent of change, and encourage others to also take action to eliminate discrimination!

Xin cam on va chuc suc khoe!