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Activists Call For Focus On Human Rights, Ignored Communities, At U.N AIDS Summit

"Our generation has been presented with an opportunity that must not be thrown away," said UN AIDS director Michel Sidibé.

AIDS activists from around the globe are gathering at the UN this week for the 2016 High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS, where the focus is on accelerating the response to the epidemic over the next five years to achieve an AIDS-free world in 2030.

The advent of effective treatment and improved technology has shifted the global fight against AIDS: The knowledge is there, the medicine is there, but HIV/AIDS is still the leading infectious cause of death worldwide.

Of the 36.7 million people living with HIV, less than half are accessing treatment.

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An young girl lights candles on the eve of World Aids Day at Agartala, capital of the Northeastern state of Tripura.

A lot of that has to do with stigma—the most vulnerable communities are the ones often targeted for discrimination, arrest and violence. And activists and experts are calling for a focus on human rights to remove that stigma.

"Our generation has been presented with an opportunity that must not be thrown away," said UN AIDS director Michel Sidibé in a statement this week. "We have the technology, medicines and tools to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, averting more than 17 million new HIV infections and saving almost 11 million lives."

"Stigma and discrimination continue to stop people accessing health care, including HIV prevention and treatment services that reduce new infections and save lives," Sidibé added. "In some regions of the world, the numbers of HIV infections are actually increasing.

He singled out adolescent girls, sex workers, men who have sex with men and trans people as communities that are still underserved.

UN AIDS has set a "90-90-90 treatment target" by 2020, meaning 90% of people living with HIV to know their status, 90% of people who know their HIV positive status to access antiretroviral treatment and 90% of people on treatment to have suppressed viral loads.

The UNAIDS Fast-Track campaign has announced several other ambitious goals by 2020:

* Less than 500 000 people newly infected with HIV.

* Less than 500 000 people dying from AIDS-related causes.

* Elimination of HIV-related discrimination.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Doctors Without Borders said those in need are still being underserved in West and Central Africa, where less than one-third of HIV-positive people receive life-saving medicines.

"U.N. member states need to use this opportunity to recommit to people living with HIV in regions of the world that have been essentially neglected despite the tremendous advances in the last decade globally," said DWB's Dr. Cecilia Ferreyra.

"While the number of people on life-saving HIV treatment worldwide doubled over the last five years to nearly 17 million people, those living in West and Central Africa are missing out and in desperate need of treatment."

Again, stigma is identified as a leading factors affecting access, along with service failures and a lack of trained staff.

The group called on UN member states to increasing funding to the region—which includes countries like Angola, Camaroon, Mali and Nigeria.

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