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For Immediate Release

Community Unites for Town Meeting on Global AIDS and Human Rights

Senator Ted Kennedy To Be Honored for Leadership on Right to Health

Cambridge, Mass - 12/05/2008

BOSTON, Dec. 5, 2008 -- On Monday, Dec. 8, at Harvard Medical School in Boston, community members and experts join for a landmark town meeting titled “HIV/AIDS and the Right to Health: Leadership in the U.S. and Globally.” The event, which commemorates World AIDS Day and the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is underwritten by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) through the generosity of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and is co-organized by PHR, AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts (AAC), Partners In Health, and the François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights. More than 69 New England organizations, hospitals, and universities have signed on as event co-sponsors. With over 800 RSVPs to date at http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/udhr, event planners expect at least 500 in attendance.

HIV/AIDS experts, human rights advocates, community leaders, health professionals and students, and elected officials will discuss the current state of efforts to combat the AIDS pandemic both internationally and domestically -- what has succeeded, what has failed and what must happen now.

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino will open the event. PHR CEO Frank Donaghue will co-moderate the event, issue PHR’s “Call to President-Elect Obama To Fulfill the Promise of Universal Human Rights,” and present PHR’s Award for Outstanding Leadership on the Right to Health to Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA). Joseph P. Kennedy III, the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy and great-nephew of Edward Kennedy, will accept the award on the senator’s behalf. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) will present a keynote address via video.

Expert presenters include: Rev. Gloria White-Hammond, M.D., Co-Pastor of Bethel A.M.E Church, Director of Sisterhood For Peace and Chairwoman of Save Darfur Coalition; Rebecca Haag, President and CEO of AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts and Executive Director of AIDS Action Council in Washington, DC and one of the chief architects and leaders who called for a National AIDS Strategy for the U.S.; and Jim Yong Kim, M.D., Director of Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights and Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. The meeting’s co-moderator will be Pat Daoust, MSN, RN, Director of PHR’s Health Action AIDS Campaign.

The Dec. 8, 12-1:30 p.m. town meeting – including a discussion and question and answer period - will take place at the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center at Harvard Medical School, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur in Boston. A reception, Community Action Fair, and refreshments will immediately follow the program.

"On Human Rights Day 2008 – December 10 – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 60,” said PHR CEO Frank Donaghue. “The AIDS epidemic presents a striking example of the challenges in respecting, protecting and fulfilling the right to health,” added Frank. “Under President-elect Obama, America has an historic opportunity to strengthen U.S. partnerships internationally by expanding existing global health and development initiatives in the framework of human rights.”

"We are heartened that President-Elect Obama’s inaugural policies and issues include having a National AIDS Strategy,” said Rebecca Haag, President and CEO, AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts and Executive Director, AIDS Action Council.  “In the U.S., we need that strategy to focus on accountability including having measurable outcomes, a timeline and adequate funding.”  (www.NationalAIDSstrategy.org )

HIV prevalence rates are highest among the most marginalized populations in both the US and abroad, whether they are the poor, those living in rural or indigenous communities, men who have sex with men, people of color, injection drug users, or women.

According to UNAIDS, women and young girls presently comprise more than 60% of those who are living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa - and the numbers continue to grow. Any solution to the epidemic must acknowledge the devastating gender dynamics of AIDS and place women's empowerment at the center of programming and planning.

“The US government stands at a pivotal moment in the history of HIV/AIDS and global health policy.  The reauthorization of PEPFAR offers hopeful promise, if Washington commits to full funding,” stated Jim Yong Kim.  “Globally, it is essential that AIDS prevention and treatment are provided in the context of primary care including advanced care for tuberculosis and other opportunistic infections, screening and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and an emphasis on women’s health.”

PEPFAR reauthorization is fully appropriated by Congress, is targeted to prevent 12 million HIV infections and treat three million people over five years.

Physicians for Human Rights
The lead organizer for the Dec. 8 town hall, PHR mobilizes health professionals to advance health, dignity, and justice, and promotes the right to health for all. Membership is open to all, not just health professionals. For membership information or to learn more about PHR please visit physiciansforhumanrights.org. PHR is a 1997 co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts (AAC)
AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, Inc., New England’s first and largest AIDS organization, is dedicated to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS by preventing new infections and optimizing the health of those already infected.  AAC provides free confidential services to men and women already living with HIV/AIDS, as well as conducts extensive educational and prevention outreach to those at risk of infection.  AAC runs the only statewide AIDS Hotline (1.800.235.2331), Hepatitis Hotline (1.888.443.4372) and Pharmacy Access Hotline (1.800.988.5209).  All Hotlines offer multilingual support.  Free and confidential rapid HIV testing and counseling is available at AAC’s downtown Boston location and at its MALE Center in Boston’s South End neighborhood, which offers the state’s only late-night and Saturday testing hours. AAC also advocates for effective science-based prevention programs.  More information is available at www.aac.org and at AAC’s blog at blog.aac.org.        

François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights
The François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard School of Public Health is the first academic center to focus exclusively on the practical dynamic between the issues of health and human rights. Founded in 1993 through a gift from the Association François-Xavier Bagnoud, the FXB Center is a world leader in building a conceptual basis of the right to health and driving advocacy initiatives to incorporate human rights norms into international health policy. Under the direction of Dr. Jim Yong Kim, we have engaged in building the science of global health delivery with a focus on the rights of children and vulnerable commu­nities. For more information, see www.hsph.harvard.edu/fxbcenter/.

Partners In Health
Partners In Health is an international NGO dedi­cated to delivering quality health care to people and communities devastated by the joint bur­dens of poverty and disease. We believe that health care is a fundamental right, not a privi­lege. To this end, we provide technical and financial assistance, medical supplies, and administrative support to partner projects in Haiti, Peru, Russia, Rwanda, Le­sotho, Malawi, Mexico, Guatemala, and Boston. The goal of these partnerships is neither charity nor development, but rather “pragmatic solidarity” – a commitment to struggle alongside the destitute sick against the economic and political struc­tures that cause and perpetuate poverty and illness. See the PIH website, www.pih.org, for more information.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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