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Combating AIDS: The Human Rights Perspective

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With support from: Lowell Institute
Date and time
Tuesday, December 10, 2002
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This forum examines HIV/AIDS as a human rights crisis On December 10, Human Rights Day, 54 years after the 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the General Assembly of the United Nations. HIV/AIDS has become the greatest health crisis in human history. To date, 21 years into the AIDS pandemic, 25 million people have lost their lives and 40 million are currently living with HIV. Every day, there are 15,000 new infections and 8,200 deaths reported. Of the 28 million people in sub-Saharan Africa living with AIDS, 58% are women aged 15-49. The disease is halting economic development, unraveling communities, and destabilizing societies.

Mary Robinson became High Commissioner for Human Rights on 12 September 1997, following her nomination to the post by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the endorsement of the General Assembly. Mrs. Robinson assumed responsibility for the UN human rights programme at a time of great change. As she took up her post in Geneva, the Office of the High Commissioner and the Centre for Human Rights were consolidated into a single Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Under her leadership, the Office has been gearing up to better face existing and emerging human rights challenges, harnessing the energies of new actors in the global quest for a universal culture of respect for fundamental rights and freedoms. Mrs. Robinson came to the United Nations after a distinguished seven-year tenure as President of Ireland. As President, Mrs. Robinson developed a new sense of Ireland's economic, political and cultural links with other countries and cultures. She placed special emphasis during her Presidency on the needs of developing countries, linking the history of the Great Irish Famine to today's nutrition, poverty and policy issues, thus creating a bridge of partnership between developed and developing countries. Before her election as President in 1990, Mrs. Robinson served as Senator, holding that office for 20 years. In 1969 she became the youngest Reid Professor of Constitutional Law at Trinity College, Dublin. She was called to the bar in 1967, becoming a Senior Counsel in 1980, and a member of the English Bar (Middle Temple) in 1973. She also served as a member of the International Commission of Jurists (1987-1990) and of the Advisory Commission of Inter-Rights (1984-1990). Educated at Trinity College, Mrs. Robinson also holds law degrees from the King's Inns in Dublin and from Harvard University.
Paul received his MD from Harvard Medical School and his PhD in anthropology from Harvard University. His years of academic training went far beyond libraries, classrooms and hospital clerkships. While still a medical student, Paul and colleagues founded Partners In Health, a nonprofit organization committed to providing health care to communities in the world's most remote regions. Today Partners In Health is rural Haiti's largest health care provider and serves millions of individuals and families in ten countries, including poorer areas within the United States. Through launching innovative community-based treatments for life-threatening diseases, Paul and his collaborators have demonstrated that quality health care can be delivered effectively to undeserved and resource-poor regions. Paul is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Margaret Mead Award from the American Anthropological Association and the Outstanding International Physician (Nathan Davis) Award from the American Medical Association. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and has recently been elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

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