The Swiss Aids Federation is calling for solidarity with those suffering from HIV/Aids on Wednesday and has given a clear message that prejudice should end.
The federation, which is based in Zurich, told swissinfo.ch that HIV/Aids does not receive so much media attention in Switzerland anymore and there is no big discussion among the public.
“Our message really is: Show your solidarity with HIV positive people, think about them and give out a message against discrimination,” federation spokeswoman Bettina Maeschli said.
She said there was widespread prejudice against people with HIV/Aids in Swiss society.
“They face a lot of problems in daily life. Some of them are rejected by family and friends, and they face problems, for example with access to insurances or at the workplace.
“They can work, they should be integrated into society but often this is not possible because of rejection and prejudice,” Maeschli said.
A senior adviser on law and human rights at UNAIDS in Geneva, Susan Timberlake, said that both stigma and discrimination were “very much a global problem”.
“We define stigma as negative attitudes towards people living with HIV and it can take the form of gossip, criticism, shunning someone, refusing to eat with them – these kinds of attitudes,” she told swissinfo.ch.
“Discrimination on the other hand, of course, is a human rights violation.”
It can take the form of denial of employment, being thrown out of school or being denied housing and affects major life activities.
“To tackle HIV and to tackle the human rights aspects, we need to focus not only on health, but also on dignity and security. Stigma and discrimination undermine all three, so our efforts against HIV must include serious efforts to eliminate them,” Timberlake said.
Provocative prevention campaigns
The Swiss Aids Federation, which is this year celebrating its 25th anniversary, has long championed the cause of HIV/Aids prevention with its colourful and provocative campaigns.
Maeschli said a big challenge was to continually look for new ways to get the message across about protection and safe sex.
The current campaign of Love Life Stop Aids features some of the shortest television advertising there’s ever been, some spots are only five seconds, but they have been widely acclaimed.
The Swiss Stop Aids project has been described as “one of the longest and most carefully evaluated social marketing programmes for Aids prevention in the world”.
“I think we can say that the message that the condom is the best protection against HIV/Aids is widespread. Almost everybody knows about it and this is surely the big success of this campaign,” Maeschli said.
But she said there was still much to do against discrimination. “We haven’t made much progress in the last 20 years. The challenge really today is to integrate these people in our society and give them the same chances as other people.”
Timberlake at UNAIDS noted that in almost all countries of the world people were aware of HIV and willing to discuss it.
“However, even with all the knowledge and information out there, it is still surrounded with a great deal of fear, ignorance and even aversion and in this sense it still remains a taboo subject."
HIV/Aids in Switzerland
More than 31,000 people have tested positive for HIV in Switzerland.
About 25,000 people in Switzerland live with HIV and Aids.
From the beginning of the epidemic until the end of 2009, more than 8,900 Aids cases were recorded.
A total of 5,815 people in Switzerland have died as a result of Aids.
In 2009, 642 people tested positive for HIV. Women accounted for 27% of the total.
About 48% of all infections are due to heterosexual contacts.
World Aids Day in Bern
A big charity event is taking place on the square in front of the Swiss parliament building on Wednesday.
It will feature an Aids walk/jog/run in the streets of the old town and participants will each pay SF25 ($25). The proceeds will go to HIV solidarity projects of the Swiss Aids Federation.
There will also be concerts on the square throughout the afternoon and evening.
Those people unable to go to the event can show their solidarity on Facebook. (http://apps.facebook.com/aids-walk/)