Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Jirair Ratevosian: A letter to Diaspora on HIV/AIDS in Armenia


Today is World AIDS Day — the day of the year when the world’s attention is temporarily fixated on a social phenomenon that has stolen the lives of millions of people around the world over the last thirty years.

But there is some good news. A new report by the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) shows that the AIDS epidemic is beginning to change course as the number of people newly infected with HIV is declining and AIDS-related deaths are decreasing.

Yet, despite important advances over the last ten years, some 2.6 million people became newly infected with HIV last year. Africa continues to be the region most affected by the epidemic. But now a new trend is emerging: In seven countries, mostly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, new HIV infection rates have increased by 25% in recent years.

Here’s the bad news. ARMENIA is #1 on that list. In our motherland, the epidemic is concentrated primarily among people who inject drugs, sex workers, gay men and other men who have sex with men. It is no coincidence the epidemic is spreading in populations that are socially marginalized and politically irrelevant. Stigma, discrimination and violence against LGBT Armenian and other vulnerable groups fuel the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Today, this injustice is tainting the moral character of our resilient people. The Armenian government, civil society groups, the private sector, the church, and the media all have a critical role to play in respond to our generation’s greatest challenge. And so do we.

As diaspora, we must face up to this new reality. We have a responsibility to raise awareness in our homes and in our communities—in schools, with lawmakers, community leaders, the media and the church. Above all, we must support our courageous brothers and sisters working in our homeland each and every day for equality and social justice.

Get involved-- write a letter to your local Armenian newspaper, encourage community leaders to raise awareness at events and support NGOs in Armenia fighting the good fight.


*Jirair Ratevosian, MPH, based in Washington D.C., chairs the International Health Advocacy and Policy Committee of the American Public Health Association, deputy director of public policy for amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research

**posted on Facebook, Asbarez and The Armenian Weekly

*** And here is a perfect example of NGO that Jirair mentioned in his letter: PINK Armenia + few others who made this day a memorable one in Armenia with a clear human rights message.

"Our slogan today is 'Silence is not a Solution'; that is, by being silent or indifferent, we won't solve anything, we must speak particularly about the HIV virus, about human rights, so that we can prevent the increase [of the virus] in our region," said PINK Armenia NGO President Mamikon Hovsepyan during a march organized to mark World AIDS Day in Yerevan today. He noted that the focus of the demonstration is mainly on protecting human rights. (via

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