In a statement, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) urged “all governments to be vigilant in respecting and protecting the rights of individuals in this regard, in particular the rights of all to be free from murder, torture, violence, arbitrary arrest and vilification, regardless of their HIV status or sexual orientation.” The bodies voiced their concern over reports of forced HIV testing, arbitrary detention on the basis of HIV status and the disclosure of one’s HIV status without consent. “Such punitive measures violate individuals’ rights and make it more difficult to reach those in need of HIV prevention, treatment and care services,” UNAIDS and OHCHR noted. They also pointed out that homophobia, where it exists, “fuels the HIV epidemic,” calling for the issue to be addressed as a crucial component of HIV responses on a national level. Action to tackle HIV which is based on respect for human rights, tolerance and unfettered access to HIV prevention and treatment is most effective, the statement said. In a related development, a UNAIDS-backed biannual global conference on finding safe, effective and accessible microbicides – which could be used by women to prevent the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases – has wrapped up in New Delhi, India. “Developing an effective microbicide will be a critical step forward in the AIDS response,” UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said at the close of the four-day meeting, which brought together over 1,000 researchers, public health workers, communities and advocacy organizations. “To provide women with HIV prevention technology they can use themselves will be nothing short of revolutionary.” This has been a year of mixed results in candidate microbicide clinical trials, with one trial halted early due to safety concerns while another microbicide was found to be safe but not effective in blocking HIV transmission. 28 February 2008Two United Nations agencies have issued a joint call to boost protection of the human rights of people regardless of their sexual orientation or their actual or presumed HIV status.