According to the International AIDS Society website, which will be referred throughout this letter by its acronym as IAS, it’s the “world’s leading independent association of HIV professionals.” By convening the world’s foremost international conferences on HIV and AIDS and specialized meetings, it envisages to provide critical platforms for presenting new research, promoting dialogue and building consensus to advance the global fight against HIV. In its mission statement “scientific evidence and best practice at every level of the HIV response” are stated as IAS’s vision. In its November 2008 Policy Paper, it’s indicated that the Governing Council of IAS regards HIV-specific restrictions on entry, stay and residence as stigmatizing, discriminatory and contrary to effective public health programming. After listing 63 countries that impose such restrictions as engaging in state-sponsored discrimination against HIV-positive people and their families, IAS reiterated its position just like in the previous policy paper it issued in December 2007, by affirming that IAS will not hold its conferences in those countries until they repeal their stigmatizing and discriminatory laws and practices.
I as a victim of such egregious discrimination at the hands of a nation that prides itself of attaining highest democratic ideals and values on human rights, automatically doubted IAS’s commitment as stated in its “mission,” and all the flowery words in the Policy Paper. Since it is Australia that discriminated against me and my family solely on the basis of serostatus; and since I know Australia hosted an international conference on HIV/AIDS in July 2007, I nearly concluded that IAS engages in false pretences by issuing mendacious statements. However, I learned that IAS took the position of not holding international conferences in countries that ban entry of people living with HIV/PLHIV/ in December 2007, four months later, Australia hosted the international conference in Sydney. Although it was a belated position against those nations that discriminate with impunity vis-à-vis IAS’s establishment two decades ago, I not only welcomed it but regretted for expressing my cynicism earlier via email to a couple of officers in IAS. As it turned out, I was too naïve and quick to be apologetic. Because, Australia that discriminates on the basis of race, religion, skin color, serostatus etc is going to host “The Australasian HIV/AIDS Conference from 20 to 22 October 2010 again in Sydney! Although, it is a regional conference not an international one organized by IAS, regardless, IAS ought to have lobbied the regional countries so that they boycott the upcoming conference in Australia. Unfortunately, in a classic case of lip service that seems to dog almost all international human rights and humanitarian organizations, IAS against its own declared policy is advertising the conference on its website which anyone can see by clicking on “events calendar.” By IAS’s own admission, Australia is one of the 63 countries that stigmatizes and discriminate against PLHIV. With or without IAS’s indictment on Australia, I myself, as mentioned earlier, have a first hand traumatic experience of being discriminated against by this nation. /For further detail, see “Refugees+HIV/AIDS+Stigmatization=the new ugly face of racism” posted in June 2010 on www.garoweonline.com or www.asmarino.com
High time to name and shame racism and its accomplice, hypocrisy
As no one is free from prejudice, just like the Mississippi café proprietor illustrated in Harvey Cox’s “The secular city,” one has the right to a similar belief that impels him to think that “Negroes suffer the curse of Ham.” But when he begins to act out according to his “farfetched religious opinion” in a public facility like the café proprietor, then it is the responsibility of a civilized society to prevent him from doing so. It is also the duty of that society to punish him if he persists in his racist and discriminatory way of doing things. In this 21st century, that is exactly how it should be when the so-called international community deals with sovereign states. Sovereign states may have the right to decide who to take or reject in their immigration policy just like the Mississippi café proprietor. However, if their rejection is based upon irrationality, then they should be rejected too. As the café proprietor’s license could be revoked, it’s also possible to do the same on the errant sovereign state by annulling its membership from the international community. Remember Apartheid South Africa?
Is it fair to equate Australia with Apartheid South Africa?
For one who follows world events closely, it’s enough to recall the recent mass expulsion of immigrants known as the “Roma” community from France. It’s also a reality that Europe and it’s counterpart in North America have turned the concept of the “right to seek asylum” an uphill task long before the 9/11 incident by placing stringent rules for those who seek entry visa from failed continents like Africa irrespective of their purpose for travel. When Africans and other castaways from similar failed states found a way to migrate to Europe through a backdoor, Europe responded by tightening its borders. Indeed, nations like Italy even went to the extent of collaborating with notorious dictators such as Col.Muammar Gaddafi of Libya who volunteered for an annual remuneration of 5 billion Euros to block “the starving and ignorant Africans” before they swarm white Europe. There is no blinking the fact that racist and xenophobic politicians are gaining grounds waving their virulent anti-immigrant programme even in countries such as the Netherlands. Nonetheless, as Gwynne Dyer, a London based freelance journalist astutely observed recently, the likelihood of politicians garnering vote by fanning the fire of xenophobia in Europe is a rare occurrence happening only amidst an economic crisis such as the one besetting the continent at present./See “GEERT Wilder, no ordinary nutcase” 10th October, 2010 on www.newvision.co.ug
While public figures such as Wilders are being made to answer for their indiscretion by going overboard in exercising free speech, sentiments of Australian officials like former Immigration Minister and leader of the Labour Party, Arthur Calwell who went on record with utterances such as “Two wongs don’t make a white; we will not let the yellow hordes contaminate our golden shores; we can have a white Australia, we can have a black Australia, but a mongrel Australia is impossible” have only been toned down in what Dr.Gideon Polya aptly described a “politically correct racism/PC racism.”/See, Politically correct racism in Proto-Nazi White Australia, 5 January 2006 MWC News/.Dr.Polya, himself an Australian, confirmed my suspicion about the inherent racism of the majority of Australians who keep on voting those leaders that promote their racist interest subtly while projecting a philanthropic image to the gullible world outside. Despite some Australian’s posturing in human rights or humanitarian groups such as Amnesty International or United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees/UNHCR/, no evidence of their commitment on human rights or humanitarian causes have been seen on their own turf. In fact, according to John Pilger, another Australian and author of “The New Rulers of the World,” Australians such as Philip Ruddock who used to be a member of Amnesty International rather engaged in whitewashing Amnesty’s report on the egregious violations of human rights perpetrated against the indigenous people, Aborigines./See Pilger’s book, pg 174/.The much vaunted Australia’s pioneering role behind the 1951 Convention for Refugees or the participation of individuals like Mr. Jim McKiernan in “A Guide to International Refugee Law” published by Inter-Parliamentary Union in 2001 meant for parliamentarians had never had any effect on Australian parliamentarians. If anything, Australians went on discriminating under various pretexts while softening Calwell’s sentiment with phrases like “Enriching Australia through the well managed entry and settlement of people.” While no family or no nation is expected to leave his/its door wide open in the name of humanitarianism to the point of impoverishment, it nevertheless is not allowed to exploit the miserable situation of less fortunate nations in the name of humanitarianism. Yet, Australia in the name of “Refugee and Special Humanitarian Programme,” does exactly that. While the convention for refugees and subsequent other international instruments clearly stipulate that vulnerable groups among the refugee communities should be given utmost priority in matters of protection, Australia cherry picks only those who are “healthy” and able bodied while excluding through mandatory test those refugees found to be HIV positive. Apart from extending durable solution to refugees, resettlement is designed to relieve the burden of refugee crisis from developing nations that often bear the heavy brunt of the crisis. Yet, if developed nations like Australia goes on to pick whom they think are “young, robust and bright” while leaving behind the “daft, disabled and diseased” to where they think is their own doomed place, where is the sharing of refugee crisis between nations? What Australia is doing is at best exploitative, at the worst fascistic. Since Australia’s politically correct racism/PC racism/has become glaring, the UN Committee for the Eradication of Racial Discrimination/CERD/ condemned Australia recently for its “embedded” racism. Meanwhile Australia knowing fully well that the so-called international community’s cry for DR Congo rape victims is a crocodile tears, it rejects with impunity those Congolese refugees referred for resettlement on the basis of their seropositivity. Ironically, Australia, in a bid to plunder the rich mineral resources, is one of the countries that perpetuates the misery and displacement of the Congolese people. An Australian Mining company known as Anvil had been accused of lending its trucks and planes to the Congolese army in 2005 in a town called Kilwa where the company was engaged in mining business. Accordingly, using the equipments borrowed from Anvil, the army quelled an uprising that saw the killings of dozens of unarmed civilians. Yet, Australia has no qualms to add insult to injury on those who survive this sort of carnage in the name of “special humanitarian” programme. /See UNHCR submission to the 2009 Joint Standing Committee on Migration Inquiry by the Regional office for Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific/. Australia by its vulgar deeds against HIV positive refugees has proven that it is worse than the Swaziland politician, Timothy Myeni who suggested in May 2009 for HIV positive people to be branded on their backside.
Therefore, I am deeply saddened and disappointed by IAS that instead of being firm in its position; and in fact instead of raising its bar by lobbying for the isolation of Australia from the international community just like Apartheid South Africa, that it promotes this country’s hosting of a conference on HIV. I am also bitterly disappointed by the UNAIDS chief, Michel Sidibe’s feigning ignorance and shock over Australia’s restriction on HIV positive travelers in August 2010. What is “so painful” here is not Australia’s discriminatory policy on the basis of serostatus. The failure of those “big” people in UN agencies that are supposed to know these injustices promptly and act upon it firmly is what is so painful. The powerful Western Medias too are not only exempt from this egregious hypocrisy for they never wasted an opportunity to name and shame China’s restriction on HIV positive travelers. China has now lifted its restriction, though, it hasn’t received much coverage. Meanwhile, with no meaningful media scrutiny, Australia has not only continued in retaining its barbaric policy. But it has also continued to brazenly deny its racist and discriminatory policy while being helped to project a philanthropic image by the likes of IAS. Due to this sort of hypocrisy and double standard, that day where people discuss about HIV without any inhibition like they do about hypertension, would never come thereby killing any hope of finding a solution to the scourge.
A Refugee in Uganda from the Horn of Africa