09.08.2016 - UNESCO Office in Brasilia

#IEmbrace campaign promotes the Olympic spirit and combats HIV

The project applies the symbolic power of this kind of display of care in order to encourage people to adopt, during the Olympic Games, attitudes of empathy, union, friendship, respect for diversity, celebration, support and hospitality. The initiative also serves as an alert to HIV prevention.

“A hug contains and spreads sympathy. It is a collective motion that translates the passion of the Brazilian soul”. In such spirit, the #IEmbrace campaign, inspired by the emblem for the Rio 2016 Olympics and stemming from a partnership between the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), other UN agencies in Brazil, and the Ministry of Health, was officially released last Saturday (08/06/2016), at the Casa Brasil, at Praça Mauá  –in Rio de Janeiro’s port zone.

According to the Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in Brazil, Georgiana Braga-Orillard, the campaign is mainly being launched now to benefit from the Olympic spirit and the union of peoples. “The campaign was inspired by the sixth principle of the Olympic Charter, which is essentially the principle of non-discrimination. We want to use the gesture of hugging to bring about a positive message to people at this very moment, so they might better embrace diversity and the those people who are most vulnerable to the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” she stated.

Georgiana stresses that each hug will make a difference in fulfilling the “90-90-90” goals. The goal is that, by 2020, 90% of people be aware of their serological situation; 90% of said people thus getting treated; and 90% of those in treatment reach an undetectable viral load. She declares that “the #IEmbrace campaign, whether it is happening on the street or through social media, invites everyone to break the barriers that still prevent people from living with dignity and having their rights respected.”

“We embrace the young, who are the focus of our actions, so they can begin using condoms,” points out Director of the Department of STD, AIDS and Viral Hepatitis, of the Ministry of Health, Adele Benzaken.

“We are offering antiretroviral therapy to Brazilians and foreigners who lost their medication,” said Alexandre Fonseca Santos, Substitute Secretary of Health Surveillance the Ministry of Health during the release.

For representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Brazil, Jaime Nadal, the project not only embraces diversity, respect, peace and non-violence, but also condoms. He states that that “embracing preservatives means respecting others, having sexual relations that do not endanger others – regarding both sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) as well as the zika virus, which can also be sexually transmitted.”

According to Ruggery Gonzaga, a campaign volunteer and diagnosed with HIV six years ago, #IEmbrace, above all, breaks the stigma and prejudice regarding people with HIV, and conveys a message that a better world is possible, one that is free of discrimination, where a person with a disease can be treated equally and not made to feel different due to their serologic condition.

“We are all part of this diversity, and I firmly believe that the gesture of hugging is able to make the impossible possible,” said Ruggery in his speech at the event held for the campaign’s release, adding that he feels he represents dozens of young Brazilians who, just like him, live under the most diverse realities and believe in better days.

Mariana Braga, officer from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO in Brazil), mentions that the entity is a partner in the #IEmbrace campaign for believing in the principles of human rights, in which everyone should be respected as they are.

She emphasizes that “even in schools, everyone must be respected for their beliefs, ideologies, the way they express themselves sexually, and for their gender ideology. These should not be motives for discrimination in any place, including schools. That is basically the message of the #IEmbrace campaign: to live in an environment free from stigma.”

Director of the Department of STD, AIDS and Viral Hepatitis (DDAHV), Adele Benzaken; Substitute Secretary of Health Surveillance from the Ministry of Health, Alexandre Fonseca Santos; AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Deputy Director for Latin America, Miguel Pedrola; and Rio de Janeiro’s Coordinator of the Programme on HIV/AIDS, Luciane Oscar were also present at the campaign's release.

The campaign will be held at the Olympic Boulevard during both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, distributing more than 500 thousand male preservatives and 10 thousand female preservatives, providing information pamphlets, HIV testing, and plenty of hugs.

In addition to the -site activities, the #IEmbrace campaign will also take place virtually, through an online platform called "Abraçometro" - which should be launched later this week. 

Increase in new infections

Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS Brazil, Luiz Loures, highlighted the progress in HIV treatment all over the world, although he highlighted an increase of new infections. 

"We are living a very special moment after 30 years of the HIV epidemic. Today there are 17 million people undergoing treatment in the world. Ten years ago, such numbers barely existed. Brazil was the only country that treated it. Now there are 17 million in treatment, mostly in Africa. That is why deaths due to AIDS have been declining,” he states. 

“However, from the perspective of new HIV infections, reports are not that great. Infections are increasing worldwide, Jaime Nadal, especially among the most vulnerable populations,” he claimed.

“We are still registering, worldwide, 1.9 million HIV infections every year. It is a contradiction. There was great progress in relation to treatment, but there is much to do in terms of prevention,” he concluded. (Source: UNAIDS Brasil)

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