As the Chair of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law and the former president of Brazil, I read Tuesday's editorial on the recently released Report of the Global Commission with interest.
By way of clarification, the Global Commission is an independent body that was supported by the United Nations Development Programme at the request of the broader family of UN bodies known as UNAIDS. Its findings are not attributable to the UN nor were they subject to the usual UN process of negotiation among countries. Instead, the commission brought together a group of former and current judges, politicians, heads of state and public health experts to deliberate on the actual evidence of what does and doesn't work in terms of HIV-related law.
In considering the evidence from over 1,000 interested parties from over 140 countries, we were particularly conscious that we had to weigh both public health and human rights concerns, and that many laws that impact positively or negatively on HIV also have other consequences _ good or bad.
On the relationship between the law and drug use, we found extensive evidence that repressive drug control laws and policies fail to achieve even their purported goals of reducing drug use. On the other hand, punitive laws against drug users and against harm reduction programmes do have an impact, in facilitating the rapid spread of HIV infection, first among users themselves and then to their partners and children.
We don't have to speculate about the impact of less punitive approaches. Countries with policies that treat injecting drug users as patients instead of criminals _ including New Zealand, Germany, Australia, Switzerland and Iran _ have increased access to HIV services, reduced rates of HIV among drug users and to respond to your main point, have reduced the use of the most dangerous drugs among young people. I would also like to draw your attention to the findings of another independent body, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which looked at the issue of drug use from a security perspective, also came to the same conclusions _ punitive laws and policies against drug users only increase their risk and vulnerability and contribute not only to public health problems but to undermining of national security.
The editorial also takes issue with the commission's findings on sex work. Here too, the evidence we reviewed is unequivocal. Criminalisation pushes sex workers underground, away from HIV prevention and treatment services. Almost all the sex workers who made submissions to the commission said that the police violence and the threat of arrest was disempowering to sex workers as it made them vulnerable to sexual violence and HIV transmission. By denying sex workers fundamental human rights and civil entitlements, punitive laws lead to social exclusion and entrenched poverty. This only pushes sex workers deeper into clandestine work and increases their risk and vulnerability to HIV.
Once again, there is clear evidence that the alternative works: from Nevada to Senegal, from Tunisia to New Zealand, countries with a legal framework for consensual adult sex work see less HIV, less sexual exploitation of children, and less criminality and violence.
In producing this report, the commission addressed issues which, despite their sensitivity and complexity, are extremely important to for us to act in an informed, evidence-based manner. Only this, coupled with a respect for human rights can sustain an effective Aids response.
FERNANDO HENRIQUE CARDOSOChair of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law and former president of BrazilBadminton star on rise
Re: ``Thai teen badminton star falls to Chinese ace'' (BP, Aug 3).
Watching Ratchanok Inthanon in the Olympics on TV on Thursday night was a very exciting experience _ on the level of watching the great Thai women's volleyball team. Ratchanok was easily beating her Chinese woman opponent for half the match. Like the volleyball team has learned, once she believes she is as good as her elite competitors, she will become the elite athlete in her sport. She is good and it will be fun to watch her become a great champion which she obviously has the talent to be.
BRIAN SPRINGERHua HinUS a lesson for Thailand
Re: ``America's constrained election choice'' (Opinion, Aug 3)
The article was a well-written piece, refreshingly clear and concise. It focused the brunt of the blame for the stagnant US economy where it should be focused ... the US Congress.
When President Barack Obama first came to power, he was faced with a full plate of garbage _ two unpopular and costly wars and the economic tsunami. The Republicans publicly vowed to oppose the president at every turn, however, with the help of a Democrat congress he was able to stabilise the financial markets and start drawing down our forces in the Middle East. He succeeded in passing a job stimulus programme and historic healthcare legislation (both of which were unfortunately watered down due to Republican opposition), as well as important protections for women and general consumers. All of this in just two years.
Still, the US economy didn't turn around as fast as many wanted, so the elections of 2010 saw the US House of Representatives turn Republican. This resulted in a stalemate between the president/Senate, and the House. No matter what Obama proposed, even if it was originally a Republican idea, the Republicans rejected everything to the detriment of the US economy and general political/social behaviour. Now, predictably, the economy is stagnant. But the blame clearly falls with the Republican opposition groups in Congress and their Tea Party crackpot supporters. They were and still are unwilling to meet half way, and this is the result.
May this be a lesson for Thailand. Stop the bickering and start working together for the benefit of all!
MCSKillers' release an outrage
Since the headline in the Bangkok Post regarding three convicted murderers _ sentenced to the death penalty _ being released on bail, I have seen only two letters from readers expressing emotions such as amazement and genuine concern at this truly outrageous turn of events.
To my knowledge, in no other civilised country in the world is this kind of generosity permitted, tolerated or accepted towards convicted murderers.
In theory, at least, these criminals are now (literally) at liberty to intimidate witnesses and tamper with evidence in readiness for the appeal hearing.
Perhaps they will be given permission to leave Thailand to visit the London Olympics _ and be entrusted to return so that justice could be seen to be done?
It seems as though the French novelist and playwright Honore de Balzac hit the nail on the head when he wrote: ``Laws are spider webs through which the big flies pass, and the little ones get caught''.
Re: ``Penis politics obscure circumcision's Aids fight role'' (Opinion, Aug 1).
Wednesday's article about circumcision presented the argument for circumcision from many different points of view, but something was missing. The points of view of parents, religions, courts and adults were discussed. Nowhere was it mentioned that an infant's reaction to this procedure is, with or without anaesthesia, almost uniformly, screaming and writhing in agony!
Thank God a court has at last found this procedure to be unlawful. Instead of arguing that religions probably adopted this requirement for reasons of health, one could just as easily conclude that some religions establish control over their adherents by controlling their sexuality. And if that control is to begin as early as possible, why not inflict this terrible physical assault when the individual is most vulnerable, as an infant or young child!
It is amazing how many, most probably circumcised, men are willing to defend this barbaric practice. Let's hear from the uncircumcised, and those who have heard the screams of the babies.
LARRY MONTGOMERYJomtienTaxing the rich feeds graft
Every election invariably raises that old chestnut of taxing the rich more and giving it to the poor. History has shown this never works. The poor either do not get the money in the first place, as it is siphoned off by the bureaucrats in charge of distributing it, or, if they do get some money, they don't know what to do with it. Many just spend the money until it's gone and the money finds its way back into the pockets of the wealthy business owners. Ambitious politicians know the promise to redistribute the wealth is popular amongst many people _ the guilty rich who know their wealth has been obtained corruptly, the idealistic middle class who naively think it will help the poor and the greedy bureaucrats who see opportunities for graft and pork barrelling. Writing new laws or a new constitution is pointless when they are overseen by corrupt people. Greedy people will always find ways to avoid contributing and giving back to society.
LOGBAGSNakhon Si Thammarat Credit where it's due
Congratulations to the Bangkok Post on 66 years of news reporting. It has been my best companion in the morning for a very long, long time. With you in hand my coffee always tastes much better.
We live in the same soi in a housing estate in Bang Kae. One got 200 baht in flood compensation, one got 1,900 baht, another got 1,100 baht. Where is the logic of this difference? The whole housing estate was flooded for a full one month. How did the investigating officer come to such amounts?
We went to the Bang Kae district office to get that measly cheque and met with more complaints from other people. One man said he got 4,000 baht and said no officer came to investigate the damage. Another old lady said she got only 2,000 baht but her neighbours got 20,000 baht, some 17,000 and some 12,000 baht. Why the big difference?
Doesn't the government understand the hardship that we had to go through during that period? We had to spend money to rent a long-tail boat to get to our house to see the damage. Just going in and out each time cost money and precious time.
When the flood water subsided after one month, cleaning up became the first priority. It took us a whole week to clean up and we could not wait for a cleaning firm then as they were so busy. We had to repair and renovate. All this meant money and time was wasted. The money of 20,000 baht is not even enough.
Come on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and whoever is responsible. Just pay up 20,000 baht to all households affected by the floods due to your negligence.
MILLIENature's Rayong revenge
Mother Nature appears to be having the last laugh at Rayong's Mae Ramphueng Beach as the seas make a valiant effect to claw back what is rightfully theirs.
In March last year Brunch's columnist Normita Thongtham wrote of the desecration of long strips of the beach with the felling of scores of casuarina pines and palm trees for the building of ugly concrete blocks for fishermen's cabins, fish markets and seafood restaurants, all smack bang in the middle of the beach. What was most horrifying was that these acts were perpetrated by the so-called guardian of this once pristine beach, the Khao Laem Ya-Mu Koh Samet National Park authorities under the pretext that this was a ``beautification scheme''.
Now high tides have seriously undermined one of the blocks intended as a fish market. The back steps now hang half a metre above their original foundations and tides have washed away much of the sand supporting foundation piles.
In an attempt to thwart nature, hideously ugly concrete slabs have been hastily laid down to form a sea wall. These have reinforcing steel rods sticking out at all angles, waiting to impale any innocent child foolish enough to play near them.
Further along on another huge concrete slab they have installed a fountain. I have yet to see a single drop of water squirt from its pathetic plumbing. Perhaps even the blind officials now know that the majesty of the sea and the surf far transcend their own puny efforts at water art.
Despite Khun Normita's article and many letters to Postbag , I've yet to see one word of response from these officials. I challenge any one of them to stand in front of these monstrosities, put hand on heart and swear that this is more beautiful than what nature provided in the first place. Will nobody call them to account for these environmental crimes?
DAVID BROWNRayongHere's to the Paralympics
At the 14th Paralympics in London from Aug 29 to Sept 9, 2012, 20 sports will be featured, ranging from archery to wheelchair tennis. Thai physically challenged professional athletes will compete with high hopes of bringing fame to their proud nation and beloved families with personal best performances.
In 2008, Thailand's Paralympics team was awarded 13 medals and ranked 41st. Let's support the aim for an even stronger showing this year, accompanied by more extensive media coverage. Will Channel 3 offer similar monetary incentives for gold, silver and bronze superabled athletes who exhibit boundless energy, buoyant resilience and mindful strength? The Paralympics Movement's core values are: courage, determination, inspiration and equality. The opening ceremony theme is Enlightenment: a celebration of the inspirational spirit of the Paralympics Games that challenges perceptions of human possibility.
Coaches play an indispensable role as character builders and life training models during intensive pre-games preparation, helping to provide sports skills excellence and the determined spirit that exemplify true champions.
CONTACT: BANGKOK POST BUILDING136 Na Ranong Road Klong Toey, Bangkok 10110 Fax: +02 2403666 email: email@example.com
All letter writers must provide full name and address.
All published correspondence is subject to editing at our discretion.