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WORLD HEALTH. 1996 Sep-Oct; 49(5):24-5.The executive director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and its human rights advisor addressed the annual meeting of the UN Commission on Human Rights in April 1996. The address summed up the extent of the HIV/AIDS epidemic: more than 21 million people, 1.5 million of whom are children and 9 million of whom are women, are infected with HIV; more than 5 million have died of AIDS; and 5 people are infected every minute. The protection of human rights is crucial to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. Key rights include the rights to information, education, health, and non-discrimination. Coerced sex and sexual violence against females must be stopped, since these actions put women and girls at risk of HIV infection. A conspiracy of silence keeps people and communities from knowing that AIDS is in their communities. It keeps governments from taking urgent action. An act of the Commission keeping HIV-related human rights a top priority will lead to breaking through this conspiracy of silence. More than 50% of new HIV cases are 15-24 years old. Among new HIV cases 15-19 years old, in some regions the girl to boy ratio is 2:1. The increase in the HIV infection rate in females leads to an increase in HIV-infected infants. By the year 2000, about 5 million children will have lost parents to AIDS. HIV/AIDS also adds the misery of stigmatization and discrimination to children infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS. Governments need to implement efforts to reduce children's vulnerability to HIV, to protect children against HIV discrimination, and to provide children and their families with the support and services they need. Children have the right to HIV-related education and information. The prevalence and spread of HIV in prisons is increasing worldwide. Prison officials deal with the activities that spread HIV (sex and drug use) by using discipline rather than by providing education and condoms. Prisoners have the right to health, security of person, equality before the law, and freedom from inhuman treatment.