Towards zero discrimination

“I am against discrimination on any grounds”, said Vera Brezhneva, a popular singer, actress and UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador opening a talk show organized by UNAIDS and UNESCO in partnership with leading regional social media network OK.RU on March 1 to mark the Zero Discrimination Day.

Countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) have laws against discrimination, but it is still a problem for many people, including those living with HIV. Low awareness about HIV and particularly how the virus is NOT transmitted combined with irrational fears contribute to rejection, isolation and social exclusion of people living with HIV. One of ten surveyed Russians believe that HIV can be transmitted by touching, sharing meals and clothes*. Therefore, many people are still afraid of studying or working together with those living with HIV.

Experts from UNAIDS, UNESCO, ILO, an employer representative, a lawyer and a psychologist were invited to OK.RU studio in Moscow to discuss the causes of discrimination against children and adults living with HIV in educational settings and at workplace and dispel unbased fears. “HIV is not transmitted when children study or play together,” said Tigran Yepoyan, UNESCO Regional HIV and Health Education Advisor. “Every school has to provide a safe, friendly and inclusive learning environment for all children regardless of their HIV status and ensure observance of universal precautions measures,” he explained.

Over 52 thousand people who watched the talk show learnt about education sector and workplace basic polices on HIV. These policies are based on human rights and they reiterate the right of people living with HIV to keep their HIV status confidential, study and work together with other people and be protected from discrimination in case if someone in the school or workplace learns that they have HIV. An integral part of HIV policy is HIV awareness raising which helps people overcome their fears and change attitudes.

Summing-up the discussion, Vera Brezhneva called the audience to support each other, “I do not understand and do not accept discrimination. I wish, there are more likeminded people. Therefore, join us, friends!”

The talk show recording is available at OK.RUTEST** social network community created by UNESCO and UNAIDS specially to support the HIV testing campaign running in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.


* HIV transmission modes. National representative survey by Levada-Centre, 2015.

** Created in 2006 Odnoklassniki ( is one of the oldest and largest social media networks in Eastern Europe and Central Asia with 45 million daily visitors. In 2015, Odnoklassniki supported regional HIV testing campaign led by UNAIDS and UNESCO. This year the cooperation continued to mark the Zero Discrimination Day.

“Everyone deserves to live in a world free from violation of human rights regardless of sex, race, and health conditions. I believe that a discussion of such an important issue as discrimination is the first step towards its solution. I am glad I can participate in the project, which makes the world a better place and helps to get rid of stereotypes”, says Ms Ekaterina Sergeeva, Creative producer of Odnoklassniki.

Anastasia Zhbanova, Head of Odnoklassniki press service, adds:“I sincerely believe that equal treatment of all people, regardless of nationality, gender, political preferences and appearance, helps to address global issues and makes our world fairer and nicer”.

Remarkably, both of them studied in UNESCO associated schools and were well familiar with UNESCO global mandate long before this collaborated started.

Anastasia tells: “I studied in lyceum №104 which was a UNESCO associated school in Chelyabinsk (Russia). It was a great school with unique education system – we had a school self-government, we could choose subjects to specialize and the overall focus of education was on social sciences. We were supported by our teachers who firmly believed that our future would be interesting and diverse. And so it is. School has provided me not just with knowledge, but also with belief in justice and helped develop a deep understanding of what is tolerance and global citizenship. This knowledge has accompanied me in my life and I use it in both my work and personal communication.”

Ekaterina shares her experience: “I studied in a lyceum which was an ASPnet UNESCO member. This institution has determined my future profession in IT. But besides that, it also influenced my personal development. When I transferred to the lyceum from a district school, I was surprised to learn that there could be a school life without coarseness, violence and discrimination, where everybody can express themselves and be creative without fear of being mocked or harassed