Why Human Rights Should Occupy the Centre of the Global AIDS Struggle
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Despite much rhetoric, real action on hiv/aids and human rights remains lacking.
On paper, the place of human rights in the response to HIV is well established. Governments involved in the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS agreed to take action on HIV and human rights, and reconfirmed this commitment five years later. However, in practice, there have been few efforts to cost, budget, and implement national programs that would secure legal and human rights protections for people living with, affected by, or vulnerable to HIV and AIDS.
- As of 2007, only two out of three countries reported having laws in place to protect people living with HIV from discrimination. Seventy-three per cent of countries reported having non-discrimination laws or regulations that specify protections for vulnerable populations. Nevertheless, substantial barriers remain that reduce access to HIV services: 63 per cent of countries reported having policies that interfere with access of vulnerable populations to HIV-related services.
- Despite vastly increased funding for global HIV and AIDS programs, there has been little investment in basic human rights initiatives, such as:
- Know your rights” campaigns and legal services for people living with and affected by HIV;
- HIV-related audits of national legislation and law enforcement;
- Training in nondiscrimination, confidentiality, and informed consent for health care workers, police, judges, and social workers; and
- Self-advocacy and participation by women, young people, people living with HIV, people who use drugs, sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgendered people, prisoners, and migrants in national AIDS action frameworks, coordinating authorities, and monitoring and evaluation systems.
- An evaluation of the implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, undertaken in 2006 in 14 countries, concluded that “human rights abuses of vulnerable populations continue unabated, denying them access to services and effective tools for preventing HIV infection and to life-saving AIDS drugs that will keep them alive.”
- In 2006, the UN Secretary General stated that “[g]reater resources and political commitment must be mobilized to address problems of stigma, discrimination, gender and human rights.”
Realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all is essential to reduce vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. —United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS, Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, para. 58