Why Human Rights?

Why human rights in the response to HIV and AIDS?

  • In more than 80 countries around the world, LGBTQ people are criminalized and subject to violence and discrimination.
  • In almost all countries, people who use drugs are imprisoned, stigmatized and denied adequate health services.
  • In countries around the world, the lives, health and safety of sex workers are jeopardized by moralizing laws and abusive police practices.
  • People living with HIV face stigma, discrimination, violence and unjust prosecution.
  • Refugees and other migrants experience coercive HIV testing, inhumane detention, and denial of health care, as do people in prisons and other closed settings.
  • Racialized people face poverty, unequal access to education and health care and high rates of prosecution and incarceration; indigenous people around the world face these and other legacies of colonization, including territorial dispossession and cultural suppression.
  • Women and girls the world over face an epidemic of economic inequality and of physical and sexual violence.
  • People with disabilities face these same barriers, and many more in gaining access to HIV prevention and care.
  • There is an unconscionable global gap in equitable access to affordable medicines for HIV treatment and other medical need; almost half of those in need of antiretroviral treatment in low- and middle-income countries still don’t get life-saving medicines.

All of these infringements of human rights undermine HIV prevention and impede access to HIV care and treatment, fuelling the epidemic.  For these reasons, and many more, human rights advocacy is critical in our response to HIV and AIDS.

And yet… another world is possible, and so is the much-discussed “end of AIDS” – but only if we ensure that protecting and promoting human rights is central in our response to the epidemic.

  • The law must not prosecute people living with HIV based on fear, misinformation and prejudice; rather, it should protect people against stigma and discrimination based on HIV status.
  • The law must not put people in jail for consensual sex with other people of the same sex or for expressing their gender identity. People have a right to live and love freely, and to be healthy sexual beings with consensual partners.
  • Rather than criminalizing and harassing those who provide sexual services for money, the law and police must protect the rights of sex workers to autonomy and safety, including supporting them as workers in ensuring they can work as safely as possible.
  • Rather than punishment, people who use drugs, including because of dependence, deserve support and health services to prevent or reduce harms and to assist with treatment where needed and desired.
  • Prisoners and other detainees must be protected against torture and have access to the same health care that is available to people outside prison.
  • Girls have a right to education, and women have a right to sexual and bodily autonomy; all people deserve access to sexual and reproductive health care.
  • The law must protect all people against involuntary HIV testing or other medical intervention; against discrimination of all kinds in employment, education, housing and health services; and against violence, including gender-based violence.
  • The law must not keep treatment priced out of reach; it must be used to improve access to medicines for all.

As recognized by the UN General Assembly, realizing human rights and fundamental freedoms for all is “an essential element in the global response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.”

Come find out more in the Human Rights Networking Zone at AIDS 2018.