UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Human rights essential in fight against HIV/AIDS

July 23, 2012


At the eve of the 19th International AIDS Conference (Washington, 22-27 July), the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights wrote a short article about the links between AIDS and human rights. 

Ms. Navi Pillay wrote in a feature on the website of the UN magazine Africa Renewal that even with the modern-day advancements in the fight against AIDS, the stigma and discrimination faced by HIV-positive people remains high, in every region of the world. “One of the key drivers of AIDS has always been, and remains, this failure to ensure human rights protection for marginalized communities, including prisoners, sex workers, drug users, people with disabilities and migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Homophobia, gender discrimination, racial profiling and violence against women have further impeded efforts to effectively manage and contain the spread of HIV.”

Travel restrictions and other misguided policies

Taking a human rights perspective on the issue of HIV and AIDS is essential, Ms. Pillay stresses. Vulnerable populations that are most at risk must not only be included in national responses to HIV, but also be given the opportunity to participate in policy-making. “Human rights norms must accompany public health considerations to ensure that our laws, policies and programmes do not increase vulnerability to HIV or result in further human rights violations.” Examples of misguided laws and policies are those that criminalize non-intentional HIV transmission, exposure and non-disclosure, target specific groups for mandatory HIV testing, and restrict travel of individuals based on HIV status alone.

The High Commissioner notes that this is the first time that an International AIDS Conference could be held in the USA, as the country only recently lifted travel restrictions for people living with HIV. “Entry restrictions against and deportation of HIV-positive non-nationals at borders are still far too common, particularly in the more affluent countries,” she wrote. She also advocates for rights-based programmes, including those focusing on awareness raising, training of health-care providers and law enforcement officials, access to justice for HIV-positive individuals, fighting stigma, and educating young people about safer sex. 

Full article (website Africa Renewal)