[Ip-health] Time to Change Our Response to HIV -Navi Pillay
Riaz K Tayob
riaz.tayob at gmail.com
Thu Jul 19 13:14:16 PDT 2012
[Is Geneva UN-socialisation too much for Navi? I mean the HR argument is
nice and all, but nary a word on rich countries undermining poor
countries legal rights to compulsory licenses... And to be precise it is
"authors rights" that are privileged over other more meaningful rights
(i.e. meaningful to the treatment access movement) ... I guess these
kinds of pushes for human rights are necessary now that rich countries
are cutting prices paid to big pharma and we can all expect the loss of
profits there to be made up in less well regulated markets that lack
productive capacity to fight back... is it just me or is it this
obsession with suffering of the worst off that displaces more systemic
options... symptomatic approaches have their limits as the cuts in HIV
funding attest... would have expected more from Navi... ]
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Time to Change Our Response to HIV
Posted: 07/19/2012 12:10 pm
The world's collective response to HIV three decades ago can be summed
up in one word: shameful. At worst, people living with HIV were,
inexplicably, chained to their beds, detained, turned away from medical
facilities, criminalised and deported. At best, they lost their jobs,
were kicked out of schools and denied access to basic services. We
responded to a virus by humiliating, stigmatizing and punishing those
infected. Our response to the virus was as painful, and sometimes as
deadly as the virus itself.
Fortunately, impressive strides have since been made in the fight
against HIV. In the last few years, major scientific advances have
occurred and the number of new HIV infections, particularly among
children, has been slowly declining, fewer people are dying from
AIDS-related causes, nearly half of those people eligible for
antiretroviral treatment, including in low- and middle-income countries,
are now receiving it, and treatment has become the new engine for
prevention. HIV is no longer the certain death sentence it once was.
And yet, the stigma and discrimination faced by HIV-positive people
remains high, in every region of the world. Even today, we continue to
focus on punitive approaches to HIV such as the criminalization of HIV
transmission, non-disclosure and exposure. Entry restrictions against
and deportation of HIV-positive non-nationals at borders are still far
too common, particularly in the more affluent countries. The most
vulnerable communities, the ones that least enjoy their fundamental
human rights, also remain disproportionately more vulnerable to HIV
infection -- and this is no coincidence.
The face of HIV has always been the face of our failure to protect human
rights. One of the key drivers of AIDS has always been, and remains,
this failure to ensure human rights protection for marginalised
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.
The theme of this year's International AIDS Conference, which is being
held in Washington D.C. later this month (July) is Turning the Tide
Together. It is indeed now time to turn the tide. The human rights
violations that have characterised the spread of HIV -- and in many
cases also the fight against HIV -- must be curbed.
It is time to build on the gains of the past few years to create a
sustainable global response to an epidemic that still challenges us.
Taking a human rights perspective on the issue is essential.
The starting point is the recognition of all people as equal in the
enjoyment of their human rights. Vulnerable populations that are most at
risk must not only be included in national responses to HIV, they must
also be given the opportunity to participate in making the policies that
will affect them.
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. Broad laws and
policies in many countries 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 are examples of such alarmist and misguided policies.
Advances in the right direction have been made, one of which -- the
lifting of travel restrictions -- has enabled the United States to host
this important AIDS conference this year, after 22 years. But much
remains to be done. Even in States where laws are on the books to
protect and promote the human rights of HIV-positive people, the extent
to which they are respected and enforced is not clear.
More resources certainly need to be channelled into ensuring access to
good quality lifesaving antiretroviral treatment, but also to human
rights programmes, including awareness raising, training of healthcare
providers and law enforcement officials, access to justice for
HIV-positive individuals, fighting stigma and educating young people
about safe sex.
Funding the fight against AIDS in this holistic fashion is not only
necessary; it is also a human rights legal obligation. The current
economic crisis cannot be an excuse for diminishing our investment in
the response to AIDS. This would result in a reversal in the gains made
This is not a time for complacency. UNAIDS has as its goal: zero new
infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero discrimination. At this
AIDS conference, a gathering of high-level government officials, civil
society, the international community and, importantly, people living
with HIV, it is essential to drive home the point that in order to
succeed, human rights must inform and motivate our response.
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