AIDS Epidemic Still Driven by Human Rights Violations, UN Experts

Human Wrongs Watch

3 June 2016 – Ahead of next week’s high-level meeting on ending AIDS by 2030, United Nations independent experts are warning that the epidemic is still being driven by human rights violations, urging all Governments to remove punitive laws, policies and practices.

In Malakal, South Sudan, an HIV support network with around 150 members meet on a regular basis to talk about the challenges faced in accessing antiretroviral medicines. Photo: UNAIDS

“Such laws and practices impede, and sometimes altogether bar, certain populations from accessing information, as well as health goods and services that are critical to the prevention, treatment, and care of HIV,” said a joint statement by Special Rapporteurs on the right health Dainius Pūras; on extreme poverty, Philip Alston; and on violence against women Dubravka Šimonovic; and the Chairperson of the UN Working Group on Discrimination against women, Frances Raday.

For instance, barriers to access health services, such as third party authorization, deter many adolescents and young women from seeking sexual and reproductive health information and services. This in turn can lead to higher level of unsafe abortion, unwanted pregnancies, and HIV infections.

“We have an historic opportunity not to be missed: to put an end to AIDS within our lifetimes. The international community has made great progress in the fight to end HIV/AIDS, but it has been uneven. The present challenge is to reach the many who are still being left behind,” they said.

Specific populations that continue to be left out and bear the brunt of the epidemic include people who inject drugs, who are 24 times more likely to acquire HIV; women in prostitution/sex workers, who are 10 times more likely to acquire HIV; men who have sex with men, who are 24 times more likely to acquire HIV than adults in the general population; transgender people, who are 18 times more likely to acquire HIV; and prisoners, who are five times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population.


Two HIV-positive women in Uganda sit on the floor while a Registered Nurse (RN) gives them anti retroviral drugs (ARVs). Photo: UNICEF/Shehzad Noorani

Evidence shows that health care settings are among the most frequent environments where people experience HIV-related stigma, discrimination, and even violence, the experts noted.

Examples include denial of health care and unjust barriers in service provision, extreme violations of autonomy and bodily integrity such as forced abortions and sterilizations, undue third party authorizations for accessing services, and mandatory treatment; or compulsory detention, they said.

The UN General Assembly will convene a High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS by 2030 from 8 to 10 June in New York. (Source: UN).

2016 Human Wrongs Watch

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