The partnership aims to increase understanding among Commonwealth governments and civil society of the importance of the legal and social frameworks and policies needed to improve access to HIV & AIDS treatment, prevention and care.
Building on shared concerns
The partnership between the Commonwealth Foundation, the Commonwealth HIV & AIDS Action Group, and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance builds on shared concern about the disproportionately high burden of HIV in Commonwealth countries.
“As the world’s attention once again turns to the challenges that HIV and AIDS present to us, we are pleased to be able to play a positive and proactive role in increasing understanding of the way in which forward-looking laws and policies can encourage and enable people to access appropriate HIV care and support,” said Mark Collins, Director at the Commonwealth Foundation.
Commonwealth countries account for 60% of the world’s HIV positive people and some of the biggest challenges to fighting the AIDS epidemic effectively are the legal barriers that prevent marginalised people from accessing information, treatment and services. Social barriers include stigma and discrimination.
Dealing with barriers
Laws that mean medical information remains confidential within the health facility help to build patient trust in their healthcare workers, resulting in a higher take up of health services. Laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of HIV in the work place support people living with HIV to continue being economically active to look after themselves and their families.
“We are pleased to build on our working relationship with the Commonwealth Foundation,” commented Dr Alvaro Bermejo, Executive Director of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. “The fact that Commonwealth countries are some of the hardest hit by the HIV epidemic underlines the need for urgent action and a degree of flexibility to design evidence-based HIV programmes that build on the capacity of those most affected to turn this epidemic around. Legal barriers are excluding the very people that need to be engaged.” he said.
Advice and guidance for Members
Information materials will provide advice and guidance to Commonwealth members on legal frameworks restricting universal access in the Commonwealth with recommendations on how to increase participation in HIV prevention, treatment and care.
Working collaboratively with others
At the first day of the AIDS conference the Alliance and Commonwealth Foundation will host a meeting that brings together UNDP, key support networks and forums, legal experts and civil society organisations to build collaboration and coordination to promote human rights based responses to HIV, and increase understanding and capacity for civil society organizations and networks to engage in law reform dialogue.
This will be followed up with an action plan to facilitate civil society dialogue in the key Ministerial meetings, including that of the Law Ministers, in the run up to the Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting in 2011.
“The Commonwealth HIV and AIDS Action Group (CHAAG) has been committed to utilizing the values and legal frameworks shared by the Commonwealth to promote an AIDS response that is rooted in a respect for human rights, particularly for those that are most vulnerable to infection." said Anton Kerr, Chair of CHAAG.