Jamra primary scholl for children affected by HIV/AIDS, drugs or poverty, Senegal (c) Nell Freeman/Alliance Participants in the Photovioce project, Ecuador © Marcela Nievas for the Alliance
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Advancing human rights: responding to HIV


Aids Alliance

To mark International Human Rights Day the Alliance is today publishing a new report that outlines the current human rights challenges facing our national civil society linking organisations and their partners tackling HIV and AIDS.

Who is most affected by human rights abuse?

In a survey conducted in May this year according to Alliance partners, the populations most affected by human rights violations are men who have sex men, closely followed by sex workers and people living with HIV.

Among our African partners nearly 60% identified women as being subject to human rights violations. In Latin American and Caribbean respondents identified transgender communities as particularly vulnerable to human rights violations.

What we also know although it’s less evident from the responses is that people who are living with HIV are often included in these groups and can therefore face multiple discriminations.

Human rights: critical in tackling HIV

Christine Stegling is the Alliance’s senior human rights advisor.

“Human rights are central to effective HIV responses. Promoting and protecting human rights lies at the very heart of the Alliance’s mission and strategy to support community action to prevent HIV infection and build healthier communities. This report provides some important insights into how the Alliance can provide support to its members to advance human rights and respond to HIV.”

According to respondents the most important human rights concerns overall were gender inequality and gender-based discrimination, followed by criminalisation of sex between men, sex work and injecting drug use and the widespread discrimination against people living with HIV.

There are structural and organisational challenges in doing any human rights work but those most frequently cited include, criminalising laws, policy and legal conflicts, state sanctioned violence, gender-based violence and difficulties holding governments to account.

What’s working?

In the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, SIAAP has been working with individuals and community based organisations of sex workers, transgender people and men who have sex with men to address police violence.

The work includes training on human rights, the law and the legal system to equip these groups with the knowledge to negotiate with police officers when they are arbitrarily arrested. They also provide legal assistance and conduct awareness raising with the police on the legal rights of these groups.

SIAAP have found that the capacity of community based organisations to file complaints and provide support to those who face rights violations has increased as has the number of organisations providing these services.

In Ukraine, Alliance Ukraine has been advocating for the human rights of injecting drug users to be respected.  As a result of successful advocacy, Ukraine’s AIDS law has been amended to include four progressive elements which include, eliminating travel restrictions for HIV infected people; prioritising effective prevention strategies among drug users such as needle and syringe exchange programmes; ensuring confidentiality in all HIV and drug user programmes and including a mechanism for legitimate involvement of NGOs in the government funded AIDS response.

Where next?

Overwhelmingly respondents said that they needed better understanding of human rights laws and mechanisms and how these should apply to HIV in the country context and in their work.  The lack of legal assistance is often a problem in countries and for many people who are highly stigmatised getting any sort of legal help is difficult.

The Alliance is carrying out a wide range of human rights work mainly focused on building the skills and capacity of partners in human rights specific programming, developing the capacity of rights holders to claim their rights, looking at advocacy and lobbying around law reform and inputting to the policy development and dialogue on HIV and human rights.

“We have much to do. Human rights violations continue to fuel the epidemic and access to services remains limited,” adds Christine. “If the systems for delivering health and social services are weak and when governments and institutions fail to protect human rights, we will collectively struggle to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care.

“We have to improve working together to support civil society to adopt a human rights approach to tackling HIV and it is through organised community action that we can make a real difference in stemming the epidemic.”

Read the Advancing Human Rights: Responding to HIV report

Read the What's Preventing Prevention Campaign's blog on Human Rights Day