AIDS programmes should focus on human rights
Twenty-Five international AIDS organisations are calling for a shift in the global response to the pandemic by putting human rights at the centre of their efforts. In a joint declaration they said the groups most in need of HIV prevention and treatment programmes, including access to anti-retroviral drugs, continue to face discrimination and abuse worldwide, often being denied access to life-saving programmes.
The document, titled 'Human Rights and HIV-AIDS: Now More Than Ever', and sponsored by the Open Society Initiative, focuses on populations most vulnerable to HIV: women and girls, young people, intravenous drug users, sex workers, gay and bisexual men and prisoners. In a press statement accompanying the launch, the groups say the declaration comes at a time when HIV-prevention and care programmes are under threat.
They said earlier this year, the World Health Organisation and UNAIDS released guidelines recommending that, in certain circumstances, people should be tested for HIV unless they specifically decline the test. "Many experts," according to the press statement, "worry that making HIV testing more routine without scaling up human rights protections could result in coercive, mass testing programmes."
The Director of the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (Arasa), Michaela Clayton, said human rights must take centre stage otherwise national, regional and global responses to AIDS will not succeed. "This is widely recognised, yet few governments have ensured human rights protections for people living with or vulnerable to HIV," she added.
The AIDS organisations say in Africa the lack of legal protection for women, who make up the majority of infections on the continent worst affected by HIV, best illustrates the need to combine public health with human rights approaches. The group called on governments and international donors to take concrete measures to place human rights at the centre of their AIDS programmes. "People should not be punished for holding their governments accountable to their HIV-AIDS and human rights commitments," said Wan Yanhai, a Chinese activist who has been jailed many times. "Human rights activists simply want to help their governments win the war against AIDS."
The theme for World AIDS Day 2007 and 2008 is “leadership”. This theme will continue to be promoted with the campaigning slogan, “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.” Since the beginning of the epidemic, experience has clearly demonstrated that significant advances in the response to HIV have been achieved when there is strong and committed leadership. Leaders are distinguished by their action, innovation and vision; their personal example and engagement of others; and their perseverance in the face of obstacles and challenges. However, leaders are often not those in the highest offices. Leadership must be demonstrated at every level to get ahead of the disease - in families, in communities, in countries and internationally. Much of the best leadership on AIDS has been demonstrated within civil society organisations challenging the status quo. Making leadership the theme of the next two World AIDS Days will help encourage leadership on AIDS within all levels and sectors of society. We hope it will inspire and foster champions within a range of different groups and networks at local and international levels.
Leadership as a theme follows and builds on the 2006 theme of accountability. In 2006 a number of milestones were reached where accountability was particularly crucial. It was the year of the United Nations High Level Meeting on AIDS, which reviewed the progress on the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS an important blueprint for reaching the Millennium Development Goals on AIDS. 2006 marked the fifth year anniversary of the African Abuja Declaration. 2006 was also the year in which national targets were set, or should have been set, by governments for achieving Universal Access to Treatment, Prevention, Support and Care by 2010. In addition, at 2006's International AIDS Conference, “accountability” was the buzzword throughout the global forum, reflecting the conference's theme,“Time to Deliver.”
The overall purpose of the World AIDS Campaign from 2005 to 2010 is to ensure that leaders and decision makers deliver on their promises on AIDS, including the provision of Universal Access to Treatment, Care, Support and Prevention services by 2010. Within that five-year mission, annual campaigning themes are selected which are timely, relevant and adaptable to a number of different regions and issues. The theme for World AIDS Day has been determined by the World AIDS Campaign since 1997. Since that time, the campaign has developed into to its current form, governed by a committee of global constituency-based AIDS networks. The Global Steering Committee of the World AIDS Campaign selected the theme of leadership during their fifth steering committee meeting held in Geneva on 8th and 9th of February 2007. This Global Steering Committee is comprised of the Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, the Youth Coalition, the Global Unions Programme on HIV/AIDS, the International Council of AIDS Service Organisations, the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, and the International Women's AIDS Caucus. UNAIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria are non-voting members.
Compiled by: Law Desk.