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HIV and the law, and human rights

HIV and human rights

There is a very strong link between HIV and human rights and - for many years - activists have been advocating that an effective response to the HIV epidemic can only happen with full respects of human rights. For example, human rights abuses are one of the drivers of the HIV epidemic and increase its impact while, at the same time, HIV undermines progress in the realisation of human rights.

What are human rights?

Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.

In the UK they are protected by the Human Rights Act 1998. The Act gives effect to the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. They include:

  • Your right to life
  • Your right to respect for private and family life
  • Your right to personal liberty
  • Your right not to be tortured or treated in an inhuman way
  • Your right to a fair trial
  • Your right to freedom of religion and belief

What rights are protected under the Human Rights Act? | Citizens Advice
Human rights | Wikipedia

Human rights and HIV

The relationship between HIV and AIDS and human rights can be highlighted in several areas:

  • Increased vulnerability of certain groups more vulnerable to contracting HIV because they are unable to realise their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
  • Through discrimination and stigma, the rights of people living with HIV often are violated because of their presumed or known HIV status. This causes them to suffer both the disease and the consequential loss of other rights. Stigmatisation and discrimination may obstruct their access to treatment and may affect their employment, housing and other rights.
  • Strategies tackling the epidemic are hampered where human rights are not respected. For example, discrimination against and stigmatisation of vulnerable groups such as people who inject drugs, sex workers, and men who have sex with men drives these communities underground.

Fast track cities

Fast Track Cities is committed to attaining the HIV UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets by 2020:

  • 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status
  • 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy (ART)
  • 90% of all HIV-diagnosed people receiving sustained ART will achieve viral suppression. Achieving zero stigma is the initiative’s fourth, but no less important, target.

HIV prevention, testing and treatment services can and should be grounded in human rights. Beyond being an imperative in themselves, human rights principles and approaches are critical to addressing barriers to HIV services and to achieving HIV targets. Human rights principles and approaches will help maximize the reach and impact of HIV prevention, testing and treatment programmes. They also will help address potential human rights challenges and prevent abuses that may occur in the context of urgent efforts to Fast- Track the achievement of HIV prevention, testing and treatment targets.

Publications, information, and equality and human rights organisations

A guide to human rights and HIV | NAT
Human rights and HIV | Avert
How the law works | THT

Equality and human rights Commission
Scottish Human Rights Commission
Equality and human rights Commission Wales
Equality Commission for Northern Ireland
Equality and advisory and support services

More on this website

LGBT+ Rights | MEN R US
Fast Track Cities | MEN R US

News and articles

Living with HIV is still a burden, Dutch gay and bisexual men tell researchers | nam aidsmap | 3 Nov 2020
 HIV criminalisation laws around the world | nam aidsmap | June 2020
COVID-19 and threats to human rights: another HIV parallel | i-base | 17 Apr 2020
Is HIV a disability in the UK? | nam aidsmap | Feb 2020
UAE prisoners denied HIV treatment - Human Rights Watch | BBC | 6 Nov 2019
Europe’s shifting response to HIV/AIDS: from human rights to risk management | Health and Human Rights Journal | 22 Nov 2016
Human rights and HIV | Speaking Up | 14 Jul 2010

The criminalisation of HIV transmission in the UK | Centre for Invention and Social Process (CISP), Goldsmiths, University of London
 Sustaining the human rights response to HIV | UNAIDS | 2015
 Memorandum from the UK AIDS and Human Rights Project | UK Parliament | Joint Committee on Human Rights Written Evidence

International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights
The International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights arose because of various calls for their development in light of the need for guidance for Governments and others on how to best promote, protect and fulfil human rights in the context of the HIV epidemic.
International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights | UNAIDS | 2006

HIV/AIDS and Human Rights
Human rights are inextricably linked with the spread and impact of HIV on individuals and communities around the world. A lack of respect for human rights fuels the spread and exacerbates the impact of the disease, while at the same time HIV undermines progress in the realisation of human rights.
HIV/AIDS and Human Rights | United Nations Human Rights

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has been translated into over 500 languages.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights | United Nations

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