Putting Rights First in the Global AIDS Response

Thirty years into the AIDS epidemic, and 10 years since the landmark UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS, the world will come together to review progress and chart the future course of the global AIDS response at the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on AIDS from 8–10 June 2011 in New York.
Member States are expected to review progress, provide recommendations and adopt a new Declaration that will commit them to guide and sustain the global AIDS response.

Mother and child walk in front of a mural on AIDS awareness © The Global Fund Since the early years of the epidemic, people living with HIV and human rights activists around the world have pushed the boundaries of the global AIDS response and elevated the human rights discourse.  The lack of respect for human rights has not only fuelled the epidemic, it has brought to the surface pernicious and persistent forms of discrimination and marginalization, in multiple and overlapping manifestations. 

In his report for the June meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon observes that “human rights violations continue to prevent open and compassionate discussion on the HIV challenge, deter individuals from seeking needed services, and support and increase individual vulnerability… Social attitudes need to be transformed, and resources must be allocated to anti-stigma strategies and other initiatives to promote and protect human rights.”

As leaders and Heads of State prepare to adopt a new concise and action-oriented declaration with new time-bound targets for 2015 and beyond, it is imperative that human rights continue to occupy a central place in the global response to HIV. New commitments must be bold, evidence-based and reflect progress made in the past ten years.  Evidence from the AIDS response has never been more compelling. New data clearly shows that steady progress is being made towards zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. This positive trend must be sustained as current gains remain fragile.

The latest report of the Secretary-General to the Human Rights Council on the protection and promotion of human rights in the context of HIV/AIDS poses critical questions. Why discrimination persists when the prevention of HIV-related discrimination is embodied in many national AIDS strategies and national laws? Why key populations at higher risk of exposure to HIV face structural factors beyond their control that exacerbate their vulnerability to HIV infection?  In response to these questions a number of recommendations emerge which must be considered in the formulation of a new declaration. 

See full Information Note - 30 years into the AIDS epidemic

8 June 2011