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HIV/AIDS and human rights

OHCHR and the right to health

More than four decades after the first clinical evidence of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome was reported, AIDS remains one of the most devastating diseases humankind has ever faced.

Since the epidemic began, more than 60 million people have been infected with the virus and nearly 30 million people have died of HIV-related causes. AIDS is the sixth-largest cause of death worldwide.

About HIV/AIDS and human rights

Human rights are intimately linked with the spread and impact of HIV/AIDS. 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. This link is apparent in the disproportionate incidence and spread of the disease among certain groups which, depending on the nature of the epidemic and the prevailing social, legal and economic conditions, include women and children, and particularly those living in poverty. It is also apparent in the fact that the overwhelming burden of the epidemic today is borne by developing countries, where the disease threatens to reverse vital achievements in human development. AIDS and poverty are now mutually reinforcing negative forces in many developing countries.

OHCHR’s work on HIV/AIDS

Since 1999, we have endeavoured to contribute to an effective and sustainable response to the epidemic by:

  • raising awareness and understanding of the human rights dimensions of HIV/AIDS;
  • strengthening capacities to address HIV/AIDS-related human rights issues at national and international levels;
  • working in close collaboration with UNAIDS towards the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of HIV/AIDS (see the handbook for national institutions on the links between respect for human rights and the fight against HIV and AIDS).
  • providing the UN Human Rights Council with support on the issue of HIV/AIDS, including preparation of reports of the Secretary-General to the Council on measures taken by member States towards implementation of provisions contained in HIV/AIDS-related resolutions;
  • preparing the Secretary-General's reports on the protection of human rights in the context of HIV and AIDS

OHCHR has made progress towards these objectives, in particular by supporting the work of the UN Human Rights Council and its special rapporteurs, the UN treaty bodies, the universal periodic review, national human rights institutions, as well as mainstreaming issues within the broader UN system. We have also contributed to the integration of a human rights perspective into the work of other UN agencies and programmes.

Latest Reports


A/HRC/50/53: Human rights and HIV/AIDS - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights


A/HRC/41/27: Report of the 2019 consultation on human rights in the HIV response


A/HRC/32/25: Report of the 2016 HRC panel discussion on the progress in and challenges of addressing human rights issues to end HIV/AIDS by 2030

Publications and documents

Handbook on HIV and Human Rights for National Human Rights Institutions (published jointly with UNAIDS)

Denying Entry, Stay and Residence Due to HIV Status: Ten Things You Need to Know (Third edition, June 2009)
PDF: English, French, Spanish, Russian

The International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights (2006 Consolidated version)

Report of the Secretary General on the protection of human rights in the context of HIV and AIDS (A/HRC/16/69)

10 Key Points on HIV/AIDS and the Protection of Refugees, IDPs and Other Persons of Concern (UNHCR)

HIV/AIDS: Stand Up for Human Rights (cartoon booklet, published jointly with UNAIDS and WHO)

General Assembly
Security Council
Treaty bodies
Human Rights Council

Reports:

Resolutions and Decisions:
Special procedures reports:
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (the right to health and international drug control, compulsory treatment for drug dependence and access to controlled medicines): A/65/255
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (right to health and criminalization of same-sex conduct and sexual orientation, sex-work and HIV transmission): A/HRC/14/20
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (right to health and informed consent): A/64/272
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (right to health in the context of access to medicines and intellectual property rights): A/HRC/11/12
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (IV. Applying a human rights-based approach to drug policies): A/HRC/10/44
  • Situation of human rights in Haiti : report of the independent expert (IV.F. Cooperation and efforts to combat HIV/AIDS): E/CN.4/2004/108
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health: E/CN.4/2004/49
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression (III.B. Access to information for the purposes of education on, and prevention of, HIV): E/CN.4/2003/67
  • Report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography: Mission to South Africa: E/CN.4/2003/79/Add.1
Commission on the Status of Women:
ILO:

Public information material