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HIV/AIDS and the right to health

Special Rapporteur on the right to health

Driven by the urgency of the right to life and powered by the Millennium Development Goal to halt and begin to reverse the AIDS epidemic, the global response to HIV succeeded in reducing the number of new HIV infections by 35% since 2000.

The effective realisation of the right to health in the global AIDS response means not only securing access to health care but equally addressing the underlying determinants of health, in particular discrimination and stigma. Social inequalities and exclusion shape health outcomes and contribute to the increasing disease burden borne by marginalized groups. In addition, a health condition such as HIV/AIDS may involve exposure to compounded forms of discrimination that reinforce existing inequalities.

A metaphor for great inequalities

The HIV epidemic continues to be a metaphor for great inequalities within and between countries. Specific populations and communities—often the most fragile and marginalized—continue to be left out and bear the brunt of the epidemic. The human rights principles of non-discrimination, equality, participation, access to justice and accountability have been crucial in making the AIDS response effective.

The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental human right that includes non-discriminatory, affordable and acceptable access to quality health care services, goods and facilities. Yet, around the world, even where healthcare services are in place, people face various forms of discrimination and violence in relation to health care.

The epidemic continues to be attended by human rights violations fuelled by discrimination, violence, punitive laws, policies and practices. HIV-related discrimination is often deeply interwoven with other forms of discrimination based on gender, race, disability, drug use, sexual orientation and gender identity, immigration status, being a sex worker, prisoner or former prisoner. Punitive laws, policies, and practices impede—and sometimes altogether bar—the disadvantaged and marginalized from accessing information, health goods and services that are critical to the prevention and care of HIV. There is a large body of evidence which clearly demonstrates that punitive frameworks drive people away from health services, and in particular those people who are most in need.

The realization of all human rights to end HIV/AIDS

The full realization of human rights in the response to HIV/AIDS is crucial to ending the epidemic by 2030 as committed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Ending AIDS is not just critical to realizing health for all. It will also advance and depend on progress of many of the Sustainable Development Goals such as gender equality, peace, justice and inclusive institutions and partnerships for the goals.

Human Rights Council resolutions

The Human Rights Council has issued resolutions on human rights in the context of HIV and AIDS, namely:

Consultation, reports and statements

Pursuant to the last resolution, the High Commissioner for Human Rights organized a consultation on 12-13 February 2019 to discuss all relevant issues and challenges pertaining to respect for and the protection and fulfilment of human rights in the context of the response to HIV. The consultation focused in particular on regional and subregional strategies and best practices. See the statement of the Special Rapporteur and the relevant report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

See the report on right to health and criminalization of same-sex conduct and sexual orientation, sex-work and HIV transmission (A/HRC/14/20).

See also: