UNAIDS Reference Group on HIV and Human Rights encourages UN Member States to focus on human rights ahead of High Level Meeting on AIDS

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UNAIDS Reference Group on HIV and Human Rights encourages UN Member States to focus on human rights ahead of High Level Meeting on AIDS

12 April 2011

The UNAIDS Reference Group on HIV and Human Rights has issued a statement encouraging UN Member States to reaffirm the focus on human rights that has driven 30 years of progress in the global HIV response. The statement outlines five key priorities for Member States as they negotiate the outcome document for the High Level Meeting on AIDS between now and June 2011. 

“Commitment to human rights is a cornerstone of the success we have seen. It unites us, drives results, and is critical for our future progress,” said Jonathan Cohen, Co-Chair of the Reference Group and Director of the Law and Health Initiative of the Open Society Foundations.

The statement issued by the Reference Group asks governments to reaffirm the emphasis on a human rights based approach that obliges nations “to fulfill the human right to health and that respects, protects and fulfils the human rights of people living with, affected by and vulnerable to HIV.” 

It also underlines that a central challenge of the next five years will be to make HIV treatment available to all who need it but are not receiving it. Among other steps, the Group notes that this will require maximum use of flexibilities under the TRIPS agreement to ensure the competition needed to lower the price of second-line and third-line treatments and their production in generic form. 

Commitment to human rights is a cornerstone of the success we have seen. It unites us, drives results, and is critical for our future progress

Jonathan Cohen, Director of the Law and Health Initiative of the Open Society Foundations.

The statement also asks Member States to reaffirm their commitment to the removal of laws, policies, practices, stigma and discrimination that block effective responses to AIDS. This includes several types of laws, policies and practices such as those that criminalize people living with HIV; those that permit violence and discrimination against women; or those that impede access to HIV services, including treatment, prevention and palliative care.

Michaela Clayton, Reference Group Co-Chair and Director of the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa noted that the apparent flat-lining of financial resources for HIV is of significant concern and threatens the gains that have been made. “The crisis we are seeing today is not an economic crisis, but a crisis of priorities. What we need is solidarity for the right priorities and to push a standard of commitment that should be expanded and replicated for other health, development and human rights imperatives.”

The international community must renew its commitment to place people living with HIV at the centre of the AIDS response, states the group. According to the statement, people living with HIV must be empowered to live successfully with HIV, maintain their health, dignity and security and prevent the onward transmission of HIV. People living with HIV must participate meaningfully in all aspects of the response to HIV.

The UNAIDS Reference Group on HIV and Human Rights was established in 2002 to advise UNAIDS on all matters relating to HIV and human rights. The Group speaks with an independent voice and its views and recommendations do not necessarily reflect the positions of the UNAIDS Secretariat or its Cosponsors.