Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

A New Legal Tool Seeks to Tackle HIV-Related Discrimination

January 28, 2013

The UNAIDS Global Report on the AIDS Epidemic released at the end of 2012 recently-released statistics revealed good news: new HIV cases were down to 2.5 million in 2011 from 3.2 million in 2001. The report also highlighted that more people are living with HIV and have access to antiretroviral therapy, currently a 63 percent increase from 2009- 2011. And though access to treatment and detection of HIV/AIDS is critical, there is still a human rights component of tackling the disease globally that must be heightened as well. According to Michel Sidibé, Executive Director UNAIDS, “Our job is to help countries change punitive humanitarian laws.”

 Discrimination in some parts of the developing world still gives people pause when seeking HIV testing and treatment. 

Changing punitive humanitarian laws may, in fact, pose a more daunting task than providing antiretroviral medication to those living with HIV. To tackle this problem the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative created the HIV/AIDS Legal Assessment Tool. The tool aims to tackle HIV related discrimination by assessing countries compliance with "international legal standards on the protection of human rights of people living with, perceived to be living with, and affected by HIV, and key populations."

The lead analyst on the HIV/AIDS Legal Assessment Tool, Paula Rudnicka said,

“When people living with HIV and key populations enjoy equality in all aspects of public and private life, they are more likely to seek testing, receive counseling and maintain treatment regimens. Conversely, discrimination forces people underground and increases their vulnerability to HIV and AIDS.”

Seeking testing is critical, especially in the fight against mother to child transmission where most cases on HIV in infants is wholly preventable. In fact, without treatment half of all HIV-positive infants will die before their second birthday, according to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Discrimination in some parts of the developing world still gives people pause when seeking HIV testing and treatment. It is up to countries and their laws to ensure those who live with the disease are still provided basic human rights.

“It is very important to break the conspiracy of silence that exists around HIV,” said Mr. Sidibé in January 2013’s feature story on UNAIDS.org, “Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence.”

The tool is aimed at HIV/AIDS health workers, advocates, civil society organizations, governments and others.

You can read the full assessment tool on the American Bar Association web site at americanbar.org.

 
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