Human Rights Council: “address stigma and funding to end AIDS by 2030”

The Human Rights Council (HRC) held a special session on Human Rights and HIV back in March, as mandated by the HRC Resolution 30/8. It’s purpose was to discuss both the progress, and the challenges, of addressing human rights issues in the context of the AIDS response.

We contributed to the session on the behalf on 52 civil society organisations

Panellists, Member States and civil society, including a contribution from the Alliance and Stop AIDS Alliance, informed the HRC on advancement towards human rights and HIV, and highlighted key gaps. The written statement we inputted was on behalf of 52 civil society organisations.

Whereas human rights are resolutely at the core of the global response to HIV and AIDS, including the 2011 UN political declaration on HIV and AIDS, the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and UNAIDS Strategy among other global frameworks, human rights abuses and punitive legal systems continue to fuel the AIDS epidemic.

Human rights abuses and punitive legal systems continue to fuel the AIDS epidemic

An Official Summary Report from the panel has been developed and this will be the Council’s contribution to the high-level meeting on AIDS (HLM). The recommendations addressed by participants will inform the negotiations up to the HLM.

 The Summary Panel Report includes five important recommendations:

  1. The report states that “Addressing stigma and discrimination is the essential basis for ending AIDS by 2030” and spells out people most vulnerable to high levels of stigma and discrimination including women and girls, sex workers, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, people who inject drugs, and persons in detention.
  2. The report calls for universal health coverage and highlights that “beyond simply expanding coverage, it is essential to bring about equitable access for all. Rights-based health services are needed to ensure the availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of treatment without discrimination”. It also states that “special approaches are needed to reach marginalised groups and other populations that are left behind”.
  3. The report signals that “Access to medicines for all is essential to ending AIDS and to realising the right to health” and that “Intellectual Property Rights must not be allowed to take precedence over public health and the right for all persons living with HIV/AIDS to have access to life-saving medicines. The human right to health should take precedence over profit”.
  4. The report calls for the review and reform laws, policies and practices, including “criminalising legislation against, inter alia, drug users, same-sex relations, sex workers, and HIV non-disclosure, exposure or transmission”.
  5. Finally, the report states that “Human rights programmes that have proven successful in addressing vulnerability to HIV and barriers to access to HIV services need to be scaled up and adequately funded”.

Myanmar ARVs

Progressive - and a focus on funding

The Panel Summary Report is very progressive and incorporates most of the key recommendations the Alliance presented to the Panel.

Many civil society organisations have been advocating for decriminalisation of key populations, and the report explicitly call Member States to review and reform laws, policies and practices, including criminalising legislation against drug users, same-sex relations, sex workers, and HIV non-disclosure, exposure or transmission. The Alliance statement was also among the very few asking member states for increased funding for human rights, and we are glad to see that as one out of five recommendations.

The recommendations however do not consider in full gender-based violence, harmful gender norms and gender inequality, disability or child rights. The report does not include quantifiable targets and verification mechanisms on any of the recommendations it makes.

However, it does not consider in full gender-based violence, harmful gender norms and gender inequality, disability or child rights

This report is the contribution of the Human Rights Council, representing 47 elected UN Member States, to the HLM. Therefore, unlike reports from the UN Secretary General, or UN bodies or special procedures (UN Rapporteurs for example), this report represents an official political position by Member States and its recommendations should be incorporated in full into the Political Declaration of the HLM.

How this relates to our asks for the HLM

The Alliance is advocating for a HLM declaration that includes strong support to a fully-funded global AIDS response, with human rights principles and interventions at its core, around one quarter of all resources allocated to combination HIV prevention, and a scale-up of community responses to build resilient and sustainable systems for health.

The zero draft of the Political Declaration of the HLM was made public on 18 April. It is progressive in a number of human rights issues (some go even further than the HRC), but historically, as negotiations advance, human rights language is gradually abandoned. This Panel Report offers a good advocacy tool to better profile human rights programming into the HLM on AIDS and for Member States to commit to scale up funding for them.