Human rights cannot be overlooked in the response to HIV

12 December 2014
An HIV ribbon

With the passing of International Human Rights Day on 10 December, it is important to recognise the link between HIV and human rights. Stigma and discrimination characterise the global HIV epidemic making it difficult for key populations to reach the HIV prevention and treatment services they need.

Despite increased attention towards these key populations including men have sex with men (MSM), transgender people, sex workers and people who inject drugs, these groups still face limited access to HIV services meaning they are disproportionately affected by HIV. Of all new adult HIV infections worldwide, 40 to 50 percent occur among people belonging to key populations.

Some countries criminalise behaviours associated with key populations in order to halt the spread of HIV within these populations making it difficult for them to access the services they need. Poor conduct of healthcare providers also discourages members of key populations from reaching out to services and from continuing their care.

Addressing HIV requires addressing human rights, including strengthening access to health services and social justice for key populations. An AIDS free generation will not be reached without investment in tailored responses to the HIV epidemic for groups such as MSM, sex workers, people who inject drugs and transgender people. Human rights issues in relation to the HIV epidemic should not only be highlighted on Human Rights Day, but should be the cornerstone of the response and understanding of the epidemic.

Photo credit:
Copyright AVERT