To End AIDS, We Must Fight Injustice

Last week, on World AIDS Day, there was reason to celebrate.

Over 10 million people now benefit from the life-saving medicines that have transformed AIDS from a death sentence to a chronic, manageable disease. As a result, the number of people dying from AIDS continues to fall. The number of new HIV infections has dropped in many parts of the world. Some people even predict that, if we maintain current HIV investments, we can hope to see the end of AIDS within our lifetime.

But can we afford to be so optimistic?

Many people are excluded by society or criminalized—like those who use drugs, sex workers, Roma, men who have sex with men, and more. Many people attach a heavy stigma to HIV and discriminate against people living with the virus. These factors push people with HIV, and those at high risk of infection, away from the health care system—denying them prevention, care, and treatment, including life-saving HIV medicines.

Those who work to end AIDS are increasingly recognizing that in order to succeed—achieving zero AIDS-related deaths and zero new infections—we must also work to end discrimination and other human rights abuses.

Legal empowerment programs like that of UGANET in the above video are key to this goal.

They show how it is possible to integrate legal support into health services, and to promote access to justice of people living with, or vulnerable to, HIV. When people learn about their rights from a paralegal who is also a trusted community member, and when they can access the law conveniently—and not through some unfamiliar 9-5 legal practice a day’s journey away—barriers to their health care recede.

For more than eight years the Open Society Foundations has supported access to justice programs as a health and human rights intervention and monitored their effectiveness. Recently we undertook an in-depth evaluation of the impact of such programs for people living with HIV and their caregivers.

Increasingly, the public health benefits of these programs are being recognized. The Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS now says that access to justice programs are key interventions that should be part of every national AIDS program, while the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has included a human rights objective in its recent strategy.

Such recognition, however, is only a start.

It is high time to move from rhetoric to real action on HIV and human rights.

This means moving beyond support for a small number of access to justice projects in only a few countries. It means ensuring that governments around the world—with outside support if needed—include these programs in their national AIDS strategies and bring them to scale. This is one of the reasons why Open Society is supporting the inclusion of justice as a post-2015 millennium development goal.

I encourage you to watch the above video and get inspired. See what’s possible when people become empowered to protect their rights and their health.

19 Comments

my organisation is working in communities against HIV we need a capacity building seminar in line with this how can you help

My organization works closely with women whose basic rights have been infringed right from justice,education through health.We are organizing capacity building on basic rights as these are generally refugees,who fear coming out to express themselves,guide us on how you can help?

Dear Ralf Jurgens,

Thank you for sending the excellent video from Uganda. I have circulated it on Facebook.
In the meantime I wanted to bring my newly published book to your attention. It takes a very similar line but broadens the debate to include a wide range of issues relating to equality within the population of HIV positive people. As you will see it has been very well reviewed by many key people in the field including Sofia Gruskin whom I am sure you know.

www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409431114

I am very keen that the ideas in the book should contribute positively to on-going debate along the lines indicated in your brief introduction so please let me know if you have any difficulty accessing a copy. Of course I would also love to hear any comments you may have (positive or negative!)
I look forward to hearing from you.
Lesley Doyal

we are Zarga Organization for Rural Development registered in Sudan so we looking for building capacity

In developing countries where religion is still central in peoples' lives, anti-aids campaigns should maintsream religious beliefs and practices. For instance, where dorminant Christian denominations condemn pre-marital sex, anti-aids campaigns can leverage and strengthen religious activities to get the involvement and commitment of the adherents to both preach and live such beliefs in daily affairs.

I am 14 years HIV also how I can help ???
I do just surviving this life because I am poor and have hard time to find work but I FATING be strong

It is very true and greatful to help society to understand themselves from unheathly issues like HIV .and an supporting you hundren percent for what your doing for our society

This is really a sustainable model for promoting access to Justice for PLWHIV including OVC and needs to be replicated to other communities in Uganda and worldwide!

My NGO Community Transformation Foundation Network (COTFONE) www.cotfone.org also undertakes a similar innovative intervention in providing gender services i.e. Access to Justice for Women and Girls Living with HIV/AIDS in Kisekka Sub-county , Lwengo district, South Western Uganda through Community Directed Response to Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Prevention Project working with Lwengo District Directorate of Health, HIV/AIDS & Legal Service Providers and 304 Village Health Teams (VHTs) trained in Child and Legal Protection. Hopefully an exchange learning possibility may be explored with fellow actors to share our best practices and forge solutions to their scale-up and improvement countrywide.

For further information about our Innovative HIV/AIDS Justice Model, contact us at info.cotfone@gmail.com

Until Soon,

It is very true that an effective National response to HIV & AIDS goes along with a conducisve legal framework and support for those infected and affected.

My only deep concern, therefore, in this regard is that we have had an HIV & AIDS bill in draft form for more than 5 years now in my country!

We have spoken about this delay to enact this law till we have become blue on the face!

It is when governments behave like this that they push their citizenry into radical acts that are tantamount to questioning the moral obligation of their leaders to supporting HIV response beyond rhetoric!

We give thanks and praises to the Medical fraternity that has worked tirelessly to find medicines for this disease. We implore them to work extra hard and find the lasting cure.

Ralf thanks for sharing this excellent blog. Great work by our sister organisation UGANET. Well done to Dora and her amazing team. I do agree with you that its time to put HIV and human rights work into action. The Global Commission on HIV and the law has a wonderful report (http://www.hivlawcommission.org/index.php/report) that underscores what needs to be done to create an enabling legal environment that will ensure access to treatment and services for both the infected and affected communities. We are glad that you are one of the few foundations that supports this work.

Thanks for sharing this out, my organisation is working in
communities against HIV we need a
capacity building seminar in line
with this how can you help? for more info kindly visit www.kuriadcm.org

Many thanks to all of you for recognizing the importance of efforts aimed at increasing access to justice for people living with HIV and, more broadly, socially excluded and criminalized populations. Over the next months, we will release additional resources that, we hope, will help you as you advocate for, or even implement, similar programs in your communities. In particular, we are currently working on a "good practice guide" that reflects the lessons we have learned and gives concrete advice about what works, and what does not work, in efforts to increase access to justice. The guide will be available by July 2014 - watch out for it here on the OSF website!

Tthank you for this information it really gave me a better picture on what the reality is about HIV/AIDS the organization I found called The masibambane Community project has been engaged in HIV/AIDS awareness programmes for many years since its inception in 2000. We like to take it to another level and become a testing point and assist those living with HIV/AIDS about their rights . I'm Inspired by your article and with some of the comments and also sad with some of it especially the person who can't find a job and who faced difficulties. My one relative died because of HIV/AIDS related sicknesses and have another relative living with it. Would Like to do a national project and hope we can find help and assistance. Wish to convey our Love and Compassion to All friends living with HIV/AIDS have a Merry and Happy Festive season Loves yous keep up the Good works those who support our friends and to Open Society Foundation THANKS for Caring Much Love and Light

Very good initiative, stigma and discrimination play a big role in inacessibility of ARVs to patients. In my practise i have seen even medical personel discriminate on HIV positive patients.

IT is an Awesome approach to wok and eliminate the per valance rate of the HIV/AIDs. it is need to examine and see it in the light of Sociological, Psychological, and Economically stuff.
But really a good way to work and support the Planet to meet MDGs and free it from Such as evil diseases.

The local government is the biggest employer in Uganda. If we are to fully empower the community in the drive-fight against AIDS/HIV, there is need for affirmative integration of HIV issues in the planning process of the local governments in Uganda where decentralization has been a success story and if possible replicated else where in Africa.

you know i am a social activist and working for a non profit organization in india. India have a big population. AIDS patient means HIV positive persons increased day by day,why the answer is a lot of migration of people from rural areas to metro urban city in search of job. specially male from rural areas migrate to urban area for long duration and they fell in the grip of sex worker. i am not criticising the sex worker but male have unsafe sex with unknown partner. and when they came back to metro city and given the virus to his wife. the HIV positive spreading in India very fast due to illiteracy and poor illiterate people not aware about protection of HIV. Lack of knowledge about safe sex.

Discrimination of AIDS patient in India is very very high, doctors did not want to touch HIV positive patient. Society socially boycott that AIDS positive Persons. Due to lack of awareness. So there is a need of mass level of awareness of people about HIV Positive patient behaviour. India is a religious type mentality country and people have lot of feeling with like that HIV positive people. So please show the new way to our organization that we can aware the masses regarding safe sex.

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