Open Society Foundations Address Role of Human Rights in "HIV Treatment as Prevention" Efforts

The Open Society Public Health Program and its partners are working to help define the role of human rights, community mobilization, and advocacy for affordable medicines in efforts to scale up early HIV diagnosis and treatment. The Public Health Program has also given a grant to the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) to work on this issue.

With the results of several recent clinical trials, there is now compelling evidence that the use of antiretroviral treatment (ART) not only extends life for people living with HIV, but also prevents HIV from being transmitted—either when used by HIV-positive people to reduce their infectiousness (“treatment as prevention”), or by HIV-negative people as a form of prophylaxis (“pre-exposure prophylaxis”). In the case of treatment as prevention, the prevention benefits are even greater when an HIV-positive person initiates treatment early in his or her infection before symptoms appear, which calls for a massive scale-up of access to treatment.

At the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS in June 2011, world leaders committed to attain the goal of 15 million people on treatment by 2015 as a critical step towards universal access. These ambitious goals make it all the more important to remove barriers to early diagnosis and treatment of people living with HIV—including barriers related to human rights, such as stigmatization and abuse in health care settings, criminalization and incarceration of marginalized groups, and violence against women. They also underscore the importance of maximizing the use of flexibilities in the international patent regime to ensure access to affordable ART.

The Open Society Public Health Program's work on this issue will be the collaboration of its Access to Essential Medicines Initiative, Accountability and Monitoring in Health Initiative, and Law and Health Initiative.