Just nine days after World AIDS Day (1st December), the HIV sector could almost be forgiven for ignoring Human Rights Day (10th December).
And what does the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights really have to do with HIV anyway? Well actually quite a lot according to Aidan Collins and Eleanor Briggs.
Across the world, certain communities and individuals are more at risk of HIV because they are unable to realise their rights. This might be due to the unequal status of women which makes it harder for them to negotiate safer sex. It could be gay and bisexual men who in many countries face persecution and live in fear, unable to safely access HIV services and medication. Or it could be young people denied access to information and education. National AIDS Trust (NAT) research shows that in the UK many young gay men are not given the sex and relationship education they deserve and need to help protect themselves from HIV.
We have seen some improvement in attitudes towards HIV. But people living with HIV and their families, still face stigma and discrimination. People’s rights are often violated because they are living with the virus. Here in the UK discrimination in employment, in services and even in access to healthcare is not unheard of.
And failing to respect rights hampers an effective response to HIV. If countries’ laws discriminate against gay and bisexual men, penalise sex workers or don’t allow for effective harm reduction for people who inject drugs, societies’ ability to tackle HIV is reduced.
Steps taken to ensure people have full access to their human rights are also steps taken to lessen the impact of HIV. And so, tempting as it may be, we can’t afford to take the day off on 10 December. Instead we need to be making the case for improving access to human rights for all.
And this year, as the future of the Human Rights Act hangs in the balance, this is more important than ever.
By Aidan Collins (HIV Scotland) and Eleanor Briggs (National AIDS Trust). Read the rest of NAT’s blogs here.