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AIDS. 2008 Aug;22 Suppl 2:S113-21. doi: 10.1097/01.aids.0000327443.43785.a1.

Health and human rights in today's fight against HIV/AIDS.

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  • 1UCLA School of Law, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA.


The development of the health and human rights framework coincided with the beginning of the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS. Since then, the international community has increasingly turned to human rights language and instruments to address the disease. Not only are human rights essential to addressing a disease that impacts marginalized groups most severely, but the spread of HIV/AIDS itself exacerbates inequality and impedes the realization of a range of human rights. Policy developments of the past decade include the United Nations (UN) Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights' General Comment on the 'Right to Health', the UN Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, and the UN's International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights, among others. Rights-related setbacks include the failure of the Declaration and its 5-year follow-up specifically to address men who have sex with men, sex workers, and intravenous drug users, political restrictions placed on urgently needed US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) funds, and the failure of many countries to decriminalize same-sex sex and outlaw discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS. Male circumcision as an HIV prevention measure is a topic around which important debate, touching on gender, informed consent and children's rights, serves to illustrate the ongoing vitality of the health and human rights dialogue. Mechanisms to increase state accountability for addressing HIV/AIDS should be explored in greater depth. Such measures might include an increase in the use of treaty-based judicial mechanisms, the linking of human rights compliance with preferential trade agreements, and rights requirements tied to HIV/AIDS funding.

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