Research Paper: AIDS and Human Rights What Is the Best Approach

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human rights approach to HIV / AIDS

Human rights approach to HIV

AIDS, a health problem that was first clinically identified more than thirty years ago has grown to become one of the major diseases affecting mankind. Since it began, the epidemic is estimated to have infected more than sixty million individuals with the virus and approximately thirty million deaths have resulted from HIV-related causes. Currently AIDS is considered to be the sixth largest cause of death in the whole world. There is a link between the spread and impact of HIV and human rights. When human rights are not respected, the impacts of HIV tend to exacerbate and its spread is fueled. This paper will address HIV / AIDS as a global health problem, how HIV can be approached through human rights, and whether this approach is efficient in addressing the problem or not.

Discussion

An approximate 33.3 million individuals were considered to be living with HIV in the whole world as at the end of 2009 (Boesten and Nana, 2009). The AIDS related deaths in that year alone were approximately 1.8 million. There is however a change in the course of the epidemic as fewer people are getting infected every year and AIDS-related deaths continue to decrease. This is partly attributed increasing access to antiretroviral therapy which enables the infected people to live longer. These numbers are an indication of the severity of the AIDS epidemic and its classification as a global health threat rather than a national one. The disease is present all over the world; the difference is the disparities that exist among and within countries. Developing countries are statistically shown to have the most number of persons living with AIDS (95%) with Sub-Saharan Africa being the region that is most affected (Boesten and Nana, 2009). This disparity is an indication of the link between HIV and human rights. The developing countries continue to be most affected regions because of lack of access to quality healthcare, poor living conditions, and other such factors including discrimination of people living with AIDS. These conditions among others increase the vulnerability to HIV hence the prevalence of the problem in developing countries. The nature of the epidemic as well as the prevailing conditions (legal, social and economic) determines the spread and incidence of HIV among particular groups.

Three areas can be used to highlight how HIV / AIDS relate with human rights. There are some groups whose vulnerability of contracting the disease is increased as a result of their inability to realize their social, cultural, political, civil, as well as economic rights. An example is the denial of the right to freedom of association and ability to access information which may result to the individual being precluded from engaging in discussions relating to HIV issues, lack of participation in service organizations and self-help groups focusing on AIDS and the lack of know how regarding preventive measures that would protect them from HIV infections (Gruskin and Wakhweya, 1997). Poor living conditions also increase the vulnerability of contracting and being affected by HIV since access to HIV care and treatment is limited including the availability of antiretroviral and other medications that would be prescribed for opportunistic infections.

The other area is discrimination and stigmatization based on the HIV status of people. The rights of individuals living with HIV many times get to be violated resulting from their presumed or openly known status therefore in addition to the burden of the disease, they suffer the loss of other rights. The discrimination may apply in the social settings, in the work place and even on the political sphere. This discrimination may pose as an obstacle when it comes to accessing treatment and may also affect their housing, employment among other rights. Consequentially, the vulnerability of others to infection increases since stigma and discrimination that is related to HIV discourages people who are infected from contacting social as well as health services (Cohen and Wiseberg, 1990). This means that even though education, information, and counseling services might be available in a region, the people needing these services most would not benefit.

The third area is impediment of an effective response. An environment that does not respect human rights hampers the strategies formulated to address the epidemic. When a community discriminates against and stigmatizes vulnerable groups like drug users who inject themselves, men that have sexual intercourse with other men and sex workers, these people isolate themselves, do not seek consultation and their vulnerability increases (Gruskin and Wakhweya, 1997). The ability to reach them regarding prevention efforts becomes inhibited and they become more vulnerable to contacting and spreading HIV. Similarly, failing to provide access to information as well as education regarding HIV care, treatment, and services continues to fuel the disease's epidemic. Not respecting these rights hampers an effective response to HIV / AIDS.

In a region that respects, protects, and provides the rights of the inhabitants, the impacts of HIV and AIDS, both societal and personal, get to be reduced. When discrimination and stigmatization is discouraged in a region those infected with HIV receive an open and supportive environment, they get to be treated with dignity, they are not afraid to seek treatment, care and support therefore containing the disease becomes easier (Tarantola, 1995). The impact on HIV and AIDS on both the individual and the society will consequentially be reduced since HIV positive people will be better equipped to deal with their status more effectively; they will seek treatment, receive treatment as well as psychological support and will practice measures to prevent transmission of the disease to others.

It is therefore very important for human rights to be protected and promoted so that the spread of HIV can be prevented and the impacts of the pandemic can be mitigated. A human rights approach is an appropriate and effective way of dealing with HIV / AIDS because first, promoting and protecting human rights has been proven to reduce vulnerability to HIV infection since the disease's root causes get to be addressed. Secondly, Adverse effects on the infected and the affected reduces. The third reason is the increased ability to respond to the AIDS pandemic that the individual and the society gain once the human rights are promoted and protected. Since a human rights approached would be appropriate and effective in dealing with HIV / AIDS, the international community must therefore be required to respond to the pandemic through promotion and protection of the cultural, civil, political, economic and social rights as well as the right to development (Gruskin, 1999). These rights would be respected in accordance with the human rights standards, principles, and norms that are set internationally.

Existing international treaties provide for the promotion and protection of human rights related to HIV by all states. These rights that are related to HIV include '….the right to life, the right to liberty, the right to personal security, the right to the highest attainable standard of mental and physical health and the right to non-discrimination ' (Eide, 1995). The human rights instruments and mechanisms of the United Nations set out a normative legal framework and the necessary tools that ensure the rights related to HIV are implemented. The United Nations treaty monitoring bodies use State reports, general comments as well as concluding observations and recommendations to determine the directions and assistance that they have to provide to the States so they can implement these rights.

The importance of integrating the policies and programs of HIV / AIDS with international human rights legislations is universally accepted to be appropriate but putting the recommendations to practice is the biggest challenge. Policy makers, service providers and program managers need to"…. apply human rights norms and principles more to guide as well as limit the actions taken by the government or on behalf of the government in all the matters that affects response to HIV / AIDS.." (Gruskin, 1999). This initiative requires genuine attention in the buildup of capacity to recognize as well as promote synergy between such global health issues and human rights. In addition, every involved party has to appreciate the potential gains that come from health interventions that are based on human rights principles. Governments need to be held accountable regarding the promotion and protection of both human rights and public heath because it is their sole responsibility to ensure the citizens enjoy these (Gruskin, 1998). Despite the fact that there is no specification mentioning HIV or human rights in the international human rights treaties, the responsibility of international human rights mechanisms in monitoring the actions of the government continue to express commitment towards the exploration of implications of HIV / AIDS for obligations of the government.

Conclusion

According to research violations of human rights in the context of HIV / AIDS are frequent in the health-care settings. Health-care providers continue to violate these rights in some nations including stigmatization and discrimination of people living with HIV, confidentiality breaches regarding information on HIV / AIDS patients and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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