The right to health: zero discrimination for an generation free from AIDSDec 11, 2017
After 3 decades battling the AIDS pandemic, experience has confirmed the importance of promoting and protecting human rights in general, and the right to health in particular. Knowledge of these rights is an essential component in preventing the transmission of HIV/AIDS and reducing its negative impact on those affected.
Despite significant advances in technology and medicine, the central and eastern African region still presents considerable barriers to extending the right to health and protection against HIV to vulnerable groups, such as women, children, displaced persons, sex workers, intravenous drug users, people living with disabilities, prisoners and the L.G.B.T. community.
In certain countries, including the DRC, the legal environment still has a negative influence on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This legal environment punishes rather than protects those affected, and obstructs attainment of the “zero discrimination” goal for an AIDS-free generation. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the 4 most-affected countries in central and western Africa, and is among the 22 countries which account for 90% of unmet need in the prevention of HIV transmission from mother to child; 420,000 people there live with HIV, not counting approximately 26,000 deaths, and nearly 19,000 new infections and almost 26,000 deaths are recorded each year.
The World AIDS Day celebration each year is an important time for raising awareness and fighting against HIV/AIDS. This year, the justice sector has chosen for the event the theme ‘The Right to Health’ in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s response to HIV. People representing groups most liable to be affected by AIDS courageously gave testimony at the celebrations. Amongst them was Danila, who is transgender: "My life journey has been difficult; I have been rejected by one part of my family and by the community because of my sexual orientation. Branded a witch, I have no peace as a transgender person. I even had to live on the streets for two years. But I fought to study and to get a university diploma. Today I am a social worker and I support others. It was important for me to bear witness today: I ask society to leave us in peace; I encourage homosexuals to accept themselves and to take legal action against any abuse of their rights".
An essential and appropriate legal framework against HIV
At the celebrations at Kinshasa on 2 December, the Justice Minister stressed that “The best way to achieve public health goals is to promote the right to health for all, with a particular emphasis on those whose physical, mental or social wellbeing is at risk. Realising the right to health also means taking account of inequalities, which are violations of the human rights of women and men and make them more vulnerable.”
The UNDP ad interim Country Director reminded the audience that “The UNDP is committed to reducing inequality and promoting inclusion. To this end, the UNDP works with its partners to combat stigmatisation and discrimination and repeal punitive legislation. It is about thereby giving the population universal access to health services and basic social services.”
Since 2012, the UNDP has supported the Government in the DRC through the National Multisector Programme against AIDS (PNMLS - Programme National Multisectoriel de Lutte contre AIDS) and the Ministry of Justice in promoting a favourable legal framework. This framework should make it easier for those infected and affected by HIV and certain marginalised groups to access health services and social services.
On a global level, the UNDP has ensured the leading position of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, which met on behalf of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). During the period 2010-2012, the Global Commission was established and undertook further research, consultations, analysis and debates, to interrogate the links between legal issues and responses to HIV. Since the publication in July 2012 of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law’s comprehensive review and report entitled ‘Risks, Rights and Health’, the UNDP has been supporting the follow-up phase.
The World AIDS Day celebration in Kinshasa, which took place at the PNMLS, was marked by the inauguration of a legal clinic, the testimony of individuals living with HIV and a presentation of the first trends in the Stigma Index 2017 study on social groups exposed to HIV.