Writes Enrique Restoy, What’s Preventing Prevention Campaign Manager.
During the AIDS 2010 Vienna conference, we have heard innumerable first hand experiences of human rights violations committed against people who are most vulnerable and most at risk of contracting HIV.
We have heard of repressive laws against same sex practices in South East Asia, murder and violence against transgender people and men who have sex with men in Latin America, which is often condoned and at times sponsored by governments. We have learned about drug users being subject to forced labour in detention as part of forced ‘rehabilitation’ programmes in Central and Eastern Asia. And we have had described cases of police brutality against sex workers in Eastern Europe that included rape, violence and threats.
Civil society organisations that carry out HIV programmes in many countries from these regions will soon be ineligible to receive funding from the Global Fund on the basis that these countries are middle income.
How is it conceivable that these states will make sure that HIV prevention and treatment services and programmes are available to the very populations they are repressing and whose rights they are violating? Is it fair to expect that governments from these states are going to respect and promote the right to health of vulnerable and most at risk groups but not their right to life, to a fair trial or to not being discriminated against on the grounds of their sexual orientation or identity or for using drugs? There is sufficient evidence that the efficiency of HIV prevention and treatment programmes is hampered by numerous legal, social, and policy and practice barriers. The call on governments to remove these barriers is one of the key messages of the Alliance’s HIV Prevention Campaign.
In our campaign, we are also asking global donors to commit to including human rights violations and other structural barriers to HIV prevention for vulnerable and most at risk populations as indicators for HIV funding allocation. Because among all those factors, criminalising laws and state practices that violate the rights of the intended beneficiaries rank high.
However, the most powerful argument for the Global Fund to remain global is because it gives a voice to the populations that are most at risk of being subject to human rights violations through the participation of their representatives and civil society organisations in its country coordinating mechanisms (CCM). Without that space for participation, many vulnerable groups in many middle income countries are bound to be more exposed than ever to human rights violations.
The Global Fund calls for a human rights based approach to the response to HIV. This approach is, according to the Fund itself, essential in the construction of effective combination prevention strategies. Dr. Kazatchkine reminded us yesterday that the Global Fund belongs to us as much as it belongs to donor and recipient governments. If we all pull in the same direction, we can change the tide, we can make the Global Fund remain truly global and contribute to the protection of human rights of the most vulnerable and at risk not only of HIV transmission, but of having their rights violated in any country, regardless of how economically developed they are . Who would say no to going for it?