Since 2011 the Alliance has been working with UNAIDS to strengthen human rights-based responses to HIV at a national level.
A review of National Strategic Plans (NSPs) in over 40 countries in East and Southern Africa; the Middle East and North Africa; and the Asia/Pacific regions, confirmed that much work still needs to be done to turn these commitments into reality for those who most need it.
Despite global commitments on the right to health, and massive investments in HIV programmes, people living with HIV, sex workers, people who inject drugs and men who have sex with men continue to face massive barriers to HIV prevention, care, treatment and support.
This is because they, and other vulnerable populations, continue to experience social stigma, discrimination and laws which marginalise and criminalise them. Countries often commit to universal access to health, and to protecting the human rights of people living with and vulnerable to HIV, and increasingly report addressing stigma, discrimination and human rights, but although all of this appears on paper, it often doesn’t get translated into concrete programmes with dedicated budgets. In addition, monitoring and evaluation (M&E) frameworks seldom include indicators on HIV and human rights programmes, making it hard to measure progress on rights-based interventions.
To highlight the importance of the connection between human rights and HIV programming, and to help in translating this into practical plans, the Alliance and UNAIDS brought together national AIDS programme managers; officials from ministries of health, gender and justice; civil society representatives; members of affected communities; and UN staff in three regional workshops between September 2011 and March 2012.
The workshops took a practical approach, focussing on the ‘how to’ of including human rights in the national strategic planning cycle; situation and response analysis; programmatic activities; budgets; and in NSP monitoring and evaluation frameworks. Participants from government and civil society worked together to draw up country action plans for each of the 35 participating countries.
In participant feedback, people found the tools and guidance useful in identifying, costing, monitoring and evaluating human rights programmes. They felt they had added to their skills and knowledge base in terms of knowing about different entry points, target audiences, arguments and language to use when planning and influencing the NSP. Importantly, people felt that this initiative had provided an opportunity for governments and civil society representatives to share good practice, exchange views and learn from each other.
“I found the workshop very beneficial for my work. It provided clarity on human rights and gender equality programming, and enabled us to measure the impact of human rights and gender interventions as we deal with HIV. We were able to pick a few indicators in our monitoring plan which would show we’re making progress.”
Elizabeth Mushabe, co-ordinator, partnership affairs, National AIDS Commission, Uganda
We are already seeing results in each of the three regions:
- Human rights or rights of specific key populations have been incorporated into NSPs in Algeria, Fiji, Kenya, Morocco, the Philippines and Uganda.
- Costings for human rights-related activities in Botswana have been included in its National Operational Plan.
- A legal literacy project in India for key populations has commenced in three states.
Of course, challenges still exist and vary from country to country. In Morocco, for example, the inclusion of the rights of people living with HIV in the country’s NSP is significant progress, but criminalisation of men who have sex with men remains a key challenge. However, we have made some significant steps.
UNAIDS and the Alliance have co-published Making it Work which documents some short-term outcomes and lessons learnt from this initiative.
You can also read this case study: Middle East and North Africa – strengthening human rights based responses to HIV.
View our Flickr set showing some of the work carried out around the Alliance on HIV prevention and human rights, including a story by Jenny, a transgender community leader and sex worker in Mexico.