From 3 to 5 October 2013, SALC participated in a Regional Consultative Seminar on “Key Human Rights Issues Affecting Women Living with HIV in Africa” in Dakar, Senegal. The regional seminar was organised by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Committee for the Protection of the Rights of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and Those at Risk, Vulnerable to and Affected by HIV in Africa (PLHIV Committee).
The Regional Seminar was attended by forty-one (41) stakeholders. The participants included members of the African Commission, experts from the PLHIV Committee, representatives from Governments and National Human Rights Institutions, National AIDS Commissions, women’s groups, organisations working with PLHIV, and women living with HIV (WLHIV).
The main objectives of the seminar were to understand and review key human rights issues that affect WLHIV in the context of access to health care in Africa; to review existing responses, including best practices, for addressing these challenges at country level; and to develop common strategies for advancing the protection of the rights of WLHIV.
Despite the gains recorded in the efforts to address the HIV epidemic on the continent, the rights of WLHIV continue to be violated in sub-Saharan Africa. Some cross cutting human rights issues affecting WLHIV are stigmatisation, discrimination and gender inequality mainly in accessing services and opportunities, resulting partly from laws, policies and practices of States, as well as from gender roles based on cultural and social practices/understanding.
There is a crucial need to address these human rights violations, particularly in the context of the right to health and sexual reproductive rights guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa. It is also important to promote rights-based HIV/AIDS responses that address the peculiar challenges and needs of WLHIV.
The presentations and discussions at the Regional Seminar focused on the legal and institutional frameworks for the protection of the rights of WLHIV in Africa. The Regional Seminar identified key human rights issues affecting WLHIV in the context of access to health care in Africa. Lack of access to adequate health care (including reproductive and maternal health services and treatment for other related diseases like Hepatitis C, cervical cancer and tuberculosis) as well as forced and coerced medical interventions (particularly sterilisations) were highlighted as major concerns for WLHIV.
Participants to the Regional Seminar came up with recommendations and strategies for advancing the protection of the rights of WLHIV in Africa. A key outcome of the meeting was the drafting of a Resolution on Involuntary Sterilisation and Protection of Human Rights in Access to HIV Services. The Resolution is to be presented for further deliberation by stakeholders at the NGO forum on the margins of the 54th Session of the African Commission. It is hoped that the Resolution will subsequently be adopted as a Resolution of the African Commission. If adopted the resolution can be a powerful advocacy and litigation tool on the violations of women’s rights in the context of HIV.
You can access the press release for the Regional Seminar here.