Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire – On this International Human Rights Day, regional human rights organisations commend the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) on the adoption and launch of the summary version of the Report on the Law and Human Rights in the African Human Rights System: Key Challenges and Opportunities during ICASA 2017 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
The Report was developed by the Commission’s Committee on the Protection of the Rights of People Living with HIV and Those at Risk, Vulnerable to and Affected by HIV (HIV Committee) through a process of extensive consultation and engagement with experts and civil society over a period of two years. This report is the first of its kind. It provides a framework for an African human rights-based response to HIV. It illustrates what human rights law demands of States in the context of HIV, and describes both barriers and good practices for effective rights-based responses. As a body vested with the broad mandate for the protection and promotion of human rights in Africa, it is significant that the Commission is recognising HIV as an urgent and significant human rights concern.
In trying to push for an end to the HIV epidemic, some States in the region continue to propose and implement coercive and punitive solutions that violate human rights. While there have been great strides in new biomedical interventions in the HIV response, the Commission’s Report is a reminder that the end of HIV will not be achieved without human rights at the heart of the response.
“The Commission is a critical instrument for enforcing human rights in Africa. We commend the Commission for its leadership in ensuring that human rights are at the centre of the HIV response. The advancements in medicines for HIV and models of care cannot be of any use unless people’s human rights are respected and structural barriers to accessing HIV care and treatment are removed,” said Michaela Clayton, Director of the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA).
“Through the Report, the Commission affirms the obligation of States to promote non-discrimination particularly, discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; and to address the systemic violations of the rights of key populations and marginalised groups in particular, the right to health which exacerbates vulnerability to HIV ,” says Humphrey Ndondo, Executive Director of the African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR).
“We hope that the Report will guide the Commission, States, and other stakeholders, in their decision making,” said Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, Executive Director of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre. “We call on States to engage with this important Report, and take note of both the barriers and good practices described.”
International Human Rights Day, marked on 10 December, must serve as a reminder of the importance of human rights when addressing HIV. It is a day where society should not only celebrate human rights, but keep in mind the long road ahead and the continuing human rights challenges that must be addressed if we are to end AIDS as a public health threat.