Health Rights

SALC’s Health Rights programme envisions a region in which the highest attainable standard of mental and physical health is enjoyed equally with full respect for human rights, and where health service users are empowered to enforce respect for their rights.
The Programme has the following objectives:

  • To reform laws, policies and practices that contribute to exclusion and discrimination in the enjoyment of health, including laws that undermine the right to informed consent and HIV criminalisation laws.
  • To remove legal barriers to effective HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria treatment, care and prevention and to rights-affirming mental health.
  • To develop legal protections for the dignity and human rights of people living with HIV and TB and mental health users.
  • To strengthen accountability for discrimination in healthcare settings.
  • To advance the enjoyment of social and environmental determinants of health, particularly for marginalised and vulnerable populations.

On-going cases:

Malawi: Seeking an effective and humane response to MDR-TB in prison
Malawi: Enforcing prisoners’ right to adequate nutrition.
Malawi: Advancing human rights in mental health.

Precedent cases:

Zambia: Protecting the health rights of HIV-positive prisoners.
Nigeria: Mandatory HIV testing and dismissal of an employee on the basis of HIV-status.
Malawi: Challenging the criminalisation of breastfeeding by a woman living with HIV.
Zambia: Challenging the Mental Disorders Act of 1949
Botswana: Securing access to antiretroviral treatment for non-citizen prisoners.
Zambia: Challenging mandatory HIV testing of military employees.
Malawi: The right to bail for terminally ill prisoners awaiting trial.
Lesotho: Application for access to healthcare for military detainee.
Malawi: Case challenging unmet palliative care in detention.
Namibia: Coerced sterilisation of HIV-positive women.
Malawi: Mandatory HIV testing of women.
Zimbabwe: Protecting employees living with HIV from unlawful dismissal.


Litigation Manuals:

HIV Criminalisation Defence Case Compendium 2018.
Litigation Manual: Litigating Cases of Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (2013).
Litigation Manual: Protecting Rights: Litigating Cases of HIV Testing and Confidentiality of Status (2012).
Litigation Manual: Litigating Cases on HIV Discrimination (2011).

Training Tools:

Resource Page: Lawyers for HIV and TB Justice: Strategic Litigation, Legal Defence and Advocacy (2018).
Guidebook: Using Complaints to Address Healthcare Violations (2016).

Research Reports and Policy Briefs:

Research Report: Linking Climate, Gender and HIV Justice: A Preliminary Report on Access to HIV Treatment and Care for People Living on Lake Chilwa Islands, Malawi (2019).
Policy Brief: Access to Justice for Healthcare Violations: Guidance Note for Complaints Bodies (2017).
Research Report: Accountability and Redress for Discrimination in Healthcare in Botswana, Malawi and Zambia (2016).
Research Report: Tackling Cervical Cancer: Improving Access to Cervical Cancer Service in Southern Africa (2012).

26 May 2020 Staff Writer
SALC Policy Brief: A Legal Overview of the Impact of COVID-19 on Justice and Rig...

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, various countries in the Southern African region have put in place restrictions on gatherings, free movement, commerce and expression. Many of these measures limit human rights and result in criminal sanctions for breach. This…

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20 May 2020 Staff Writer
Joint letter on immediate and urgent measures to protect the rights of prison de...

Non-governmental human rights organisations joined in writing a letter to President John Pombe Magufuli on immediate and urgent measures to protect the rights of prison detainees in Tanzania.

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09 Apr 2020 Anneke Meerkotter

9 April 2020, Malawi - We the undersigned organisations commend His Excellency, The State President, Arthur Peter Mutharika for including prison decongestion as one of the measures to combat COVID-19 in Malawi. In his Presidential Address on 4 April 2020, the…

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16 Jan 2020 Annabel Raw
Securing the Rights of People Living with HIV in the Workplace:...

This is a booklet explaining the judgment in the case of X v Brink and Others from the Abuja Industrial Court concerning the rights of employees and duties of employers in relation to HIV testing and confidentiality of a person's…

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16 Dec 2019 Anneke Meerkotter

Lusaka, 16 December 2019 – The Supreme Court of Zambia on 9 December 2019 handed down an important judgment on prisoners’ rights. The case was brought by two prisoners with HIV on antiretroviral treatment, who sought access to a balanced…

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16 Dec 2019 Staff Writer
Zambia: Health Rights of HIV-Positive Prisoners...

SALC is working with the Legal Resources Foundation in Zambia to secure the rights of HIV-positive prisoners to treatment, adequate food and improvements to prison conditions. The applicant inmates alleged that they only get two meals a day which makes…

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28 Nov 2019 Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh
SALC Submissions on the South African National Health Insurance Bill (NHI)...

These submissions detail the Southern Africa Litigation Centre’s (SALC’s) concerns that the National Health Insurance Bill, 2019, removes existing forms of access to healthcare services to certain categories of foreign nationals, particularly, asylum-seekers, certain categories of children and dependents, immigration…

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28 Nov 2019 Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh

Zimbabwe is bearing the brunt of the worst economic crisis in a decade, with shortages of foreign currency, fuel, power and medicines. The decay of Zimbabwe’s economy is noticeably reflected by its collapsing health system. Although there are consultations and…

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10 Oct 2019 Annabel Raw
World Mental Health Day 2019: A Focus on Zambia’s Mental Health Act...

World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October every year. This year, the theme addresses the important and difficult issue of suicide prevention. Across the world, people are uniting to share information on the public health problem of suicide,…

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16 Aug 2019 Anneke Meerkotter

The Rights4All Project, as part of its My Body My Rights Campaign, has produced leaflets on the laws which can be used by sex workers to assert their rights.   See detailed pamphlet here See summary pamphlet here

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28 Jun 2019 Staff Writer

The AfricanLii Abusive Laws and the fight for reform By Annabel Raw You only have rights if you are a person: How Zambia is legislating away the rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities “I cannot accept people to treat me…

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03 Jun 2019 Annabel Raw
Linking Climate, Gender and HIV Justice: A Preliminary Report on Access to HIV T...

This is a preliminary report on barriers to access to HIV treatment and care experienced by communities living in and around the Lake Chilwa area in Malawi. A fact-finding mission was undertaken in August 2018 by the Coalition of Woman…

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