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Human Rights

Evidence shows that human rights barriers can impede the access to and uptake of critical HIV, TB and malaria prevention, treatment and care services. In the context of HIV, these barriers can include punitive legal or policy environments that criminalize key populations; widespread stigma and discrimination; and lack of informed consent or medical confidentiality. High levels of human rights violations and discrimination against members of key populations increase their vulnerability to HIV and deter access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services. Laws that criminalize or otherwise punish the behaviour of key populations, as in the case of men who have sex with men (MSM), male/female/transgender sex workers (SW), people who use drugs (PWUD), transgender people and prisoners present additional barriers to access to services.

People living with TB—a disease associated with poverty and social inequality that particularly affects vulnerable populations with poor access to basic services—can experience high levels of stigma and discrimination or unnecessary and mandatory hospitalization that deviates from the WHO guidelines, unavailability of TB prevention and treatment services in prisons, or lack of access to TB services (for instance, for migrant workers).

Less is known about the intersection of human rights and malaria. However, malaria is also linked to poverty, with migrants, refugees, rural populations, prisoners, and indigenous populations experiencing high rates of infection. Social inequality and political marginalization may impede access to health services, and additional barriers may be created by language, culture, poor sanitation lack of access to health information, lack of informed consent in testing and treatment, and inability to pay for medical services.

Table 1:  The table below highlights the possible legal and policy environment’s impact on the number of people infected with HIV.

This fact sheet includes examples of how laws and practices can obstruct the HIV response and waste resources for support treatment and prevention efforts, as well as potential positive outcomes when good practices and laws based on human rights and available evidence are enforced.

Promoting and protecting rights in the context of HIV and TB is critical to ensuring that investments in national responses are fully realized. Despite this, only US$137 million is spent globally each year on the human rights response to HIV. In 2012 this represented less than 1 percent of overall spending on the HIV response.[1] 

[1] UNAIDS, Sustaining the human rights response to AIDS. An Analysis of Funding Trends, Draft, 6 June 2014.

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