Activists call for respect of rights in HIV/AIDS fight

AIDS activists have urged institutions to promote respect for human rights in the fight against the virus. The activists made the remarks during a one-day conference on HIV and human rights in Remera.
Fred Burende, from the Centre for Human Rights Rwanda, addresses participants at a conference on HIV/AIDS in Kigali yesterday. (Doreen Umutesi)
Fred Burende, from the Centre for Human Rights Rwanda, addresses participants at a conference on HIV/AIDS in Kigali yesterday. (Doreen Umutesi)

AIDS activists have urged institutions to promote respect for human rights in the fight against the virus.

The activists made the remarks during a one-day conference on HIV and human rights in Remera.

The argument is that human rights observance offers public health a more consistent and comprehensive framework of action on the societal root causes of vulnerability to HIV/AIDS.

They warn that until these root causes were addressed, the HIV/AIDS would persist.

“This year marks the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to a new global agenda among which is the response towards HIV treatment, targets set should emphasise human rights and intensify efforts to eliminate HIV,” Lamin Manneh, the UN Resident Coordinator said.

Manneh, who commended Rwanda’s leadership for the continuous planning and implementation of development programmes, called for more engagement of law enforcers in the fight against HIV.

Currently, the global burden of HIV stands at 35 million with 70 per cent of those who are HIV positive living in sub-Saharan Africa, 59 per cent of them being women.

According to the Rwanda HIV/AIDS and Incidence survey, HIV prevalence in the country stands at 3 per cent with more females at risk of getting the disease compared to males as a result of violence and forced sex.

Similarly, the latest Stigma Index report, says that 53 per cent of people with HIV face discrimination yet a higher proportion remains unaware of their rights.

Dr Sibongile Dludlu, the UNAIDS country director observed that since there is a linkage between HIV and human rights, advancement would be made after harmonizing both legal and social environments.

 “HIV programmes are effective and produce maximum impact when they are implemented in the context of an enabling legal and social environment. This is particularly important in advancing the fast track agenda towards ending the AIDS epidemic,” she said.

Fred Burende, the head of the Centre for Human Rights in Rwanda, said although there had been gains against HIV, challenges still exist.

“Some people are not aware of their rights, especially the vulnerable groups who do not know that it is their right to receive treatment,” Burende said.

He called upon people to support efforts to ensure effective HIV treatment for the most vulnerable people.

“Through sensitisation campaigns and engaging the justice system to fight stigmatisation we can ensure that all approaches are implemented,” he added.

Figures indicate that 90 per cent of people with HIV who require medication can access health services.

Jean Gatera, a human rights protection officer, observed that working with national institutions in the fight against HIV would improve the capacity of the human resource to address such challenges.

“We have previously worked RBC (Rwanda Biomedical Centre) and the University of Pretoria in identifying challenges, advocacy, access to services and taking care of the HIV groups but we need more institutions to get involved,” Gatera said.

 

 

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