National HIV/AIDS Strategy and Human Rights

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Yesterday’s release of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States came in advance of the International AIDS conference in Vienna, taking place July 18-23, which will focus on the link between human rights and AIDS. This year’s conference theme is "Rights Here, Right Now."  

Discussing the National AIDS Strategy, President Obama was quoted as follows: "Fighting HIV/AIDS in America and around the world will require more than just fighting the virus… It will require a broader effort to make life more just and equitable."

The National AIDS strategy can be downloaded here.  

Some AIDS advocacy groups, such as AIDS Action have cautiously welcomed the National AIDS Strategy.  In their statement, "Historic National HIV/AIDS Strategy Must NOW Produce Results: AIDS Action Says Resources, Accountability and Strong Implementation Are Key," they stated: "Today, the Obama Administration took a significant step forward in the domestic battle against HIV/AIDS with the release of a National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) which, among other significant objectives, calls for the reduction of new infections by 25% over the next 5 years. The unveiling of the strategy follows three years of aggressive advocacy by AIDS Action and a broad spectrum of the HIV/AIDS community." Read the entire press release

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation was more critical: "Over 2,200 Americans are on waiting lists, denied lifesaving AIDS drugs from hard-hit AIDS Drug Assistance Programs as the White House spends 15 months crafting an AIDS strategy; Obama offers too little to address AIDS drug crisis and also fails to implement landmark-and prudent-2006 CDC guidelines for routine HIV testing."

For an illustration of the human rights impact of the current state-level cuts to the ADAP program, see this report from South Carolina.

Resources and opportunities for participation: A group of national HIV/AIDS organizations that advocate for the human rights of all women living with and affected by HIV have developed a tool and corresponding report card to assess how the National AIDS strategy meets the needs of women. Download the tool.

Between July 12-31, the Summer 2010 Women’s Advocacy Resource Connection National Electronic Forum (WARC E-Forum) hosts a nationwide online community conversation led by HIV positive women and HIV rights advocates to share experiences and to learn where the gaps are in human and civil rights protections for women living with HIV.

More resources can be found at the Coalition for a National AIDS Strategy.

The Official Vienna Declaration is now open for signatures.  Here’s a summary: "The criminalisation of illicit drug users is fuelling the HIV epidemic and has resulted in overwhelmingly negative health and social consequences. A full policy reorientation is needed. [.] [R]eorienting drug policies towards evidence-based approaches that respect, protect and fulfil human rights has the potential to reduce harms deriving from current policies and would allow for the redirection of the vast financial resources towards where they are needed most: implementing and evaluating evidence-based prevention, regulatory, treatment and harm reduction interventions." This short International Declaration specifically mentions the U.S.: "While racial disparities in incarceration rates for drug offences are evident in countries all over the world, the impact has been particularly severe in the US, where approximately one in nine African-American males in the age group 20 to 34 is incarcerated on any given day, primarily as a result of drug law enforcement."

Human Rights Watch has echoed the Declaration’s demands: "Governments need to end discriminatory laws and misguided and abusive public health and criminal justice policies. These laws fuel stigma and discrimination, increase the risk of HIV, and prevent HIV/AIDS services from reaching the most vulnerable populations… People who use drugs do not forfeit their human rights [.]. All individuals have a human right to obtain lifesaving health services without fear of punishment or discrimination."