News & Stories

Removing Human Rights Barriers to End the HIV Epidemic

11 March 2016

GENEVA - The Global Fund made a strong appeal to address human rights issues as a key component of efforts to end epidemics such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

"To end HIV, we must overcome discrimination in laws and policies, in practice and in our hearts," Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund, said at a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. "We must grasp the historic opportunity to become better people and societies built on the firm foundation of an inclusive human family."

Despite extraordinary progress against HIV in the last decade, human rights barriers are preventing millions of people from being able to access prevention, treatment and care, Dr. Dybul said. In order to maximize health investments and achieve greater impact, the global community needs to do more to overcome these barriers, including by increasing investment in programs to fight stigma and discrimination, reduce violence against women, provide access to justice, and sensitize law-makers and law enforcement officials, Dr. Dybul said.

"We need to do better on removing human rights barriers, because it is the right thing to do, and because it is essential to our efforts to invest more strategically to end HIV," he added.

Dr. Dybul spoke at a panel discussion on progress and challenges of addressing human rights issues in the context of efforts to end the HIV epidemic, as part of a current session of the Human Rights Council that is underway in Geneva this month. 

Dr. Dybul pointed out that in many settings, the impact of investments in health is greatly reduced because of human rights-related barriers to services. In many countries, women and girls often do not access testing and treatment, or are not retained in treatment, because of stigma and discrimination and gender-based violence.  Men who have sex with men, people who use drugs, sex workers, transgender people, migrants, and prisoners also often cannot access prevention and treatment because of the discrimination they experience in health-care settings, or the violence perpetrated by police.

The Global Fund partnership was founded with a strong commitment to advancing human rights. Dr. Dybul said the Global Fund had learned from the work done in recent years, and that it was intensifying efforts. The Global Fund's new investment strategy, for 2017-2022, lists as one of its main objectives to "introduce and scale up programs that remove human rights barriers to accessing services".

In this sense, Dr. Dybul said the Global Fund will concentrate efforts on 15 to 20 countries with particular needs and opportunities.

The target in these countries will be to implement comprehensive programs to address human rights-related barriers. This will result in increased uptake of and retention in services, thanks to decreased stigma and discrimination, particularly in health-care settings; increased access to justice; reduction of violence and discrimination against women and girls; greater support among law enforcement officials for prevention and treatment services; a more conducive policy environment; and strengthened participation of affected persons in programs linked to these interventions.