Header photo The Global Fund/Vincent Becker

Human Rights

The Challenge

Too often, the people most vulnerable to HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria are the same people who don’t have access to health care due to disease-related stigma, deep-rooted gender inequalities and harsh laws and policies that criminalize and discriminate against key and vulnerable populations.

Human rights, gender and equity-related barriers to health services can make people more vulnerable to infection, more likely to experience poorer health outcomes, and make it harder to access HIV, TB and malaria services. The three diseases can also exacerbate inequality, impoverish people, and make them more vulnerable to human rights violations.

Not only do these barriers hinder access to health services, but many also constitute human rights violations themselves. Challenges such as the lack of pandemic preparedness, as well as the rise of anti-rights, anti-gender and anti-LGBTQI+ movements, have also worsened the situation, making it even harder for people to access health care. As a result of these challenges, far too many people are left behind and suffer stigma, discrimination and violence.

Our Response

The movement to end epidemics calls on us to remove human rights-related barriers to health and build a more just and equal society. The Global Fund Strategy 2023-2028 recognizes the need to get back on track to end AIDS, TB and malaria and work towards our vision of a world free of the three diseases, with better and more equitable health for all.

Global Fund Support for Programs to Remove Rights-related Barriers to Services

The Global Fund takes a pragmatic and programmatic approach to human rights, focusing on where we can make the biggest difference, by funding programs that tackle human rights-related barriers to health services. This makes Global Fund grants more effective by increasing access to programs, increasing uptake of services and improving adherence to treatment, particularly for vulnerable populations.

The programs we support empower affected populations to know their health-related rights, mobilize around these rights and demand improved delivery of services, both in health facilities and in their communities. These programs not only improve systems for health but also support community participation in health systems and decision-making.

Key program areas for reducing human rights-related barriers to HIV and TB services include:

  • Eliminating HIV- and TB-related stigma and discrimination in all settings.
  • Ensuring non-discriminatory provision of health care.
  • Legal literacy (“know your rights”).
  • Increasing access to legal services and support for people with HIV and TB.
  • Ensuring more equitable, non-discriminatory and fair law enforcement practices.
  • Improving laws, regulations and policies related to HIV and TB.
  • Reducing HIV- and TB-related gender discrimination, harmful gender norms and violence against women and girls, including trans and gender diverse people.
  • Community mobilization and human rights advocacy.
  • Removing barriers to TB services in prisons.

Key program areas for reducing rights-related barriers to malaria services also focus on reducing gender discrimination and harmful gender norms and monitoring and reforming malaria-related laws, policies and practices. In addition, malaria programs should include meaningful participation of affected populations, as well as enable access to services for refugees, others affected by emergencies and for underserved populations.

Recently, some of these programs and approaches have been recognized as HIV, TB and malaria “program essentials.” By doing this, the Global Fund has clearly expressed that countries cannot end these diseases without fully implementing these programs. For more information, please refer to the relevant technical briefs related to HIV, TB, malaria and human rights.

Integrating Human Rights Throughout Our Work

The Global Fund also integrates human rights principles firmly in the way we work. Based on consultations with governments, affected populations, civil society organizations and technical partners, we have committed to integrating four key principles – participation, equity, accountability and transparency – throughout the grant cycle and into the policy-making process. Beginning with the country dialogue, the Global Fund works with countries to ensure that voices of key and vulnerable populations most affected by the diseases are represented. Civil society and community-led organizations are also included as core partners in grant development and implementation.

In addition, all programs funded by the Global Fund are required to meet five minimum human rights standards:

  • Grant non-discriminatory access to services for all, including people in detention.
  • Employ only scientifically sound and approved medicines or medical practices.
  • Do not employ methods that constitute torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.
  • Respect and protect informed consent, confidentiality and the right to privacy concerning medical testing, treatment or health services rendered.
  • In accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) guidance, avoid medical detention and involuntary isolation, which are to be used only as a last resort.

The Global Fund’s independent Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has established a mechanism to investigate complaintsdownload in عربي | English | Español | Français | Русский ] regarding any breach of these standards throughout the grant-making and implementation process.

Since 2017, the Breaking Down Barriers initiative has been providing intensive support to 20, and since 2023, 24 countries to scale up evidence-based programming that reduces human rights-related barriers to HIV, TB and malaria services. The initiative has brought together stakeholders across government, civil society and communities to confront injustices in disease programs. It has resulted in much greater investment in programs to reduce human rights-related barriers and reinvigorated support to organizations led by key populations and their allies. The initiative has also brought together government, civil society, donors and partners to develop national plans for comprehensive human rights responses and establish steering groups to improve coordination and integration.

Find out more

Learn about how we support gender equality.

Published: 08 December 2023