MEDIA RELEASE My health! My right! Protect the right to health to end AIDS and achieve all SDGs!

Posted by Editor on December 1, 2017


My health! My right!

Protect the right to health to end AIDS and achieve all SDGs!

 Windhoek, Namibia, 1 December 2017 – On World AIDS Day, marked on 1 December, the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA), calls on governments in Southern and East Africa to honour their regional and international human rights commitments by protecting the right to health and guaranteeing HIV services that are available, accessible, acceptable and of good quality for all citizens of their countries, regardless of gender, age, HIV and other health status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race or other characteristics.

The international theme for World AIDS Day in 2017 is ‘the right to health’ out of recognition that almost all of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are linked in some way to health, and that achieving the SDGs, which include ending AIDS as a public health threat, will depend heavily on ensuring the right to health.

Although the Southern and East Africa region has made significant progress in responding to HIV by increasing the number of people living with HIV who know their HIV status and have access to antiretroviral treatment, and towards reducing AIDS-related deaths, it remains the region of the world hardest hit by HIV. In 2017, a 29% decline in new HIV infections (between 2010 and 2016) has been reported in the region.  Unfortunately, this decline is uneven amongst countries and population groups, as one third of all new infections in the region in 2016 were in South Africa and an additional 50% occurred in Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  Further, the HIV epidemic in Southern and East Africa continues to disproportionately affect women and girls, with young women (aged 15–24 years) accounting for 26% of new HIV infections in 2016 despite making up only 10% of the population. Key populations, including sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender persons, and people who use drugs, also continue to have disproportionately high rates of HIV infection and access to services does not meet the demand.

“The scale of the HIV epidemic in Southern and East Africa clearly illustrates the delicate interdependency, indivisibility and interrelatedness of the right to health and other human rights such as the rights to freedom from discrimination, to privacy, to education, to employment, access to information and the right to benefit from scientific progress and its applications,” explains Michaela Clayton, Director of ARASA. “Early responses to HIV which subjected people living with HIV to violations of their rights to education, housing, employment, liberty, privacy, freedom of association, non-discrimination, and equality before the law, have proved to be wholly ineffective”.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights mentions health as part of the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health is enshrined in the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights guarantees that every individual shall have the right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental health and obligates governments to take the necessary measures to protect the health of their people and to ensure that they receive medical attention when they are sick.

The realisation of the right to health for people living with HIV and groups at risk of HIV continues to be under threat in Southern and East Africa due to the criminalisation of sex work, drug use, and same sex practices, as well as the lack of legal recognition of gender identity, high levels of violence, discrimination and denial of health care experienced by these populations, which undermine their human rights to health, equality and dignity. For example, women living with HIV continue to experience human rights abuses such as mandatory HIV testing and forced or coercive sterilisation.

“The most prevalent governance challenges facing the region include failing health systems, due to human resources constraints, mismanagement of funds, corruption, stock outs of essential medicines and infrastructural challenges, which render health systems in the region ill equipped to meet the HIV-related challenges facing citizens of the region,” added Clayton. “The heavy reliance of African countries on external funding for their HIV responses and their reluctance to meet their commitment to allocating at least 15% of their national budgets to health, pose a serious threat the ensuring the right to health for all citizens in the region.”

United Nations Member States committed to ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 and reducing new HIV infections in young people and adults (aged 15 and older) in Southern and East Africa by 75%, with a focus on preventing and addressing the devastating effects of this epidemic on women and adolescent girls. They also committed to ensuring that 90% of those at risk of HIV infection are reached by comprehensive HIV prevention services and ensuring that financial resources for prevention do not constitute less than a quarter of AIDS spending globally on average. Further, Member States reaffirmed their commitment to implement “national AIDS strategies that empower people living with, at risk of, and affected by HIV, to know their rights and to access justice and legal services to prevent and challenge violations of human rights, including strategies and programmes aimed at sensitising law enforcement officials, members of the legislature and judiciary, training health care workers in non-discrimination, confidentiality and informed consent, supporting national human rights learning campaigns, as well as monitoring the impact of the legal environment on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support” in 2016.


For more information, to arrange for interviews, contact:

Lesley Odendal, Communications Lead, AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) or +27 72 960 8991


The AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) is a partnership of 115 civil society organisations working together to promote a human rights-based response to HIV and TB in18 countries in southern and east Africa.


To learn more about ARASA’s work and its partners, please visit: