As we contemplate recent global events, coupled with shrinking funding and ever decreasing space for civil society, we may be faced with a sense of uncertainty and concern about what the future holds for the HIV response.
At ICW we are especially concerned about maintaining hard fought progress towards achieving essential human rights goals within the response including: securing sexual and reproductive health rights for women living with HIV; harm reduction; ending criminalization; and securing the rights of women in sex work, drug user and LGBTQ communities. For women living with HIV in all our diversity the stakes are high.
We might wonder what can we do as individuals in the face of these trends? What do we need to do as a movement committed to improving the lives of women living with HIV?
This International Human Rights Day the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW) is joining the global call to action to Stand UP for human rights. We ask our sisters around the world as well as our allies and partners to:
- STAND UP: Will you Stand Up against stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with HIV in all our diversity and intersectionality, wherever you encounter it?
- COMMIT: Can you do more to promote and defend the human rights of people living with HIV?
- REFLECT: Are you enabling stigma and discrimination free environments in all you do in the world?
Women living with HIV face a persistent range of obstacles to achieving our right to the highest attainable standard of health and violations of our sexual and reproductive health and rights including conditional access to services; detrimental and judgmental treatment from health care providers; including physical and emotional abuse, misinformation and violations of confidentiality and the right to informed consent,as well as stigma and discrimination at work, in school and within our communities and families. For women who use drugs, women who are sex workers, those who identify as LGBTQ, stigma and discrimination is compounded by the intersectionality of our identities.
Yet, there is increasing recognition that securing the human rights of all people living with HIV and ending stigma and discrimination is essential for the well-being of people living with HIV and for a successful HIV response that meets global targets.
The UNAIDS 2016-2021 Strategy, has a clear target on eliminating HIV –related discrimination wherever it occurs in the community, health care, the workplace and education settings.
A rights and evidence- based approach to the HIV response has been recognized as a facilitator of program retention, treatment adherence and as leading to better health and well-being outcomes for women living with HIV.But recognizing that it stigma and discrimination are dangerous is not the same as acting to stop it.
For our part, ICW intensifies our strong commitment and our efforts to continue to document and fight against human rights violations including violations of sexual; to stand up to stigma and discrimination; and, to continue our shared work as partners in the Stigma Index and as members of the HIV Justice Network to stop stigma and discrimination and to challenge criminalization of HIV status and key populations.
Together we can defend human rights and stop stigma and discrimination. The time to act is now for we are stronger together!
What will you do today to promote and defend human rights?
*International Human Rights Day commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is observed every year on 10 December.