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[669] RE: UK Parliamentary Report on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights [665]



Summary Report: All-Party Parliamentary Group on AIDS
The UK, HIV and Human Rights: recommendations for the next five years
July 2001

This summary is based on the report from the Inquiry held in February 2001 by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on AIDS and was prepared for the International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO) by Tanya Jewell.  It provides a generalized summary of the observations and recommendations discussed in the report.

The Report on the Inquiry is fifty-six pages and examines how well the UK has respected and promoted the International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights and outlines political actions that are urgently required.  It looks at each of the twelve points in the International Guidelines and makes 136 observations and recommendations on how the British Government can better incorporate each guideline into policies and practice. Both the domestic and international situations are examined, with specific examples from the UK.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on AIDS, which conducted the Inquiry and prepared the report, is not an official committee of the UK Parliament, but is recognized by the Speaker and entitled to use the facilities to enable Parliamentarians to develop their areas of interest.  Founded in 1986, it is now comprised of 160 MPs.  Its objectives are to raise the profile of HIV/AIDS, both as a domestic and an international issue, to encourage cross-party consensus and to act as a bridge between Parliament, Government and the people living with or working with HIV/AIDS.

ICASO recommends that non governmental organizations (NGOs) and advocates working with HIV/AIDS read the report to examine the specific actions prescribed in order to protect human rights.  The report can be used as a template to advocate for fuller incorporation of the International Guidelines on Human Rights and HIV/AIDS in legislation and policies in other countries.  

Generalized Summary of Observations and Recommendations:

The Group urges the government to incorporate the International Guidelines on Human Rights and HIV/AIDS into legislation and enact mechanisms to ensure they are practiced.

The governmental response should be multi-departmental and not solely the responsibility of the Department of Health, as a holistic approach is needed in order to address social circumstances which contribute to transmission.  Therefore, for domestic issues, the Department of Health should coordinate meetings with the Departments for Education and Skills, Work and Pensions, Health, Home Office, Trade and Industry and Offices for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  For international issues, the Department for International Development (DFID) should coordinate meetings with Trade and Industry, Treasury, Defense, Foreign and Common Wealth Office.

The protection of the human rights of vulnerable groups is a key aspect of reducing transmission, as social exclusion can increase transmission and the impact of HIV/AIDS.  Vulnerable groups were identified as women, children, asylum seekers, men who have sex with men (MSM), intravenous drug users (IDU), sex workers, and the prison population.  The emphasis of HIV/AIDS programs should focus on harm reduction where ever possible, not punitive action.  For instance: the laws differentiate between heterosexual and homosexual acts; sex workers are not allowed to congregate; there are strict laws on possession of drug paraphernalia; and, the prison population does not have an equal level of access to prevention tools such as condoms and needle exchange programs as the general population.  The promotion of human rights of vulnerable groups and people living with HIV/AIDS (PWAs) should be an explicit aim of HIV/AIDS programs.  In addition, there should be a direct correlation betwe!
 en funding allocations and epidemiology to ensure that resources are targeted towards the most vulnerable groups.

The report stresses that Civil Society, PWAs and affected communities should be more actively involved in the governmental response to the epidemic.  It emphasizes that their involvement should extend beyond initial consultation and be included in the policy formation, program implementation and evaluation processes.  In-country capacity building should be strengthened in order to enable these groups to actively participate in the governmental response.  The Inquiry, and subsequent report, used a participatory approach, as frontline workers including PWAs and AIDS NGOs were invited to identify and submit evidence on areas that need improvement.

In regards to the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, the DFID should try to balance the needs of the Northern-based pharmaceutical industry with the needs of the developing countries hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  The report calls on the British Government to take greater efforts to avoid appearing to side with its pharmaceutical industry in patent disputes.  It also calls on the pharmaceutical industry to quickly implement differential pricing to make treatment drugs accessible in developing countries.

The British Government should strongly speak out against public health policies around the world which are restrictive of peopleís rights, such as mandatory testing of vulnerable groups.  The United Statesí actions to bar entry to PWAs during the United Nationís Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS) was used as an example of an inappropriately restrictive policy.  (Such policies were seen to have the potential to contribute to the spread of the epidemic instead of reducing it.)  It was also recommended that the British Government raise human rights abuses with international bodies and governments concerned, specifically to draw attention to situations where inappropriate criminalization is likely to encourage HIV transmission.

Throughout the Inquiry, it was clear that attitudes towards HIV remain highly discriminatory and prejudiced.  Discriminatory attitudes towards HIV are deeply connected with attitudes towards sex, drug use, homosexuality, women, ethnic minorities and immigration.  In order to change attitudes about HIV, these issues need to be addressed.

The involvement of national leaders and politicians is essential to reduce stigma and discrimination.

Joint codes of practice relating to employment of people with HIV should be developed by the Department for Work and Pensions in partnership with the private sector, positive organizations, NGOs and the Disability Rights Commission.  HIV/AIDS should be considered alongside other fluctuating and/or chronic conditions, while acknowledging the discrimination and stigma that are associated with it.

For a copy of the report, please visit the All-Party Parliamentary Group on AIDS web site at:
http://www.appg-aids.org.uk


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