Human rights defenders play a key role in the HIV response

The UNAIDS has released an update on the role that Human Rights Defenders play in the HIV response, in an interview with Mr. Kene Esom, AMSHeR’s previous Executive Director and current Strategic Initiatives Advisor to the AMSHeR Board – on the promotion and protection of Human Rights in the context of HIV and other Communicable diseases, the UNAIDS update reads as follows:-

‘Mr Esom makes it clear that when he is talking about human rights in the context of HIV, it is not just the right to health that matters. “There is a pattern of human rights violations towards gay men in many countries, owing particularly to the criminalisation of consensual same-sex conduct,” said Mr Esom. “For example, when a newspaper decided to publish a sensational story about gay men having a party, the men were arrested. detained and forcibly tested for HIV. All their due process rights were violated and their right to privacy breached to the extent that their names, addresses and pictures were published in the newspaper.”

Mr Esom said that incidents such as this can roll back years of progress in providing HIV services for key populations. “You cannot provide health services without taking into consideration the human rights context of the populations you are providing the services for. You can build the best health-care facility, but gay men will not come to that facility if they are worried that police will arrest them or that doctors will report their sexual behaviour.”

AMSHeR supports human rights organisations to undertake evidence-informed advocacy. “Human rights defenders play a key role in bringing these issues to light and showing the impact that human rights violations can have on HIV responses, especially on services targeting key populations,” said Mr Esom.

In its work, AMSHeR emphasises the role of communities in advocating for change and speaking directly to policy-makers. “They are the voices and faces of the issues that affect them.”

Mr Esom will be speaking about the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of HIV and other communicable disease at the Human Rights Council Social Forum, which is being held from 2 to 4 October.’