The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) officially launches its campaign geared towards raising awareness on the World AIDS Day commemorations this week, which for the first time ever, has a human rights theme. The organization has embraced and fully welcomed the decision by the World AIDS Campaign to make this year’s World AIDS Day commemorations revolve around human rights and how they improve universal access.
The theme: Universal Access and Human Rights points to the need to infuse a human rights approach to the national HIV/AIDS response in order to meet the goals of public health of responding to the HIV and AIDS pandemic. The theme comes about with the recognition that failure to address human rights aspects that hamper access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support will continue to fuel HIV and AIDS.
Criminalization, discrimination, stigma and violence of sexual minorities and other key populations [children; women living with HIV and AIDS; prisoners; sex workers; lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans-gendered and inter-sexed individuals; men who have sex with men; women who have sex with women and injecting drug users] has severely limited their inclusion in national strategic frameworks; research and access to health services.
BONELA, like many human rights organizations, believes that the protection of a full range of human rights is key to protecting public health. Through respect and upholding human rights, the right to non-discrimination on the basis of HIV status; the right to treatment as part of essential health care; and the right of people living with HIV and AIDS to participate in the development of AIDS policies and programmes, huge gains have been made in assuring leading a positive lifestyle and attaining quality of life for people living with HIV. In addition, respecting the 3C’s: consent, counseling and confidentiality, makes it possible to engage people in sustained HIV prevention and treatment efforts and greatly increases access of HIV testing.
Human rights approaches to HIV are real, practical and cost-effective, as evidenced by countries which have placed them at the centre of their AIDS responses. Placing human rights as a priority include: ensuring that national HIV programmes include measures to combat discrimination and violence against people living with HIV and AIDS and those at risk of infection; ensuring that young people have full access to HIV information, sexual and life skills education, as well as to condoms and services for sexually transmitted infections and family planning; investing in legal environment of people living with HIV and AIDS so that they know their rights and can mobilize around them; establishing clear legal remedies for violence and discrimination against sex workers, men who have sex with men and other marginalized groups; and providing women with effective remedies against all forms of gender-based violence, inside and outside marriage, as well as redress against legally sanctioned discrimination in access to economic opportunities, property and inheritance.
This year's theme thus provides BONELA and other human rights activists around the world an opportunity to remind governments to adhere to and/or renew their commitment which they made in 2006 at a high level United Nations meeting, to ensure universal access to comprehensive prevention programmes, treatment, care and support by 2010 because universal access without human rights will never be achieved.
BONELA is working in close collaboration with partners in a campaign building up to World AIDS Day commemorations which will be held in Kasane in December. This will be done through training of different stakeholders on human rights issues to enable partners to identify activities around the theme; marches; debates and essay competitions for children, gearing up to World AIDS Day in December and continuing until Human Rights Day on the 10th of December and through to 2011. These activities will be accompanied by a multi-media sensitization and awareness raising campaign that involves advertorials, radio, television interviews, production of t-shirts and other information, education and communication give always.