AIDS continues to be a global health and development challenge, but there is reason to feel encouraged on this World AIDS Day. By June 2017, 20.9 million, or 57% of the 36.7 million people living with HIV had access to life-saving antiretroviral treatment. While a cause for celebration, this year’s World AIDS Day theme— ‘My health, my right’, calls attention to the 15.8 million people who still lack access.
Unfortunately, deep inequalities persist in access to health care. Ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat is only possible if we ensure that quality basic services are available, affordable, and accessible to all. Everyone has the right to be able to make informed decisions about their health, be treated with dignity, respect and without discrimination, and access the necessary services to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health.
The Global Commission on HIV and the Law, convened by UNDP on behalf of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), made a compelling case for the role of the law and human rights in advancing the right to health in the context of HIV. The Commission’s report shows the importance of addressing the wider context of vulnerability and inequities, thereby highlighting the importance of solidarity, equality before the law, protection of the law, access to justice, and tackling stigma and discrimination as fundamental building blocks of an effective HIV response.
The 2030 Agenda is explicitly grounded in human dignity, inclusion, and solidarity. The pledge to leave no one behind speaks directly to many of the lessons from HIV, and is a commitment from countries to tackle the inequalities and marginalization that prevents people from realizing their full potential. Without realizing the right to health, it will be difficult to achieve many of the Sustainable Development Goals. Only by harnessing the sense of urgency and commitment to human dignity, health and inclusion that we saw in the early days of the HIV epidemic, will we achieve the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat and deliver on the promise of the 2030 Agenda.