Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Geneva, Switzerland
Address: Chemin des Fins 2, Case Postale 102, 1211 Geneva 19 - Telephone: 022 799 9100 - Fax: 022 799 9178

Human Rights Council - 19th Regular Session

Panel discussion on human rights and HIV/AIDS

20 March 2012

Taking a human rights approach to HIV means creating a supportive social and legal environment where rights are respected and the equitable right to health is fulfilled. A human rights-based approach is particularly important to establish the cooperation and trust of communities which are marginalised and disadvantaged.

We welcome the robust human rights commitments made by member states at the June 2011 High-Level General Assembly on HIV/AIDS, and were pleased to play a leadership role facilitating the negotiation of the political declaration. We were pleased that the political declaration included ambitious, time-bound prevention and treatment targets and was the first time key populations disproportionately affected by the epidemic - men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, and sex workers - were explicitly named.

Australia continues to face challenges regarding HIV and AIDS. More than 21,000 people live with HIV in Australia and there have been about 1,000 new diagnoses each year over the past five years. Australia’s approach to HIV/AIDS has demonstrated that human rights are compatible with, and essential to, the effective protection of public health. Our domestic response to HIV is guided by our Sixth National HIV Strategy. Because a sustainable solution requires relevant voices to be heard, we seek to include the meaningful participation of people living with HIV and affected communities along with healthcare professionals and others in the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programs and policies.

Priority areas currently being pursued include anti-discrimination laws, the application of criminal and public health law to HIV transmission and/or exposure offences, reviewing the impact of drug control laws on efforts to prevent HIV as well as sex work law. We will also consider the impact of drug control laws on HIV prevention efforts. We are also promoting programs to challenge stigma and discrimination including education, compliance and measurement, support for advocacy, and improved access to effective complaint systems.

Australia’s response to HIV through its international aid program aims to make a significant and sustained effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV and AIDS by 2015 by assisting partner countries achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. We recognise that HIV transmission occurs through individual behaviours which take place within complex social, cultural, economic and political contexts and we support partner countries to review legal and policy frameworks to enable effective responses to HIV consistent with a human rights-based approach.

We would be interested in the panelists’ views on the benefits of a public health law approach over a criminal law approach to HIV transmission and/or exposure.