African Action Plans
During the late-1980s and early 1990s, we undertook missions throughout East, Central and Southern Africa to explain to Governments the benefit of respect for human rights in the response to AIDS and hosted a series of policy-making workshops for senior governmental advisers.These workshops developed action plans to address the social, ethical and human rights aspects of AIDS. Although focused on Africa, many of the issues highlighted in these studies were global and the recommendations were pertinent world-wide.
Rights and Humanity co-hosted with the Commonwealth Secretariat a series of meetings for public health Ministers and AIDS practitioners. These were held in London, UK, for representatives from throughout the Commonwealth; Lagos, Nigeria, for participants from West Africa; and Siavonga, Zambia, for public officials from East and Southern Africa. Rights and Humanity was commissioned to produce the background papers and write the reports.
Strategies for Action
Rights and Humanity proposed strategies for action and participants adopted an Agenda for Action in Africa. This included strategies to ensure:
- respect for human rights and dignity in AIDS programmes
- prevention of discrimination
- development of appropriate AIDS prevention strategies
- dialogue with traditional healers and herbalists
- respect for ethical principles in HIV testing and patient care
- respect for ethical principles in research
- that the particular vulnerability of women was addressed
- reduction of the risks involved in prostitution
- support for families affected by AIDS
- assistance for AIDS orphans
- development of appropriate adoption policies
- recognition and respect of the role of communities in AIDS prevention and control.
Example of Impact
In July 1990, Rights and Humanity was commissioned by the Commonwealth Secretariat to compile the results of our research and the conclusions of the workshops into a key document entitled “Ethical and Social Aspects of AIDS in Africa”, published by the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Rights and Humanity’s Report encouraged respect for human rights in the response to HIV/AIDS in Africa and was influential throughout the Commonwealth. It was later picked up by the recently established African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies and formed the basis of its publication on AIDS and human rights.
During her missions to Africa, Rights and Humanity’s President was able to explain to governments the benefit of respecting human rights and dignity in the response to AIDS. This sometimes resulted in immediate policy changes.
Whilst on Mission to a country in Southern Africa, our President visited the national Blood Transfusion Service where the blood supply was running out because people had stopped donating blood.
The Director of the Transfusion Service explained that blood was being tested for HIV in order to discard infected blood. Due to the lack of lockable filing cabinets, the privacy of blood tests could not be guaranteed by the Transfusion Service.
Donors feared that if they were found to be infected, and their HIV status became known, they would suffer the discrimination that was prevalent against people living with HIV/AIDS.
Rights and Humanity explained that it was the blood that needed to be tested for HIV, rather than the donor, and suggested a coding device being used in other countries by which the blood is separated from the identity of the donor.
When this process was implemented, and blood donors were convinced that their status would remain confidential, the supply of donated blood increased again.