Influencing European Policy
In November, 1991, Rights and Humanity co-hosted held a “Pan-European Consultation on HIV/AIDS in the Context of Public Health and Human Rights”, in Prague, Czechoslovakia. The Consultation adopted “The Prague Statement”, a Pan-European consensus on respect for the principles of human rights, ethics and humanity in the response to HIV/AIDS.
The Consultation, co-hosted by WHO and co-sponsored by the Council of Europe, brought together National AIDS Programme Managers and other senior public health officials, and people living and working with HIV/AIDS. It was inspired by The Rights and Humanity Declaration and Charter on HIV and AIDS which was used as the background paper for the Consultation.
Rights and Humanity’s keynote speech stressed the importance of respect for human rights and dignity at every level of the response to HIV/AIDS. We proposed strategies for action to promote full respect for human rights and the principles of ethics and humanity in the context of AIDS.
Strategies for Action
Rights and Humanity recommended that strategies for action should include:
- the development of an appropriate legal framework, including repeal of coercive or unnecessarily restrictive laws and practices and the strengthening of protective laws and redress procedures
public education and awareness campaigns to highlight the dangers of prejudice, discrimination and social isolation and to promote solidarity, tolerance and compassion
- the legal, political and social emancipation of women and other disadvantaged groups within society, including the removal of obstacles which inhibit the formation of self-help and self-support groups
- empowerment of those individuals in our societies who as a result of disadvantage, low self-esteem or other causes have difficulty in taking up the opportunities open to them, and who therefore need support and assistance in exercising their rights.
The Consultation developed a Pan-European consensus on strategies to ensure respect for human rights and ethical principles in the response to the AIDS pandemic. This consensus was published as The Prague Statement which set the policy for the public health response to HIV/AIDS throughout Europe.
By The Prague Statement, the Member States of WHO from the European region:
- reaffirmed their obligation to respect principles of human rights, ethics and humanity
- undertook to ensure that all laws, policies and practices which directly or indirectly affected HIV/AIDS prevention and control, or could inhibit the legal emancipation and empowerment of women and vulnerable population groups, took full account of these principle
- agreed that the views of representatives of people affected by HIV/AIDS should be sought and respected
- called for special attention to be paid to the needs and rights of men who have sex with men, drug users, sex workers, prisoners, migrants, refugees and ethnic minorities.
They also adopted strategies on:
- professional ethics and responsibility and
- the responsibilities of local, national and international communities.
We invited the news agency Visnews to make a video news item during the Consultation, explaining the importance of protecting human rights and dignity in the response to HIV/AIDS. This was shown globally over the following weeks, influencing the wider AIDS agenda.