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Whither human rights?

Stoning to death. Enforced destitution. Children removed from school. Denial of human rights takes a whole new meaning for AIDS patients.

india Updated: Dec 13, 2003 12:57 IST

A woman is stoned to death by fellow villagers. A man is left to die amidst animal excreta in an enclosure meant for cattle. Children are removed from school due to false fears that they may infect others. Widows are thrown out of their homes and left destitute. All this and much more that goes unreported occurs because these persons are infected with HIV.

Lately, another wholly inequitable situation has emerged: those in India who are HIV+ remain without the option of accessing affordable medication that prolongs life. Instead, this anti-retroviral medication that is made by Indian companies is exported abroad and provided to persons there in a manner that ensures affordability. But at home treatment access still remains a distant dream for many. Should it not be patently obvious that human rights need to be guaranteed in these unprecedented circumstances, simply because they are fundamental to every person’s life?

Apart from their inherent inalienability, human rights are important in the HIV/AIDS context also because their framework has worked i.e. strategies that protect and promote the rights of those most affected by the epidemic have been seen as the best way to effectively deal with its control.

Shining examples of empowerment exist in India itself – Sonagachi, the sex work area in Kolkata has seen a drastic decline in sexually transmitted infections and only a marginal increase in HIV prevalence largely because sex workers there have empowered themselves in various ways resulting in virtually complete insistence on condom use by their clients.

First Published: Nov 30, 2003 21:36 IST