On the occasion of the World AIDS Day, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission), through its Committee on the Protection of the Rights of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and Those at Risk, Vulnerable to and Affected by HIV (the Committee), joins the rest of the world in commemorating this day.
This event which has been celebrated under the theme: “Know Your Status” is a unique opportunity to further inform and raise public awareness about the importance of stopping the spread of the virus.
While commending efforts to expand access to HIV testing, some African States have introduced testing modalities such as provider-initiated testing and counselling (PITC), community and home testing, routine testing, couples testing and mobile testing which are inconsistent with human rights standards.
The Committee is concerned with some of these approaches as they have serious human rights implications, particularly breach of confidentiality and lack of informed consent. HIV testing also poses gender-related problems because women, particularly pregnant women and adolescent girls are disproportionately subjected to HIV testing without clear measures to ensure their safety and protection from abuse.
The Committee notes that despite sensitisation campaigns stigma, discrimination, and marginalisation of persons living with HIV and key populations such as gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers and their clients, transgender people, and people who inject drugs, persist on the continent. This adds to the spread of HIV, as it negatively affects HIV prevention, treatment, care and support efforts because these groups are forced to hide due to a hostile socio-legal environment.
The Committee calls on State Parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to adopt protective laws and policies, including the prohibition of mandatory and other forms of coercive HIV testing or treatment.
The Committee further calls upon State Parties to repeal and remove punitive and restrictive laws, policies and practices which prevent individuals from HIV testing due to fear of persecution or stigmatisation, including legislation that adversely affects key populations.
Honourable Commissioner Soyata Maiga
Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Chairperson of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and Those at Risk, Vulnerable to and Affected by HIV