n African Human Rights Law Journal - The never-ending paradoxes of HIV / AIDS and human rights

Volume 4, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



From the outset, HIV / AIDS posed challenges that made traditional public health approaches, such as quarantine, inappropriate. The author realised early on in the epidemic that law had a role to play in curbing the spread of HIV, but that the temptation to adopt 'highly inefficient laws' had to be resisted. The first AIDS paradox arose when it became clear that the disease could best be curbed by respecting the rights of those infected with HIV, rather than by imposing restrictions on such persons, as traditional public health approaches or popular outcries for punishment demanded. This was so because only behaviour change could curb the spread of HIV, and a human rights-based approach was regarded as the most feasible way to ensure the knowledge of and means to effect behaviour change. The author identifies a second AIDS paradox, which accompanies the greater availability of antiretroviral treatment (ARV). Seeing the solution in greater access to ARV, he argues that consideration must be given to whether past strategies of testing and counselling should be amended to 'scale up' testing and, consequently, access to ARVs. Advocating a more flexible approach, the author poses the question whether a human rights-based approach should not be replaced by a serostatus-based approach.

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