n South African Journal on Human Rights - From legal universalism to legal pluralism : expanding and enhancing the human rights approach to HIV / AIDS

Volume 21, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0258-7203



Despite an identifiable trend towards more contextual, community-specific responses to the HIV / AIDS pandemic, the dominant <I>legal</I> discourse surrounding HIV / AIDS continues to be a discourse of universality, which focuses on the innate human dignity of every person living with or under the threat of the disease, and his or her right to the highest attainable standard of health. This article examines both the significant recent developments in our understanding of what the right to health entails in the context of HIV / AIDS and the obstacles that continue to impede the success of the human rights approach in actually improving the lives of persons living with HIV / AIDS in sub- Saharan Africa. Some of these obstacles are neither `universal' nor traceable to the state, but rather flow from the diverse social, material, organisational, spiritual and cultural elements that make up particular human communities. The challenge, therefore, is to consider how current legal approaches to the HIV / AIDS pandemic might be enhanced by taking more seriously these crucial and influential community elements. The discourse of legal pluralism meets this challenge, providing insights that may assist in the realisation of the essential goals of human rights law.

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