HIV/AIDS and HUMAN RIGHTS
HIV and AIDS, Ethics, Human Rights and the Law
Lawyers’ Alert work in HIV and AIDS is restricted to principally two thematic areas, Human Rights Education and Rights Enforcement through litigation/Advocacy. Secondly massive education and capacity building on Preventing Mother To Child Transmission, PMTC. We believe successfully preventing and eliminating Mother to Child Transmission will be a key step in wiping out new infections and ultimately end AIDS.
Our involvement began in 2003, when Lawyers Alert organised a workshop in Benue State on HIV and AIDS in relation to Human Rights. The theme of the workshop was “HIV and AIDS, Ethics, Human Rights and the Law”. The workshop was for Persons living with HIV and AIDS, NGO’s and Policy makers with the support of the British Council. The workshop sought to explore positive living against the backdrop of the law and human rights in Nigeria, using Benue State as a case study.
Following the workshop it was established by participants that there indeed exist a lot of human rights violations by the state and non state actors in principally the rights to health, education and employment with regard to especially women and children.
Following this cardinal finding by participants, in 2004, Lawyers Alert carried out a situation analysis on HIV and the Law in Benue wherein we published booklet titled “HIV and AIDS: A Legal Framework” where we explored the relationship between Human Rights and the treatment of persons living with AIDS. This book is the product of engagement with the community of persons living positively and legal institutions. It became crystal clear that while Government has beautiful and well laid out plans in States Strategies, political will often do not match the strategy papers.
Owing to frustrations of non implementation of strategy documents, Lawyers Alert alongside the Community of person+ explored the idea of creation of obligations on the state and private hospitals, schools and industries with regard to women and children so this can be enforced. Only a law can achieve this, and this has been the struggle since 2005, to have a Non Discrimination Law passed by the State that will regulate and create obligations on routine testing of pregnant mothers, early infant diagnosis, adequate Medicare for mothers and children living with AIDS, access to education and non discrimination at workplaces, etc.
Legislation in these areas will go a long way in preventing mother to Child transmission, eliminate discrimination, enhance access to education, and guarantee employment for women.
Lawyers Alert has continuously partnered the then State Action Committee on AIDS on issues bothering on human rights and the law regarding HIV and AIDS. We specifically drafted the Bill transforming the State Committee to an Agency so as to make it more effective. The Bill has since been passed into law. Over the years we have effectively participated in the drafting of State strategic Plans for the Agency inclusive of other activities.
Lawyers Alert has represented over 100 person+ in efforts at enforcing or protecting their rights to accommodations, uninformed testing, workplace discriminations etc. We have carried out over 12 workshops, in building capacity and creating awareness on rights of person+ in Benue, Nassarawa and Plateau States.
Regarding PMTC, we are involved in mass community education in changing values especially with regard to Gender. Gender empowerment and elimination of stigma is key to effective PMTC. When the rights of women are respected by elimination of violence, disinheritance, access to education created and jobs provided, with fewer stigmas and discrimination, PMTC will succeed.
We have carried out efforts in these regard through awareness creation/capacity building and community theatre in especially between 2008 to date.
All Lawyers Alert programs have the above main streamed into it.
Lawyers Alert is presently in the process of developing tools to measure the impact of our work in Benue, Nassarawa and Plateau States in the sphere of HIV and AIDs/ Human Right