2009 World AIDS Day- Universal Access and Human Rights

Today, 1st December 2009 marks World AIDS day. Browsing through the 2009 AIDS Epidemic Update , one can see that despite significant efforts towards combating the epidemic, the global HIV/AIDS statics are alarming.

According to the report, an estimated:

  • 33.4 million people are living with HIV worldwide               
  • 2.7 million people were newly infected in 2008
  • 2 million people died of AIDS related illness in 2008

This year’s World AIDS Day theme is “Universal Access and Human Rights”. The challenge therefore for governments and donors, is to translate into real action and results, the knowledge of the interplay of HIV/AIDS and human rights. Notably:

  • The right to share in scientific advancement and its benefits;
  • The right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health;
  • The right to non-discrimination, equal protection and equality before the law;
  • The right to life;
  • The right to privacy;
  • The right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
  • The right to work;
  • The right to freedom of movement;
  • The right to seek and enjoy asylum;
  • The right to an adequate standard of living;
  • The right to social security, assistance and welfare;
  • The right to equal access to education;
  • The right to participate in public and cultural life;
  • The right to freedom of association;
  • The right to marry and to found a family;
  • The right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to freely receive and impart information.

Gates Foundation Awards Grants to “Unconventional” Global Health Initiatives

On May 4, 2009, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced grants of $100,000 to 81 unconventional global health initiatives as part of the Foundation’s Grand Challenges Explorations initiative.

These “bold” and “unproven” global health research projects have the goal of improving health in developing countries. The projects focus on the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and diarrheal diseases.  The grants were awarded to researchers in 17 countries.

2009 winners included:

  • Luke Savage and Dave Newman of the University of Exeter in the U.K. will attempt to build an inexpensive, battery-powered instrument to diagnose malaria by using magnets to detect the waste products of the malaria parasite in human blood samples.
  • Boitumelo Semete at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa will attempt to develop “sticky nanoparticles” that attach to tuberculosis-infected cells and slowly release anti-TB drugs. The new therapy could shorten treatment time and reduce side effects, using existing medications.
  • Eric Lam at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey in the U.S. will work to develop a tomato that delivers antiviral drugs when eaten.

Applicants were selected from more than 3,000 proposals in the second round.  The first round of 104 Grand Challenges Explorations grants was announced in October 2008.

If you have a bold or innovative global health research proposal and you think you have what it takes, the Gates Foundation is accepting applications for Round 3 of Grand Challenges Explorations through May 28, 2009.

Round 3 topics include:

  • Create Low-Cost Diagnostics for Priority Global Health Conditions
  • Create New Ways to Induce Mucosal Immunity
  • Create New Vaccines for Diarrhea, HIV, Malaria, Pneumonia and Tuberculosis
  • Create New Tools to Accelerate the Eradication of Malaria

Scholar’s Corner: Recent Scholarly Works in Global Health Law

 President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief: Health Development at the Crossroads


Lawrence O. Gostin
Georgetown University Law Center – O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law; Georgetown University Law Center

JAMA, Vol. 300, pp. 2046-48, 2008
Georgetown University O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law Scholarship Paper No. 18

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in human history, authorizing up to $15 billion over 5 years. On July 30, 2008, President Bush signed into law the historic reauthorization of PEPFAR, dramatically increasing the financial commitment by authorizing up to $48 billion over 5 years, including $5 billion for Malaria and $4 billion for Tuberculosis. PEPFAR’s global targets are inspiring: treat 3 million people; prevent 12 million new HIV infections, and care for 12 million people, including 5 million orphans and vulnerable children. But, PEPFAR has been mired in controversy. To some, it exemplifies America’s extraordinary compassion and generosity, and to others America’s politicization of public health and unilateral approach to international health. The truth lies somewhere in between. American healthassistance to the developing world stands at a crossroad. As PEPFAR is scaled up, will it provide opportunities to fulfill basic human needs, or will its limited focus pull resources from sustainable, capacity-building support in line with poor country priorities?

Available at SSRN.

Indonesia Introduces Legislation to Microchip “Sexually Aggressive” HIV/AIDS Patients

Lawmakers in the Papua province of Indonesia support upcoming legislation that requires “sexually aggressive” HIV/AIDS patients to be implanted with microchips in order to identify, track and ultimately punish those who deliberately infect others with up to six months in jail or a $5,000 fine.

The proposed legislation has received full support from the provincial parliament and, if it passes as expected, the legislation will be enacted next month.  The government has not said how it would determine which patients should be considered “sexually aggressive.” 

Human rights workers are understandably troubled.  “People with AIDS aren’t animals; we have to respect their rights,” said Tahi Ganyang Butarbutar, a prominent Papuan activist.  Local health workers and AIDS activists called the plan “abhorrent.”

Given that much of Indonesia’s HIV/AIDS problem stems from lack of knowledge about how HIV/AIDS is spread, health workers suggest that the best way to tackle the epidemic is through increased spending on sexual education and condom use. Continue reading

More Countries Make Spreading HIV a Crime

According to the report HIV: Verdict on a Virus – Public Health, Human Rights and Criminal Law, put out by the International Planned Parenthood Federation, more countries are criminalizing HIV transmission.  The report analyzes the related health, human rights and legal implications.

According to Planned Parenthood, 58 countries worldwide have laws that criminalize HIV or use existing laws to prosecute people for transmitting the virus. Another 33 countries are considering similar legislation.  According to the report:

“In an increasing number of countries, transmitting or exposing another person to HIV can be an offence under criminal law. Charges are being brought under a variety of laws, either specific to HIV transmission or exposure, or under other laws such as murder, manslaughter, attempted murder, assault, grievous bodily harm (GBH) or poisoning. In some countries a distinction is made between intentional, ‘reckless’, or even negligent transmission of HIV. Exposure laws are primarily concerned with consent whereas transmission laws are concerned with both consent and proof of transmission.

“While some people believe that criminalization can promote public health outcomes and improve HIV prevention efforts, it may also deter people from accessing voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) services, discourage them from knowing their HIV-status and impede people from seeking appropriate care and support.”

Since 2005, seven countries in West Africa have passed HIV laws. In Benin, simply exposing others to HIV is a crime, even if transmission doesn’t occur. In Tanzania, intentional transmission of the virus can lead to life imprisonment. In the U.S., 32 states have laws criminalizing HIV transmission.

As reported: 

“A woman in Canadawas charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm having chosen not to access PMTCT services. The case is unusual. The charge the woman was convicted of is typically reserved for cases of child neglect. The woman was also charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm and aggravated assault. However, those charges were withdrawn.


“The woman has two children – the first born in 2003, does not have HIV. When she became pregnant the second time, in 2004, she changed her health care provider and did not tell her new doctors that she was HIV-positive. Her second child did not receive essential medication after birth, and tested HIV-positive in 2005. Although the woman did not breastfeed her first baby (under her doctor’s advice) she did breastfeed the second, which may have also facilitated the transmission of HIV. The woman was sentenced to a 6 month conditional sentence followed by 3 years of probation and also burdened with a criminal record, which can have serious implications in terms of future employment, travel, and access to social welfare.”

Read more about the report, after the jump. Continue reading

Uganda loses $12m in Global Fund AIDS and malaria funding over misuse concerns

 Due to concerns over misamanagement and poor accountability of initial installments, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria  has refused to release $10m of the $36m that was allocated to Uganda in 2003 for HIV/AIDS activities under Round One. A further $2m has been withheld from the $24m allocated for malaria work under the Global Fund, Round 2 in 2004.

According to Aidspan, an independent watchdog of the Fund, quoted in the New Vision“Uganda failed to satisfy the Global Fund in time that the arrangements put in place after the suspension were good enough to protect their money in Uganda.” 

The organisation noted that the two grants “have become irredeemable” as they are 40months behind schedule and Uganda should have accounted for the first installments.

Back in August 2005, the Global Fund temporarily suspended all of its five grants to Uganda upon evidence of ‘serious mismanagement’ of the funds. The Global Fund requested the country to put in place a new structure that will ensure effective management of the grants.

In October 2005 the Ugandan Government responded by setting up a commission of inquiry into allegations of mismanagement of grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.  The Global Fund later lifted the suspension of the grants in  November 2005, following the signing of an Aide Memoire setting out action points for restructured management of the grants.  

The commission of Inquiry headed by Justice James Ogoola, issued a damning report in June 2006 but 2 years later the Global Fund board raised concern over Uganda’s delay to act on the Ogoola Commission report.  In August 2008, the Global Fund’s Inspector General visited Uganda to evaluate progress.


The Uganda Government, under pressure from donors, begun to prosecute people alleged to have embezzled the money. Among those interrogated were 3 former health ministers.

Continue reading

South Africa Uses Innovative Technology to Encourage AIDS Testing and Treatment

As reported by the BBC, South Africa is about to use text messaging technology to spread the word about getting tested for HIV/AIDS.  Starting on December 1, 2008, 1 million text messages will be sent in both English and local dialects like Zulu encouraging people to get tested and treated for HIV/AIDS. 

Estimates suggested that the 49 million South Africans have 43 million mobile phones, making text messaging and easier way to reach South African’s citizens.  South Africa also has a free text messaging system by which one person can send a free text message with the heading “please call me” and their phone number, usually followed by advertising to offset the cost of the free messages.  In this instance, the messages will be followed by a 120 character message advocating testing and treatment; “Worried that you might have HIV and want to talk to a counsellor about getting tested? Call Aids helpline 0800012322.”   

This system will eventually be used to spread information about tuberculosis. Continue reading