Ruth Foley, from the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, speaks about how faith communities are linking theology, human rights and HIV.
The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is a network of some 80 Christian and faith-based organizations, including Caritas Internationalis, Catholic Relief Services and the International Network of Religious Leaders living with and affected by HIV who are all represented here today. We recognize that the legal environment in the vast majority of states cannot be understood in isolation from the faith values and traditions practiced by citizens and government leaders alike.
We commend the framework for legal accountability for violations of the God-given dignity of every human being that is embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the wider canon of international human rights law. We view this framework as the best available set of tools for seeking justice for victims of human rights violations. However, while some religious communities have fully integrated human rights as part of their identity and purpose, we are aware that in different parts of the world and among some religious communities human rights are still viewed as imposed values.
We see some potential for reframing this conversation by, for instance, speaking of human dignity and of justice, which are central values for all faith communities and also undergird human rights law. However, we believe that more needs to be done to accompany religious communities in exploring how best to relate, through their theology as well as in their policies and programmes, to the body of law and practice that is human rights.
We recognize with deep regret and alarm that religious communities are themselves too often responsible for exclusion and stigmatization, rather than for the inclusion and nondiscrimination that both faith values and human rights principles demand.
As a result, in partnership with UNAIDS, the Norwegian government and UNFPA, we have begun a process of dialogue addressing the links between theology, human rights and HIV, within the faith community and with key partners in the response to the AIDS pandemic and in the human rights movement, including people living with HIV and representatives of key populations. We hope to continue and expand this dialogue, so as to engage member states, law makers and law enforcers, NGOs and civil society and other key actors.
With regard to access to life-saving pharmaceuticals, we consider licensing arrangements for the development and production of such medicines to be a key piece of the legal architecture for the HIV response – and an important contributor (or obstacle) to the realization of the human right to the highest attainable standard of health. The Medicines Patent Pool is clearly the leading innovation in this field. Though its early outcomes may not be all that the human right to health demands, they are clearly a step in the right direction.
The MPP deserves our support. As the EAA, we see advocacy and accountability for justice and human rights for all as an imperative within the HIV response and we look forward to working with members of the PCB Board, including civil society and people living with HIV, to engage religious leaders and groups in constructive dialogue to eliminate stigma and discrimination and find ways of moving towards the three Zeros together.