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Know Your Rights

Know Your Rights

Rights are there to protect us all when things go wrong. Unfortunately, around the world our rights can sometimes be violated by professionals, the public and the media who may not be aware of these rights.

Human rights laws

“Human rights are inscribed in the hearts of people; they were there long before lawmakers drafted their first proclamation.” – Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights[i]

Regardless of who we are, where we live, or what we do, every human being has rights. They belong to everyone. Human rights address many aspects of our everyday lives from the right to food, shelter, education and health, to the right to freedom of thought, religion and expression. The core values that are the foundation of human rights are: fairness, respect, equality, dignity, autonomy, universality and participation.[ii]

This SHE website section describes some of these rights and how we can support one another to protect our rights. It is important to do this so that problems we have experienced in Europe[iii] do not happen to us or to other HIV positive women and girls again. We are not to blame for what has happened to us. HIV is not a moral issue, despite what we may have been told. It is just a virus that we have been unfortunate enough to acquire along with millions of other people.[iv] Moreover, we have the right to care and support for the trauma we go through. International,[i] European[v] and national human rights declarations can help us to hold to account our governments, public and private healthcare services, our communities, employers, neighbours, faith groups, children’s’ schools and even our own partners and families. This can feel difficult and scary. It may mean questioning and challenging practices in our public healthcare, legal, media and other services or institutions when we feel that our rights are not being respected. Our governments in Europe have all signed up to the international treaties that we are going to discuss here. They have agreed to certain ways of behaving, and need to be held to account on these, by us and by our supporters. We are all in this together, and there are others out there willing to work with us and support us.

Please view and/or download the Pink Section of the SHE toolkit for further information about this subject.

Different areas of human rights laws

As a part of the SHE toolkit session on human rights, you can learn about different aspects of human rights laws in relation to women and HIV which cover the following areas:

Resources on human rights

You can learn more about human rights by looking through the resources below. These resources are here to help you understand your rights and to know what policies may be in place for women living with HIV.

There is also an excellent article by Sofia Gruskin and Laura Ferguson in the WHO Bulletin which suggests the need to introduce human rights indicators into monitoring systems as an integral part of public health delivery. Article by Sofia Gruskin and Laura Ferguson .

Here is a list of some key international human rights resources that relate to women and HIV:

[i] United Nations Association. Factsheet one: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

[ii] Petretti, Silvia. Human Rights and HIV. Speaking Up: The Diary of an HIV+ Activist. Available at Accessed March 2014.

[iii] WECARe+. Launch of WECARe+ (Women in Europe and Central Asia Regions Plus) Available at Accessed March 2014.

[iv] UNAIDS, Report on the Global AIDS epidemic 2010. Available at Accessed March 2014.

[v] European Convention on Human Rights. Available at Accessed March 2014.

Poll – English Support Groups – English

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Peer support by, with and for women living with HIV creates an enabling environment for us to feel empowered and take control of our lives again after an HIV diagnosis.

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Last modified on: Jun 23 2014687UK13NP05586-10