COVID-19, Human Rights, and The Legal Network

In the face of a global pandemic, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network remains steadfast in its commitment to upholding the human rights of people living with and affected by HIV. If the history of the HIV epidemic has taught us anything, it is that stigma and misinformation can stand in the way of evidence-based prevention, treatment, and care, and the most marginalized among us will be the first to be neglected.

Already, we have observed racism bubble to the surface with increased acts of bigotry and discrimination towards people of colour. We have also been monitoring troubling calls for criminal liability for individuals who are alleged to have exposed others to COVID-19. And quarantine and self-isolation for many of our communities exposes them to great risk of harm – or is all but impossible. When any measures are introduced, care must be taken to ensure that everyone, including people living with and affected by HIV, is still able to access the health services they need, without disruptions in treatment. We will be following these developments closely, and intervening as necessary.

While our work to promote the human rights of people living with, at risk of, or affected by HIV or AIDS continues throughout these challenging times, we take seriously our obligation to limit transmission of COVID-19, not only to our colleagues and loved ones, but also to the numerous people with whom we engage in our advocacy work in Canada and beyond. Our flexible work policy means many of our team will be working remotely, and we have rescheduled our larger in-person gatherings and will proceed remotely with others. Rest assured, the work will continue. It is needed now as much as ever.

As with many public health crises, COVID-19 exposes the many structural factors that lead to health inequities and other economic and social disparities, as well as vulnerability to the virus. HIV taught us that activism – driven by the voices of lived experience – is critical to ensure that a public health response does not come at the expense of human rights.

The Legal Network will continue to rise to this challenge.

In solidarity,

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

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