Close-up portrait of a woman.

Significant breaches of human rights and other life-threatening and discriminatory disruptions have made part of the COVID-19 responses worldwide. The UN Secretary General has requested all UN entities to support the efforts of the WHO in their own respective areas of expertise. So, to better inform the response going forwards, UNAIDS commissioned a report on how COVID-19 public health orders and restrictions on movement have impacted the response to HIV and human rights.

Illustration of three human figures working on infected lungs.

The COVID-19 Law Lab initiative gathers and shares legal documents from over 190 countries to help states establish and implement legal frameworks to manage the pandemic. The goal is to ensure that laws protect individuals and communities and that they adhere to international human rights standards. Well-designed laws help build strong health systems; evaluate and approve safe and effective drugs and vaccines; and create healthier and safer public spaces and workplaces. The new Lab is a joint project of UNDP, WHO, UNAIDS and partners.

Close-up of various pills

Seventy-three countries warned that they are at risk of stock-outs of antiretroviral (ARV) medicines as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Twenty-four countries reported having either a critically low stock of ARVs or disruptions in the supply of these life-saving medicines. This new WHO survey follows an exercise convened by WHO and UNAIDS which forecasted that a six-month disruption in access to ARVs could lead to a doubling in AIDS-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa alone.

hand holding up box of medicine in front of building

Getting calls at all hours of the day is not unusual for Liu Jie, the Community Mobilization Officer in the UNAIDS Country Office in China. Because of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, the whole office has been active in helping people living with HIV to continue to access treatment, especially in Hubei Province, where the pandemic was first reported. Recently, Ms Liu was surprised when she had a call from Poland. UNAIDS country offices and the Community Mobilization Team in Geneva, Switzerland came to the rescue.

Two girls in a crowd

We’ve Got the Power, a new report by UNAIDS shows the stark inequalities and inequities between men and women are continuing to make women and girls more vulnerable to HIV. 

mother and child

Discrimination and gender inequality remain a huge barrier for women and girls with a serious impact on the AIDS response. This is an important year for women and girls, starting with the Beijing +25 Conference and the Commission on the Status of Women in March, through the UN General Assembly High-level session in September. The theme of Zero Discrimination Day on 1 March 2020 is “Zero discrimination against women and girls.” The day is not limited to HIV, or health-related themes, but aims to highlight all issues related to discrimination.

Photo of a health facility interior with patients waiting their turn.

UNAIDS is calling on governments to ensure that the right to health is realized by all by prioritizing public investments in health. At least half of the world’s population cannot access essential health services. “The right to health is eluding the poor and people trying to lift themselves out of poverty are being crushed by the unacceptably high costs of health care. The richest 1% benefit from cutting-edge science while the poor struggle to get even basic health care,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS. Nearly 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty (living on US$ 1.90 or less a day) because they have to pay for health care, and more than 930 million people spend at least 10% of their household budgets on health care. Publicly financed health care is the greatest equalizer in society. Health should not be a privilege for the rich—the right to health belongs to everyone.