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close this bookHandbook for Legislators on HIV/AIDS, Law and Human Rights - Action to Combat HIV/AIDS in view of its Devastating Human, Economic and Social Impact (UNAIDS, 1999, 152 p.)
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As the 20th century draws to a close, HIV and AIDS continue to wreak havoc on an ever-increasing number of individuals, couples, families, and communities. More than 90 percent of the 33.6 million people living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 1999 were in the developing world. In many developing countries, the epidemic has come to represent a threat to human security itself. Sparing neither children nor parents, neither teachers, health workers, farmers, nor other active members of society, AIDS is wiping out gains in social and economic development.

Every year, leaders who previously were confident that their own peoples were somehow immune from HIV for reasons of culture, religion or geography find their countries hard-hit by the epidemic. Politicians in some countries have ignored the threat of AIDS, perhaps for fear that discussions about safer sex, reducing harm to injecting drug users or other sensitive subjects would alienate one or another segment of their supporters.

In other places, however, political leaders have courageously taken on the epidemic, placing themselves in the vanguard of those battling to beat back HIV/AIDS in the most effective ways possible. The greatest achievements in preventing the spread of HIV and alleviating the impact of AIDS have been in countries whose leaders have demonstrated strong political will and commitment.

The purpose of this Handbook is to assist parliamentarians and other elected officials in promulgating and enacting effective legislation and undertaking appropriate law reform in the fight against AIDS. Whether it be constitutional amendments to prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS or against those most vulnerable to infection, legislation to ensure the rights of school children to be educated on how to protect themselves as they grow older, to name only a few areas of concern, the full engagement of legislators is crucial to ensuring effective responses to the epidemic and adequate fiscal and other resources to support them.

The Handbook provides examples of best legislative and regulatory practices gathered from around the world. Best practices are given for each of the twelve guidelines contained in the International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights published in 1998 by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). The Handbook presents concrete measures that legislators can take to protect human rights and promote public health in responding to the epidemic.

The Handbook is the product of a growing partnership between the Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) and UNAIDS, which share a commitment to the respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights as a value in itself, and as central to the achievement of their institutional goals and objectives.

We hope that parliamentarians and other elected officials around the world will be able to make use of this Handbook in advancing their national and community responses to AIDS, and we urge them to declare or renew their political commitments to preventing the spread and alleviating the impact of this terrible epidemic.

Peter Piot
Executive Director
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS

Anders Johnsson
Inter-Parliamentary Union