20th International AIDS Conference - Melbourne, Australia


LBPE35 - Poster Exhibition

Using strategic litigation to ensure access to HIV treatment for prisoners in southern Africa in countries which do not guarantee the right to health

P. Patel

Southern Africa Litigation Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa

Background: Prisons in southern Africa continue to have high rates of HIV infection and HIV/TB co-infection due in part to overcrowding, poor ventilation, inadequate access to medical care, and denial of treatment. However, apart from South Africa, legal and community-based organisations have been hesitant to use litigation to secure access to treatment and better conditions for prisoners living with HIV. This is in part due to the fact that litigation is not seen as an option, as unlike South Africa, most countries in southern Africa do not guarantee the right to health.
Methods: With partners, we sought to bring cases in domestic courts in southern Africa to increase access to HIV treatment for prisoners and ensure better prison conditions. Though none of the countries in which such cases have been brought guaranteed the right to health, we relied on other guaranteed rights, such as the right to be free from discrimination, the right to equality, the right to life and the right to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment to argue that governments had to provide HIV treatment and address poor prison conditions.
Results: A number of cases have been filed thus far. A case in Botswana has been filed challenging the government''s policy of denying free Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Treatment (HAART) to foreign prisoners, arguing that the policy violates the rights to equality, freedom from discrimination, life and freedom from cruel and inhuman punishment. Another case in Zambia has been filed calling on the government to provide all prisoners on HAART with adequate nutrition and better prison conditions. The case argues that the failure to provide adequate nutrition to prisoners on HAART and poor prison conditions violates the rights to life and freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment. Decisions in both cases are expected by July 2014.
Conclusions: In countries where the right to health is not guaranteed under the domestic law, legal and community organizations should rely on other more traditional rights to challenge the denial of access to treatment and poor prison conditions for prisoners living with HIV.

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