Spring 2004

ABA Passes Resolution on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights at Midyear Meeting

At the ABA 2004 Midyear Meeting in San Antonio, Tex., the ABA House of Delegates passed unanimously a resolution co-sponsored by the ABA AIDS Coordinating Committee, the Sections of Individual Rights and Responsibilities and International Law and Practice, and the Young Lawyers Division, urging the U.S. government to implement HIV/AIDS-related legislation, policies, programs, and international agreements in a manner consistent with international human rights law and science-based prevention, care, support, and treatment objectives. It also endorsed the 2001 United Nations Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS.

Since the identification of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in 1981 and the subsequent discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes it, the AIDS epidemic has grown to "pandemic" proportions, reaching every corner of the globe and affecting virtually every indicator of human well being, from public health to national security. As HIV/AIDS has spread throughout the world and the role of law in addressing it become increasingly important, the role of lawyers in tackling the pandemic, both domestically and internationally, has increased as well. In particular, as a diverse range of science-based public health approaches has been implemented globally to reduce HIV transmission rates and to mitigate the consequences of HIV/AIDS on individuals and communities, the fulfillment and protection of fundamental human rights also have come to be recognized as indispensable to an effective response to the pandemic.

The policy therefore reflects the pivotal role that the Association and the legal profession have in ensuring that legal and policy efforts against the pandemic are consistent with international human rights law and scientific data accumulated in the more than two decades since AIDS was first identified, and not based upon political or ideological considerations. The U.N. Declaration of Commitment is an important statement of these globally shared principles and provides a comprehensive, science-based framework for devising and implementing legal and other measures to bring the pandemic under control.

Justice Richard T. Andrias, Chair of the AIDS Coordinating Committee, Lane Porter, Section of International Law and Practice liaison to the Committee, and Robert E. Stein, IRR Council member and a former Chair of the Committee, led the drafting of the report with recommendation. For more information about the Committee and this or other AIDS-related ABA policies, contact Michael Pates, Director of the AIDS Coordination Project (tel.: 202/662-1025; e-mail: Michael.Pates@americanbar.org).

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