The Blueprint

1. Commitment to social justice and human rights

"The vulnerable must be given priority. . ."

Keeping the Promise: Summary of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS,
Special Session on HIV/AIDS, June 2001

HIV is more than a health problem. Social factors -- such as discrimination in all its forms, poverty, homelessness and abuse -- threaten the ability of those who are most vulnerable to protect their health. When social determinants of health are seen from the perspective of a commitment to social justice, they become ethical issues that a caring society has an obligation to address. By combating injustices that contribute to poverty and homelessness, a society can reduce the vulnerability that handicaps many people, particularly women, in their efforts to avoid or manage HIV infection.36 in the context of health, a commitment to social justice requires us to work collectively for the good of all and address the determinants of health by redressing inequalities and injustices.

Programs and services based on social justice:

  • recognize individual and cultural differences and diversity
  • recognize the dignity and worth of each person, and encourage self-esteem
  • strive to ensure everyone is treated fairly and has equitable access to services and health outcomes
  • meet everyone's basic life needs
  • reduce inequities in wealth, income and life chances reduce inequities in wealth, income and life chances
  • encourage participation by all, including the most disadvantaged

An effective response to HIV:

  • recognizes and addresses the broad determinants of health that make people vulnerable to HIV and to disease progression
  • understands those determinants in ethical terms and is committed to addressing the injustices that contribute to them
  • is based on human rights and recognizes that protecting people's human rights -- including the right to the highest attainable standard of health -- is a means of achieving social justice and the goals of this document.

Advocacy is an essential part of a commitment to social justice and to human rights. When the voices of a disadvantaged group are not heard or listened to, others must speak for them and advocate for their civil and political rights (e.g., freedom of expression and association, freedom from torture) and their economic, social and cultural rights (e.g., the right to shelter, food, a safe working environment). All those involved in HIV must champion the rights of people living with HIV and of communities at risk. The determinants of health will be addressed when social justice is achieved, and social justice is achieved when the human rights of every person are fully realized.


Roth K. Human Rights and the AIDS Crisis: the Debate Over Resources. Canadian HIV/AIDS Policy & Law Review. Vol. 5, No 4, 2000.

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