‘Human Rights Now More Than Ever’ or ‘Rights Here, Rights Now’ was the theme of the just-concluded AIDS conference in Vienna, Austria. Human rights, the idea that people deserve respect, irrespective of race, class, gender or nationality, is an inalienable right of each person. Chief among the rights of each person is the right to life. To this end, each person should live in contexts and an environment in which the right to life is facilitated and upheld.
Persons infected with HIV and affected by AIDS live in communities, homes and families that are, in some instances, less than desirable for living the good life. In addition, the fact that more women than men are affected by the virus means that families will be in worse situations. Women, in most societies, are either heads of households or the main breadwinners. Once women are infected and affected by HIV and AIDS, children are immediately affected. Mother-to-child transmission of the virus is one way in which children are affected.
Additionally, even if children are not infected by their mothers, they are affected by the compromised care they receive from an infected mother who becomes sick with AIDS. Medication is now available to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus, as well as enable persons infected to receive anti-retroviral medication. In Jamaica, persons affected by AIDS receive medication free of cost. However, because the medication has to be taken at a specific time and with the requisite nutrients, a number of persons are not able to maintain good health.
Since the right to life is a human right, it is incumbent on all persons to help ensure that each person has access to life in all its fullness. Jesus’ message that He came that we have life – life in abundance (John 10:10) – is reminiscent of the call to ensure that all persons enjoy the basic right to life.
AIDS 2010 saw people from all over the world coming together to advocate life in abundance for all persons, and especially persons infected and affected by HIV and AIDS. Stories of persons and communities grappling with stigma and discrimination from family, community members and nationals were reminders that the work to overcome injustice is still necessary.
Just as Jesus acted in favour of lepers in his society in first-century Palestine, all people, and especially Christians, need to act in ways that will enhance the human rights of all people, and especially persons infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.
I am, etc.,
Rev GARTH MINOTT
Reverend Minott is a Board Member of Jamaica AIDS Support for Life and was involved in the Interfaith discussions between Jamaica Forum for Lesbians Allsexuals and Gays, Sunshine Cathedral Jamaica (SCJ) and other Church denominations that participated then.