GUEST COLUMN

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HIV/AIDS

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist: Sarah Schulman

is an award-winning novelist and an AIDS activist and former member of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). She is helping to collect an archive of oral history interviews with other activists to preserve the history of the AIDS movement for future.

Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you?
 
A: All human beings deserve the same access to resources and opportunity. By virtue of being born, this is every human being's inherent right.
 

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist: Laura Janneck

served as the American Medical Student Association’s Global Health Education Coordinator in 2008. She was inspired to attend medical school after seeing the slums of Brazil and recognizing the links between poverty and disease.

Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you?

A: More and more, people are coming to understand health as a human right, as something that all people are entitled to, no matter where or under what circumstances we are born. Just as civil rights have gained widespread recognition in the past 50 years, social and economic rights such as health care are taking hold in our collective consciousness as fundamental to the human condition. This recognition holds us responsible for ensuring that these rights are upheld. We cannot stand idly by as human rights such as the right to the highest attainable standard of health are violated. Each of us is responsible to challenge the structural violence and systems of inequity that violate the right to health, and to create a world that upholds this right for everyone.

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist: Sarah Schulman

is an award-winning novelist and an AIDS activist and former member of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). She is helping to collect an archive of oral history interviews with other activists to preserve the history of the AIDS movement for future.

Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you?
 
A: All human beings deserve the same access to resources and opportunity. By virtue of being born, this is every human being's inherent right.
 
 

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Mechai Viravaidya

is a former minister of the prime minister's office, Thailand, responsible for AIDS prevention coordination. After years promoting condoms—first, as a family planning advocate and later as part of his AIDS-related work, he has become known “the Condom King” across the country.

Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you?

A: Just as Human Rights are attributed to every human being by birth, the right to access decent health services should be common to all people, regardless of the size of their wallets.

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Wendy Wertheimer

is a senior advisor in the Office of AIDS Research at the National Institutes of Health. She has been involved in HIV/AIDS issues since the early years of the epidemic and worked alongside Jonathan Mann, head of the global response to AIDS at the World Health Organization.

Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you?

A: The AIDS pandemic, and the global strategies developed to confront it, have provided a model to demonstrate that the concepts of public health and human rights are inextricably linked.  This linkage is bi-directional.  First, stigma, prejudice and discrimination in all forms, including, violence, rape, racism, sexism, homophobia, marginalization, and the low status of women, contribute to individual vulnerability to HIV infection and also help fuel the spread of the epidemic in societies and communities where such discrimination exists.  Second, coercive, mandatory, or restrictive measures, such as isolation or quarantine, or measures that do not respect patient confidentiality and human dignity are counter-productive in responding to the epidemic, and may keep individuals from seeking necessary prevention and care in such settings.  Thus the public health response to the AIDS pandemic must incorporate human rights, as the two are intertwined.

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Dr. Paul Farmer

is the founding director of Partners In Health, an international aid organization that combines research, training, advocacy, and direct health care services to help people living in some of the poorest areas of the world. Partners In Health empowers local communities by training local residents as doctors, nurses, and outreach workers and allows the views of local residents to shape the actions of the organization. Dr. Farmer developed programs to provide treatment for tuberculosis and HIV patients in Haiti at a time when many argued that these diseases were too expensive to treat in impoverished communities.

Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you?

A: Social and economic rights, which include the right to health care, have been termed the "neglected stepchildren" of the human rights movements and held up in opposition to the political and civil rights now embraced, at least on paper, by many of the world's governments. So striking is this division within the rights movements that some have come to refer to social and economic rights--that is, the right to health care, clean water, primary education, a decent livelihood, and other basic entitlements--as "the rights of the poor."

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist: Tanyaporn Wansom

As a member of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), Tanya Wansom raise awareness among medical students about vital health issues. She has trained future physicians to educate local middle school and high school students in their communities about HIV/AIDS, and participates in events such as calls to Congressmen to encourage funding for AIDS relief in Africa.

Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you?

A: To me, health and human rights means that people, regardless of who they are or where they come from, should have equal value placed on their lives. Although I know this isn't true in the world today, I think it's unconscionable that 1.2 billion people live on less than a dollar a day, which is less than many people in the United States spend on their daily cup of coffee. 

As a global AIDS activist, I also equate the lack of access for first-line HIV/AIDS medications as a failure to value others' lives. When life-saving medication can be bought for less than a dollar a day and people are still dying without the opportunity to access these medications, I view this as tantamount to telling them that their lives are not worth that much to the world.