Human rights must be protected during pandemics


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AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria cannot be eradicated while human rights barriers to treatment and prevention persist. In many parts of the world, stigma, discrimination and punitive laws and practices are preventing whole sections of society from accessing life-saving services.

The Global Fund has included the removal of human rights-related barriers to services among its strategic objectives. Global Fund Framework Agreements include five human rights standards with which all projects and activities under the grant must abide. One of these is ensuring patient confidentiality and the right to privacy.

Protecting this standard will be a key challenge in the months ahead. In the absence of a COVID vaccine, governments are investing heavily in contract-tracing apps, which alert users if they have been in close proximity to an infected person.

Mobile apps that gather personal data and track individual movements may well assist with contact tracing, but they may also contain a potential for harm that needs to be carefully managed. Stigmatized groups, such as people living with HIV, LGBTI or sex workers, may be particularly vulnerable to harm if private data is breached. All Global Fund grant implementers need to carefully consider the adequacy of safeguards whenever contact-tracing apps are used.

If someone has reported a human rights issue to you, or you have any concerns that something isn’t right, you have an obligation to report this to the Office of the Inspector General.

Reporting is safe, secure and easy. You can contact us online, by phone, by email or by letter. We need your help in ensuring that human rights are not a casualty in the fight against COVID-19.