New report: Making the Universal Periodic Review work for HIV

The extent to which HIV-related issues are included in an influential process that reviews the human rights records of all UN countries has been analysed by the Alliance and partners in the Partnership to Inspire, Transform and Connect the HIV response (PITCH) and Bridging the Gaps programmes.

Overseen by the Human Rights Council, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) enables each UN Member State to demonstrate the actions it has taken to improve human rights for its citizens. Alongside other international and national human rights mechanisms, it provides an important tool for holding countries accountable for fulfilling their pledge to end AIDS, and for respecting, promoting and fulfilling the human rights of people living with HIV and key populations.

Making the Universal Periodic Review Work for HIV, which will be launched in a live webinar on Wednesday, 6 June, examines the inclusion of HIV related issues in the two most recent UPR cycles, completed between 2006 and 2017. The analysis focuses on the level of attention paid to HIV and AIDS, maps trends, and assesses achievements, gaps and challenges. It also provides information that will help those working in the HIV response to use the UPR to engage with national governments.

Evidence of affecting change through the UPR

The valuable contribution the UPR can make to affecting change is made clear by the analysis, and reinforces the importance of engaging meaningfully with UPR as a process. For instance, after Cuba’s first review, a legal act regarding efforts to control HIV and offer protection to people living with HIV was adopted and publicised. After the first review in the Republic of Congo, HIV education was integrated in primary schools, secondary schools and lycees.

The UPR has also helped build coalitions across civil society movements, and created a new dynamic between government officials and activists. Again, this evidence speaks to the political opportunity represented by the UPR to affect change on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

After Cuba’s first review, a legal act regarding efforts to control HIV and offer protection to people living with HIV was adopted and publicised.

David Ruiz, Senior Policy Adviser at the Stop AIDS Alliance, who contributed to the report, said: “The ultimate goal of this report is to show how the UPR can be used to hold countries accountable for fulfilling their pledge to end AIDS, and for upholding commitments to protect the human rights of people living with, and most affected by, HIV. We hope it will be used to open up new avenues for engaging governments on issues relating to human rights in the context of HIV and key populations.”

Key findings

The analysis found that, out of a total of countries 193 countries reviewed, 129 States chose to raise HIV-related issues in their national reports. In comparison, in the UN and civil society reports, HIV-related issues were raised in 166 countries.

Over eight years, 97 States under review (including 22 UNAIDS Fast-Track countries) received a total of 346 HIV-related recommendations. Of these recommendations, 91% were accepted and 9% were noted.

The largest number of recommendations related to HIV prevention (42%), followed by stigma and discrimination (16%) and treatment (13%).

Only 9% of all HIV-related recommendations related to laws and legal measures, with a number of critical legal and human rights issues receiving inadequate attention. For instance, no recommendations on the criminalisation of HIV exposure, non-disclosure and transmission have been made.

Although key populations carry the greatest burden of the HIV epidemic, a fairly low focus on these groups within the HIV-related recommendations is evident. For instance, a high number of noted rather than accepted recommendations pertain to men who have sex with men and transgender people, meaning there is no guarantee these recommendations will be implemented.

'Making the Universal Periodic Review Work for HIV’ is published alongside an in-depth analysis of how the UPR process has functioned in Indonesia, Ukraine and Uganda, in order to show how stakeholders’ experiences of engaging with the UPR differs in various contexts.

Read the report

Webinar launch

Join PITCH and Bridging the Gap’s live webinar on Wednesday 6 June (15:00 - 16:30 CEST) via this link