The UNAIDS Reference Group on HIV and Human Rights was established in 2002 to advise the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) on all matters relating to HIV and human rights. It was initiated by the UNAIDS Secretariat, in collaboration with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which was granted permanent observer status. In 2006, UNDP, as lead UNAIDS Cosponsor on human rights, gender, law and governance under the UNAIDS technical support division of labour, joined the UNAIDS Secretariat in co-management of the Reference Group.
The membership of the Reference Group brings together people from the HIV and human rights community, including advocates, jurists, ethicists, people living with HIV, people working in the NGO and community sector, people working in the government sector, people working with faith communities, and academics.
The Reference Group is an expert resource for UNAIDS at all levels. The Reference Group and UNAIDS leadership will promote regular, ongoing engagement between the Reference Group and senior management, and with staff at regional and country level as appropriate and feasible, to ensure systematic and timely attention to human rights across the work of UNAIDS, reflecting the fact that respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights is essential to an effective HIV response and is a cross-cutting issue of relevance to many different areas of the work of UNAIDS.
The principal objectives of the Reference Group for the period 2018-2021 are as follows:
- to provide UNAIDS with ongoing, practical, human rights-informed advice on the implementation the UNAIDS 2016-2021 Strategy, the 2016 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS, and the Sustainable Development Goals;
- to highlight and catalyze action by UNAIDS on pressing and neglected issues of relevance to human rights, gender equality and the HIV response;
- to keep UNAIDS abreast of emerging human rights developments at the local, national and international level that affect its work and the response to HIV;
- to assist UNAIDS in planning for anticipated or potential developments that will or could raise human rights issues relevant to the HIV response, and to provide advice to UNAIDS as it develops strategies and plans its work to address the changing landscape;
- to support UNAIDS’ thought and practice leadership on human rights and gender equality in the HIV response, including via technical support to the human rights and gender unit of the UNAIDS Secretariat; and
- to participate in the development of and/or review of UNAIDS policy, strategy and advocacy documents and other materials.
The Reference Group may also speak and act publicly in an independent capacity in a way which may not reflect the views of UNAIDS, after having informed the UNAIDS Secretariat and UNDP beforehand that it intends to do so and having engaged in dialogue with the UNAIDS Secretariat and UNDP on the relevant issues.