HIV treatment plans inadequate in South African prisons

Many prisoners living with HIV are denied access to adequate antiretroviral drugs, leaving them susceptible to opportunistic infections. Recently, prisoners have increasingly demanded HIV treatment. In 2006, South African inmates launched a hunger strike, demanding that the government provide antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for infected prisoners. In response, Judge Thumba Pillay of the High Court ordered the Department of Correctional Services to adopt a comprehensive HIV/AIDS plan for prisons throughout South…

Maximizing Benefits: A Rights-Based Approach to Health

[Editor’s note: This is a guest post written by Sarah Mi Ra Dougherty.] In a recent opinion piece in the Financial Times, William Easterly argued that a rights-based approach to health care would favor the agendas of the rich and powerful, leaving the poor to die of neglected diseases. He then contends that holding ourselves to such unrealistically high standards would open the floodgates for unchecked spending, “since any of…

Call for action to reduce global maternal mortality and morbidity

More than 500,000 women die each year from preventable complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. The World Health Organization describes the main causes of maternal mortality and morbidity as “unavailable, inaccessible, unaffordable, or poor quality” medical treatment and care. More than 70% of maternal deaths are caused by five complications: hemorrhage (25%), infection (15%), unsafe abortion (13%), eclampsia (seizures caused by high blood pressure – 12%), and obstructed labor (8%).…

South Africa’s Constitutional Court makes final decision in access to water case

Access to an adequate amount of clean water is an integral part of maintaining good health. Unfortunately for the residents of Phiri, Soweto — a low-income community in Johannesburg developed and relegated to black Africans during Apartheid — a ruling made by the South Africa Constitutional Court in a high-profile right-to-water case may limit access to this valuable resource. The case pitted five impoverished residents of Phiri (the “applicants”) against…

Complicit and culpable: The role of health professionals in CIA torture activities

The latest CIA Inspector General’s May 2004 Counterterrorism Detention and Interrogation Activities Report, released to the public on August 24, 2009, describes previously unknown or unconfirmed interrogation practices performed by the CIA and colluding health professionals. The report highlights the role of the physicians and psychologists who advised and monitored — and thus legitimized — the controversial interrogation methods carried out in support of counterterrorism. The illegal and unethical practices,…

US Supreme Court considers constitutionality of sentencing children to life in prison; Paul Farmer speaks out in Globe Op-Ed

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court justices heard arguments in two appeals that challenge the constitutionality of sentencing children to life in prison without parole for non-homicide offenses. The cases of Sullivan v. Florida and Graham v. Florida involve a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old who committed rape and armed theft, respectively. Defendant Joe Sullivan, now 33, is represented by Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization.…

Obama Ends Ban Restricting Entry of HIV-Positive Travelers and Immigrants into the US

A human rights victory emerged from the White House last week when President Obama announced that he would end the ban restricting entry of HIV-positive travelers and immigrants into the US. The 22-year ban, first instated in 1987 when AIDS was thought to spread by respiratory or physical contact, has reinforced barriers to reducing stigma and improving identification and treatment of the disease. The statute has been considered a human…

Two Libyan Prisoners, Two Paradoxical Fates

The recent humanitarian release of Libyan citizen Abdalbaset al-Megrahi from prison in Greenock, Scotland, because of his poor health, and his subsequent “hero’s welcome” in Libya is strikingly incongruous when compared with the tragic fate of Fathi al-Jahmi, a Libyan prisoner who also suffered from poor health, including coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, hypertension, and diabetes. Libyan authorities held Mr. al-Jahmi prisoner in Tripoli on two occasions for a…

Patients with Borders, Case Study 3

[Editor’s Note: This is the third post in a series of case studies describing the bureaucratic and political barriers to medical access outside of Gaza and the stories of three individual Gazan patients. The first post can be found here, and the second can be found here.] Below is one PHR-Israel case study representing a current trend in the provision of exit permits to Gazans for medical reasons. Case studies…

Beyond the Market: Health Care as a Civil or Human Right?

[Editor’s note: This article is cross-posted from Human Rights Now, the blog of Amnesty International USA.] A dramatic disconnect between principles and policies has hampered current US health care reform efforts. This became obvious when candidate Obama declared health care to be a right and then proceeded to treat it as a commodity when negotiating with insurance companies a requirement for individuals to buy a commercial health insurance product. Similarly,…