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All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights

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Introduction

Why cannot I? A case that was never heard by a court All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Article 1, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Humanity is yet to face a global epidemic of HIV/AIDS if it fails to join efforts against the disease Lars O. Kallings, the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe. We are all born equal in dignity and rights - at least this is what we believe in. How come our "equality" remains mainly on the paper? How come some people enjoy all the benefits of modern life and the latest achievements of the science, while others are obliged to live in hunger, poverty, homelessness, discrimination, and to be exposed to inadequate health care? Are the changes a human body (and sometimes mentality) undergoes during the life to be blamed? If yes, why? If no, what or who is to be blamed then? While I am not going to answer all those questions above, my main task is to focus on the example of the attitude of health-care providers towards high-risk patients; in particular, patients with HIV/AIDS. To my attention came a case of a young pregnant woman, who was denied access to both state and private health care institutions in the Republic of Georgia. I would like to analyze this case from the perspective of both national and international health laws showing how the decisions of those health institutions conflict with the ethics and laws. Let us first listen to the person whose problem is to be examined. She is a 28 year old Georgian woman, who had not been informed about her positive HIV status until the late stage of pregnancy. In the interview with a medical doctor from AIDS and Clinical Immunology Research Center of Georgia[1] she said: The fact that my husband and I are HIV infected came to our knowledge during my pregnancy in 2002. ...read more.

Middle

Furthermore, the right to health is a positive human right, and unlike negative rights, it depends on governmental accommodation and provision beyond individual's own resources (Cook, 2003, p.152). Thus, individuals depend on government's affirmative action in order to enjoy their positive rights. Additionally, Toebes (1999) argues, that the right to health is to be considered to form part of the category of economic, social and cultural rights, which are distinguished from civil and political rights. She insists, that there is lack of understanding and weak judicial status of economic, social and cultural rights as opposed to civil and political rights. That seems to be one more reason to elaborate additional international treaties which would explicitly stress the right to health in general or the right to health of people who live with specific medical conditions. Now let me start with the general right to health and then shift to the specific guidelines concerning HIV/AIDS. The first UN instrument to underline a right to health was the Constitution of the WHO (1946), which stated in its preamble: ?Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. ?The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of life is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition. ?The health of all peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security and its dependent upon the fullest cooperation of individuals and States. ?The achievement of any State in the promotion and protection of health is of value to all. And ?Governments have a responsibility for the health of their peoples, which can be fulfilled only by the provision of adequate health and social measures. Georgia is one of the members of WHO, which makes it bound to the obligations provided by the WHO Constitution. The case of a pregnant woman denied access to healthcare shows the state's negligence to follow its duties as a WHO's member. ...read more.

Conclusion

Despite this, I am utterly sure the State had to SOMEHOW ensure provision of appropriate medical treatment for HIV/AIDS patients, especially for the pregnant woman, who desperately needed access to medically indicated care. Otherwise the whole meaning of living in a community (and not alone by-oneself in some secluded area) loses any sense at all. Thus, in this paper I attempted to show where to find the means for national and international support for the right to health in general and for the case provided in particular. Discussion of both national and international health laws shows that all of them were violated by denial of access to health care services for a pregnant woman with positive HIV-status. Violations occurred in different areas of concern both from the point of view of being pregnant (especially with viable fetus) and being HIV-positive. While this particular woman was fortunate enough to escape further medical complications, this must not become the precedent for others, who might not be that fortunate. Pregnant women as well as all women and men must not be discriminated on the basis of their positive HIV status. Being aware of introducing new laws and international documents that deal with concrete situations, I suggest implementation of specific strategy for HIV-positive pregnant patients, who need access to special hospital facilities (such as surgical department). Providing these facilities to them would ensure their enjoyment of human rights and would guarantee maximum reducing the risk of exposing the menace of contamination to others. For the last words I want to refer to the journalist who recorded the interview from that infected woman. He said: "If we don't care for the people living with HIV/AIDS, how can we oblige them to care for us and not to perpetrate the action, which would infect healthy people?" These words are worth becoming a beacon for our understanding of the surrounding world so that the notions provided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would not be discriminated against just because of acquired disease, against which not a single person on the earth is guaranteed. ...read more.

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