Track F report by Rebecca SCHLEIFER
The session focused on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), two years after its entry into force, and analyzed progress on the Convention and remaining challenges with respect to HIV/AIDS. Disability issues have received limited attention in the global AIDS discourse and this session highlighted the need for increased integration of the HIV and disability movements.
One theme—but also point of discussion—of the session was the need to reinforce the links between HIV and disability and to lift disability out of its marginalized silo into mainstream human rights work. The question of how these two movements work together was discussed repeatedly, especially in the context of the interpretation of the CRPD, and whether people living with HIV would—under the CRPD—be considered people with disabilities. According to panelists, disability was left purposely undefined in the CRPD and left to national governments’ varied interpretations, both for flexibility between jurisdictions at the moment and to maintain the longevity and relevance of the Convention.
Another key theme highlighted by panelists was that the CRPD isn’t the only source of rights for people with disabilities; rather, each of the major human rights treaties protects various aspects of the rights of people living with disabilities.
Although there was optimism about the progress made thus far on the rights of persons with disabilities in the wake of the Convention’s entry into force, some remaining challenges were identified by panelists. These challenges include corruption and lack of funding for services for people with disabilities; structural stigma and discrimination; the absence of the voices of people living with disabilities from the HIV movement and particularly at this conference; and problematic coordination between disability and HIV sectors within national governments’ health ministries. Finally, the lack of data was mentioned as critical to moving forward on the issues of HIV and disability (the prevalence of HIV among people living with disabilities is unknown).