Putting Human Rights to Work for Global Health Workshop

On November 2, 2018, the Pozen Center convened a Health and Human Rights Workshop entitled, “Putting Human Rights to Work: Innovations in Human Rights Metrics and Practices.”

Organized by faculty board member Dr. Renslow Sherer, the workshop was designed to offer a multidisciplinary review of human rights-based interventions in a variety of settings and with a range of vulnerable populations, including:

- HIV prevention and care among men who have sex with men in Chicago;
- Tuberculosis prevention and care among affected individuals in India and China;
- HIV prevention among young women in sub-Saharan Africa; and
- Health and human rights for prisoners in Illinois and the US

The purpose of the workshop was to review human rights-based interventions among a variety of vulnerable populations,  to identify innovations and common themes in HR-based health interventions, and to highlight emerging strategies and metrics that will inform the  design and implementation of future actions in health and human rights. See photos of the workshop.

Highlights of the presentations included:

Dr. Renslow Sherer (UChicago) spoke on the principles of human rights invisibility and the importance of giving witness, and the critical role of responsive leadership and community engagement by affected peoples and communities, as well as incorporating the community in data collection where applicable. He argued that the right to public policy based on science includes access to the newest technological innovations and he noted that human rights metrics can strive for universal standards that approximate standard public health interventions.

David Munar, CEO of Howard Brown Health (HBH) and a leading advocate for the health and rights of members of the LGBTQ community in Chicago, described the history and expansion of HBH, which grew from two clinics to ten, and now serves 35,000 individuals annually. He spoke about HBH’s novel interventions and metrics, including streamlined, user-friendly PrEP recruitment and enrollment, along with support and training for security staff to minimize engagement of police.

Brian Citro, assistant clinical professor of law at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, pointed out that key issues for people with tuberculosis include a lack of awareness of their rights, the powerful anti-tuberculosis stigma, and a lack of enabling legal environments, including antiquated and draconian public health laws that amount to de-facto criminalization of tuberculosis. He underlined the novelty of concepts like privacy and confidentiality in the tuberculosis world, despite the knowledge accumulated in the HIV world that demonstrates a lack of privacy discourages health seeking behavior.

Dr. Evan Lyon, Medical Director of Heartland Health Outreach, shared that tuberculosis control in the US began fifty years before anti-tuberculosis therapy via improvements to housing conditions and hygienic practices. He noted that, much like with HIV, tuberculosis treatment involves a focus on prevention. He also noted that the popular phrase in the HIV affected community, “nothing about us without us,” implies affected populations should always be engaged as partners in health and human rights work.

Ambassador Deborah L. Birx gave a brief overview of the US PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) Program, which is currently supporting nearly 11.5 million people with life-saving antiretroviral treatment, a fifty-percent increase since 2014. With PEPFAR support, nearly 2 million babies have been born HIV-free to pregnant women living with HIV--almost twice as many as in 2013--and their mothers have been kept healthy and alive to protect and nurture them. She described the critical role of international leaders in progress against HIV, citing the effective leadership in Malawi, Lesotho, and Namibia as examples, where the 90/90/90 goals have nearly been met, and the contrast to Tanzania and Cote D’Ivoire, where progress with the cascade is limited, in spite of large investments in PEPFAR funding. Birx also overviewed the DREAMS Project for young women in Sub Saharan Africa that has provided 25 million young women and girls with educational support, health care, nutrition, and resources for the prevention of sexual violence that resulted in a reduction in new HIV by 25-40%.

Alice Kim, Director of Human Rights Practice at the Pozen Center, described her work in the Stateville Prison in Illinois and the many barriers to health in the prison setting, including isolation, brutal confinement in cages and/or shackles (at times for those who are considered suicidal), medication mismanagement, lack of diagnostic test availability, and physical and emotional abuse. She shared a few examples of prisoner-initiated interventions, including a hospice program in Louisiana for long term dying inmates and an HIV prevention and support group at a women’s prison in New York.