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UNAIDS statement on the forced and coerced sterilization of women living with HIV

GENEVA, 28 February 2020—Women living with HIV around the world have been fighting for decades for the recognition of their sexual and reproductive health and rights, including their right to start a family and have children. However, over the years, there have been far too many examples of forced sterilizations and coerced abortions.

The sixty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women will be held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, United States of America, in March 2020 and will be a reminder that 25 years ago governments adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Governments agreed and committed to uphold the human rights of all women and to protect and preserve their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Those rights include the right to start a family and have children, the right to decide the number and spacing of their children, the right to reproductive autonomy and the right to access quality services to support their reproductive health choices, based on their informed, safe and voluntary consent.

These are fundamental human rights that belong to all women, regardless of HIV status, and are guaranteed in global and regional treaties. In 2016, the United Nations General Assembly committed to ending forced sterilization, in particular the sterilization of women living with HIV, in the Political Declaration on Ending AIDS.

The South African Commission on Gender Equality’s report dated February 2020 reminds us of the need for reproductive justice for women living with HIV, and that we must be constantly vigilant for and responsive to violations.

UNAIDS acknowledges the report and its findings that women living with HIV have been subjected to forced and/or coerced sterilization. We commend the commission for demanding a response and UNAIDS will support the implementation of the recommendations.

UNAIDS notes that South Africa recently launched its National Human Rights Plan to tackle human rights-related barriers to HIV and tuberculosis services and gender inequality in South Africa. UNAIDS and the United Nations family stands ready to fully support government, civil society and stakeholders in the roll-out of the plan.