Document Type



Recent years have seen significant advances in the science of using antiretroviral medicines (ARVs) to fight HIV. Where not long ago ARVs were used late in disease to prevent sick people from dying, today people living with HIV can use ARVs to achieve viral suppression early in the course of disease. This article reviews the mounting new scientific evidence of major clinical and prevention ARV benefits. This has changed the logic of the AIDS response, eliminating competition between “treatment” and “prevention” and encouraging early initiation of treatment for individual and public health benefit. These breakthroughs have implications for the health-related human rights duties of States. With medical advance, the “highest attainable standard” of health has taken a leap, and with it the rights obligations of States. We argue that access to early treatment for all is now a core State obligation and restricting access to, or failing to provide accurate information about, it violates both individual and collective rights. In a context of real political and technical challenges, however, in this article we review the policy implications of evolving human rights obligations given the new science. National and international legal standards require action on budget, health and intellectual property policy, which we outline.

Date of Authorship for this Version



HIV, antiretroviral medicines

Original Citation

Matthew Kavanagh, Jennifer Cohn, Lynette Mabote, Benjamin Mason Meier, Brian Williams, Asia Russell, Kenly Sikwese & Brook K. Baker, Evolving Human Rights and the Science of Antiretroviral Medicine, 17 Health & Hum. Rts. J. 76 (2015).