UNCT Viet Nam: Applying a HRBA to HIV Programming

This country example is based on interviews with Anne-Claire Guichard and Carmen Gonzales (UNAIDS), and Louise Nylin (UN Coordination Specialist).  The case is taken from the Source Document:  Experiences in applying Human Rights-Based Approaches, UN Staff Service College, May 2010.


In Viet Nam HIV is seen largely as a social and health issue. Not one of rights. Yet, as the Joint UN Team on HIV was becoming increasingly aware, human rights are extremely relevant. In particular for addressing the stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV (PLHIV). The Joint UN Team realised that they needed to strengthen their HRBA skills. This would enable them to address the human rights and legal issues in their work. As a first step a legal analysis was needed. The analysis would review how human rights are reflected in the six main areas of HIV law and policy; including access to education, work and access to treatment and testing. As a second step, they decided to organise a HRBA workshop for the UN Joint Team on HIV.


To develop the capacity of the Joint UN Team to apply a HRBA to their work, two steps were taken:

1. A Legal Review: The review looked at how international human rights norms had been included in national laws relevant to HIV. It also analysed the recommendations from treaty bodies that had a bearing on HIV; such as the recommendations from the Committee for the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Committee for the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The analysis also incorporated the recommendations from Vietnam‟s 2009 Universal Periodic Review (UPR). This included a recommendation to respond to discrimination against PLHIV.

2. HRBA Workshop: Following the review, a HRBA training was carried out for the UN Joint Team on HIV. The training was provided with the support of OHCHR and UNAIDS. The aim of the training was to: improve their understanding of Vietnam‟s international and national human rights commitments and their links to the HIV situation; to strengthen the capacity of the team to apply a HRBA to their work; and to develop a strategy to do so. An example of the causality analyses work carried out in the workshop, can be found here.


While the project is only at the analysis and planning stage, preliminary results have emerged.

1. Basing the UN’s work in the government’s commitments: The analysis helped the Joint UN Team base their initiatives in the government‟s national and international commitments; including the right to health as defined in the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It also underlined what the UN‟s role should be in this area: to support the government in implementing its commitments.

2. Identifying gaps in laws and discriminatory practices: The analysis also helped underline the discriminatory practices and punitive laws that needed to be addressed; including the Ordinance on Prostitution Prevention and Control. In doing so, the analysis helped identify priority areas for the UN‟s work on HIV. One of the 3 priorities for the Team‟s 2010 Action Plan is the “removal and amendment of punitive law and policies and practices, as well as stigma and discrimination against PLHIV”. The capacity gap analysis that was carried out in the HRBA training, also helped identify the solutions for addressing these issues.

3. Integrating a HRBA into the government plans: The training brought greater understanding of the relevance of human rights for HIV programming. Following the training, the Joint UN Team recommended that a HRBA perspective be integrated into the governments work plans for 2010. This recommendation was presented to national partners in December 2009 and approved. HRBA is now mainstreamed into the Joint UN Team on HIV‟s work plan. It will also be part of Vietnam‟s national HIV plan.

Challenges and Lessons Learned

1. Demystifying HRBA: In a context where human rights are a sensitive issue, clarifying what a HRBA is about, was a crucial first step. The HRBA training proved a useful strategy for developing this understanding.

2. Legal analysis: The legal analysis takes time and requires technical expertise. This should be planned for ahead of time.

3. Basing HRBA training on the country context: Key to the success of the HRBA training was that it was based on the Vietnam context. Participants greatly appreciated this. They particularly appreciated that they were asked to highlight the issues that were most important to them; including discrimination in schools and access to treatment in closed settings. Group work was then based on these issues.


See source document for additional information.