An Analysis of Joseph Amon's Argument on Human Rights Campaigns Regarding the HIV/AIDS Epidemic

Topics: Hiv Aids

In the book chapter we read, Joseph Amon introduces and discusses several human rights campaigns that have surfaced in many countries regarding the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Specifically, the “right to know” campaigns focus on providing individuals with knowledge about their HIV status and those of others while the “know your rights” campaigns try to reduce discrimination and persecution against HIV-positive patients through providing legal services, social mobilization, and education, and more. Amon criticizes the “know your rights” campaigns for mandating testing and thus perpetuating the stigma against HIV patients.

Mere health knowledge about HIV status and prevention, he argues, is not enough to help these people overcome structural barriers. For example, many youths in Uganda know about HIV prevention and treatment but structural barriers exist to stop them from applying this knowledge. Alice, a Ugandan woman, cannot even get tested because her husband would kill her if she turned out to be HIV-positive. She lives in fear of not knowing about her status and her children’s status.

On the other hand, “know your rights” campaigns work to empower individuals through a variety of services. They address larger social issues by emphasizing not only individuals’ right to health but all of their rights, such as the right to be protected against discrimination and violence. The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) is an example of an organization that’s doing it right.

I made some connections to Foucault’s theory of power while reading Amon’s piece. It seems that the “know your rights” campaigns try to prevent discrimination and violence against certain groups, but in the act of doing this, they more clearly define these groups, reinforcing social categories and negative stigmas.

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For example, if an HIV-positive woman who has kept her status hidden for years goes to an agency for legal services, it can become apparent she is HIV-positive.

Whereas she used to be free of social stigmas, she now is stigmatized. Also, it is very possible that these campaigns could leave out certain types of people who do not definitively fit the groups supported by these campaigns. Extending Butler’s ideas about categorizing sex and gender, we can say that not everyone who could benefit from these campaigns fits neatly into the “4-H Club.” Amon seems to speak positively about these campaigns, but is it possible to help everyone who needs it?

The Human Rights Watch organization works to document people’s stories, empowering voices that otherwise might not be heard. While this is a worthwhile goal, its emphasis on ethnography as an “empirical lantern” may cause some problems. The organization uses ethnography to gather information, but it needs to be cautious. What people say cannot be verified and is not always true, especially if those people may gain political or social advantage from portraying their stories in a certain way. The reporters themselves may be biased towards producing sensationalist stories that sell. Overall, though, the purpose of the organization is very admirable.

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An Analysis of Joseph Amon's Argument on Human Rights Campaigns Regarding the HIV/AIDS Epidemic. (2022, Jun 21). Retrieved from

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