CAN you imagine being kicked out of your home or losing your job because you have HIV?

CAN you imagine being kicked out of your home or losing your job because you have HIV?

Many people have experienced such abuse because they don't know much about HIV and don't know their rights.

But with the re-launch of the Aids Charter, that's about to change.

The charter is aimed at legally protecting the rights of people with HIV and Aids to ensure they are not discriminated against.

It was first launched 17 years ago when Judge Edwin Cameron started the Aids Consortium, a support structure for Aids organisations in South Africa.

The charter is now being revised under the leadership of the same body.

"Seventeen years ago, there was a need for a charter of rights for people living with HIV," explained Denise Hunt, executive director of the Aids Consortium.

"At that time there was a need for a lot of legal advocacy and development of policies protecting the rights of people living with HIV."

She said that in 17 years much progress had been made in terms of a world-class constitution, a fairly ambitious National Strategic Plan and really good policies.

"However, the challenge is around the implementation of the policies," Hunt said.

"Rights are, indeed, still violated today, hence, the revision of the charter and reactivating all the clauses of the charter."

The revision of the charter was informed by research the Aids Consortium conducted on the streets of SA.

"The results were disturbing . It would appear that young people in particular still see HIV as a condition worthy of blame," she said.

"Most people spoke about 'whether a person has rights would probably be dependent upon the source of their infection'."

Hunt explained that if a child was born with HIV or if the virus was contracted as a result of rape, the victims were considered eligible for treatment.

But if HIV was contracted through unprotected sex, an element of blame was placed on the person that could affect their rights, she said.

"As most HIV-positive South Africans don't know their status, that shows that there's a lot of work to be done," Hunt said.

Odette Geldenhuys, director of, a free legal service for those who can't afford legal fees, agrees that much needs to be done to deal with discrimination and stigma.

"I've been shocked by the levels of stigmatisation."

"We're how many years down the line? We have had how many educational and awareness campaigns?

"We're not calling for special rights. We're calling for equal rights, regardless of your status," Geldenhuys said. - Health eNews