The University of Texas at Austin   School of Law

The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice

Partners for change at the intersection of academics and advocacy.


Health and Human Rights

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Participants at the December 2007 World AIDS Day Conference, organized by the Health and Human Rights Working Group of the Rapoport Center.

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Panelists Neville Hoad (far right), Kellie Buenrostro, and Emily Ybarra discuss "Stereotypes, Stigmas and Shame about HIV/AIDS" at the 2007 World AIDS Day Conference. Professor Hoad (English) leads the Rapoport Center Working Group on Health and Human Rights and also sits on the Center's Steering Committee.

The Rapoport Center's Working Group on Health and Human Rights began in 2007 under the leadership of Professor Neville Hoad (English) as an interdisciplinary team of faculty and students interested in fostering a university-wide conversation on the global HIV/AIDS pandemic and other issues related to health and human rights. Recognizing the enormous diversity of scholarly knowledge and projects needed to make sense of the pandemic, the working group is committed to multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary modes of inquiry.

During the 2011-2012 school year, with collaboration from the UT Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and the Center for Health and Social Policy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, the working group hosted Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, human rights activist and author of A School for My Village: A Promise to the Orphans of Nyaka. Kaguri spoke about growing up in rural southwestern Uganda and the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project, which is working to free orphans from the cycle of poverty by providing high-quality, free education. The working group also hosted Bonnie Maldonado, Professor of Pediatrics and Health Research at Stanford University's School of Medicine, who gave a presentation titled "Pediatric HIV - A Global Perspective," which focused on the social and medical challenges associated with being born with HIV. Matthew Flynn, the Center's 2011-2012 Postdoctoral Fellow in Health and Human Rights, reflected, "Dr. Maldonado detailed the gross human rights abuse of being born into the world with HIV/AIDS – a disease almost entirely avoidable with modern therapies. The challenge, she explained, goes beyond the availability of affordable medicines to include access to health clinics for those living in rural areas and reprieve from the stigma of being infected."

During his time as the Center's 2011-2012 Postdoctoral Fellow in Health and Human Rights, Flynn founded a reading group, functioning as a subgroup of the Health and Human Rights Working Group. The reading group focuses on engaging in multidisciplinary discussions on the nature of human rights and their connection to health. Its members include UT faculty, visiting scholars, graduate students, and undergraduates.

The working group hosts an annual World AIDS Day Conference, which regularly draws speakers from around the world, as well as UT faculty and students, Austin community organizations, and student activist groups. These conferences have discussed a wide range of topics including governmental responses to HIV/AIDS, sex and public health, and aspects of the pandemic that pertain to issues of public memory.

Past conferences include:

5th Annual World AIDS Day Conference (December 2011)
The conference, entitled "AIDS, Health, and Criminality," was co-sponsored by Face AIDS and the UT English Department. The keynote speaker, Kane Race from the University of Sydney, spoke on the conference's theme of AIDS, health, and criminality. Guli Fager from UT's Health Promotion Resource Center presented studies on the misconceptions and practices of sexuality by college youth.

4th Annual World AIDS Day Conference (December 2010)
With support from Face AIDS, the working group offered free HIV/AIDS testing and hosted academics and activists from disciplines as diverse as English, Law, Social Work, and Epidemiology to discuss the spread of AIDS globally, as well as the often inadequate public understanding of AIDS here in Texas.

3rd Annual World AIDS Day Conference (December 2009)
Featuring UT student and faculty speakers, this conference explored aspects of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic concerning issues of public memory, human rights, documentation, and representation.

2nd Annual World AIDS Day Conference (December 2008)
With the sponsorship of the Department of Sociology and Undergraduate Studies, the working group hosted Twegise Jackson Kaguri, Director of the Nyaka School Initiative in Uganda, who discussed ways in which extracurricular activities can help children with AIDS, serving as a method of counteracting pervasive hunger, poverty, and systematic deprivation.

1st Annual World AIDS Day Conference (December 2007)
The working group held the University's first annual World AIDS Day Conference to heighten awareness about the impact of the AIDS pandemic on minority and impoverished populations in the U.S. and abroad. Speakers included UT faculty, students, and representatives from student organizations, in addition to members of local community organizations.

As part of its commitment to forming and strengthening connections among the diverse faculty and students invested in health and human rights issues, the working group organizes panels for other related conferences and events on campus. In spring 2008, the working group faculty gave presentations at student organization events, including the National Conference of Face AIDS. At the Rapoport Center's spring 2009 conference, Human Rights at UT: A Dialogue at the intersection of Academics and Advocacy, they convened a panel entitled "Recognizing Health Care as a Human Right and Humanizing Global Economic Policy." The panel featured William Sage (Vice Provost for Health Affairs and Professor of Law); Neville Hoad (Associate Professor of English); Alejandro Moreno (Associate Director, Internal Medicine Program, UT-Medical Branch Austin Programs); Alexandra B. Nolen (Acting Director of the Center to Eliminate Health Disparities, Associate Director of the PAHO/WHO Collaborating Center for Training in International Health, UT-Medical Branch); James Wilson (Assistant Professor of History); and Susannah Sirkin (Deputy Director, International Policy and Physicians for Human Rights). At the conference, panelists discussed how global economic policies have imposed restrictions on developing countries that, with limited resources, have come to depend on aid from international agencies to provide domestic health care. Can the idea of access to health care as a human right trump these restrictions?

With the goal of furthering interdisciplinary analysis of health and human rights, the working group has also made efforts to locate resources on campus for its initiatives by compiling a list of courses with HIV/AIDS content across the university and researching university library holdings. With a library allocation of $5,000, they have acquired a range of relevant materials on and from sub-Saharan Africa.

If you are interested in joining the Health and Human Rights Working Group, please email Professor Neville Hoad.