Since the beginning of the epidemic, the protection of human rights has been an integral component in the response to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The high degree of stigma and discrimination associated with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) has made human rights protection not only a priority to ensure the rights of people living with and at-risk for HIV, but to address public health goals as well. Advances in understanding the impact of antiretroviral treatment on HIV prevention provide exciting opportunities and even a paradigm shift in terms of AIDS prevention. However, this potential cannot be reached unless the advancement of human rights is a primary component of treatment and prevention programme and policy development. The use of antiretroviral treatment as prevention reinforces the value of basic principles related to the dignity and agency of people living with HIV to participate in the design and implementation of programmes, to be informed and to make informed decisions about their health and lives, to be protected from harm, and to have opportunities to seek redress and accountability for abuses. The possibility of using HIV treatment as a prevention tool means that now, more than ever, legal reform and community empowerment and mobilisation are necessary to realize the rights and health of people affected by HIV.