Introduction: The scale of the HIV pandemic - and the stigma, discrimination and violence that surrounded its sudden emergence - catalyzed a public health response that expanded human rights in principle and practice. In the absence of effective treatment, human rights activists initially sought to protect individuals at high risk of HIV infection. With advances in antiretroviral therapy, activists expanded their efforts under international law, advocating under the human right to health for individual access to treatment.
Discussion: As a clinical cure comes within reach, human rights obligations will continue to play a key role in political and programmatic decision-making. Building upon the evolving development and implementation of the human right to health in the global response to HIV, we outline a human rights research agenda to prepare for HIV cure access, investigating the role of human rights law in framing 1) resource allocation, 2) international obligations, 3) intellectual property and 4) freedom from coercion.
Conclusions: The right to health is widely recognized as central to governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental responses to the pandemic and critical both to addressing vulnerability to infection and to ensuring universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. While the advent of an HIV cure will raise new obligations for policymakers in implementing the right to health, the resolution of past debates surrounding HIV prevention and treatment may inform claims for universal access.
Keywords: HIV cure; essential medicines; global governance; human rights; operations research; right to health.