The Right to Health Care in the Specific Context of Access to HIV/ AIDS Medicines: What can South Africa and Uganda Learn from each other?

Many African countries, either exclude socio-economic rights from their constitutions or include them in the Preamble or the section on Directive Principles of State Policy. The South African Constitution is well known for its inclusion of this category of rights in its Bill of Rights. The right to health care services is specifically provided for in the South African Constitution, whereas the Ugandan Constitution merely requires the state to ‘take all practical measures to ensure the provision of basic medical services to the population’. Within the specific context of access to HIV/AIDS medicines, it is interesting to note that, in spite of the disparity in the measure to which the right to health care is constitutionally protected, Uganda is renowned for having taken the lead in the roll-out of anti-retroviral treatment. South Africa has been widely criticized for its initial disastrous approach towards HIV/AIDS treatment, an approach that led to the loss of millions of lives that could have been saved with the early roll-out of anti-retroviral treatment. The article discusses the different approaches adopted by the two countries in terms of access to HIV/AIDS medicines and the implications for the right to health care. Apart from identifying the lessons Uganda and South Africa can learn from each other, the article explores the important question of accountability for the violation of the right to health care occasioned by inadequate access to HIV/AIDS medicines.