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April 6, 2004

Center For Public Health And Human Rights Established

Conference to Examine Human Rights in the Era of AIDS, April 7-9, 2004

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has established the new Center for Public Health and Human Rights to examine the impact of human rights violations on the general health of populations. The Center’s researchers will apply epidemiologic practices and public health tools as a new approach to understanding and measuring the scope of human rights violations. The Center for Public Health and Human Rights is funded by a grant from the Development Fund for the Open Society Institute.

In addition to the new center, the School of Public Health is also hosting an international seminar “Public Health and Human Rights in the Era of AIDS” on April 7-9, 2004, at the Mount Washington Conference Center in Baltimore, Md. The three-day conference will feature presentations and discussions on human rights abuses, such as the trafficking of women for sale in the sex industry and the rights violations and health threats they face.

“Social injustice is a primary cause of many health problems in the world. The Center for Public Health and Human Rights will use critical evidence-based assessments of the role that repressive laws and social discord play in the health of populations,” saidChris Beyrer, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Public Health and Human Rights and director of the Fogarty AIDS International Training and Research Program at the School of Public Health. “With this knowledge we can develop public health interventions that take the harms and realities of rights violations into account.”

According to Dr. Beyrer, many human rights organizations are limited in their analysis, because they rely on traditional means of documenting abuses, such as monitoring the arrests of journalists, clergy and union leaders, as well as the closing of newspapers and churches. As an example, he cited the work of Amnesty International during the decades-long civil war in Guatemala. An Amnesty International internal review found that the organization’s methods failed to document an estimated 400,000 deaths of Mayan peasants.

Currently, researchers from the School of Public Health are investigating the role of rights violations in spreading HIV and hepatitis C virus in Russia’s sex industry, the health impacts of ethnic cleansing campaigns against minorities in Burma and the health threats among trafficked women and girls in Southeast Asia and among rural blood donors exposed to HIV in China.

Public Affairs Media Contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons or Kenna Brigham at 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu.