The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated once again how quickly rights violations can arise in an emergency. Inequalities that have too long been ignored were laid bare and exacerbated during the response to the pandemic. And yet we have learned from the AIDS response that it is only where rights are respected, protected and fulfilled that countries can make progress against an epidemic and build fairer societies.

Sex workers, gay men and other men who have sex with men, transgender people and people who use drugs were often targeted by law enforcement during lockdowns, exposed to high rates of violence, omitted from social protection and financial support mechanisms and denied access to health services because community-led organizations were frequently deemed as non-essential.