Equal access to healthcare: addressing marginalisation and vulnerability
Since March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has been the starkest reminder of the fundamental importance for every State to build efficient healthcare systems and to guarantee access to quality healthcare for all individuals without discrimination. COVID-19 has highlighted and exacerbated existing inequalities, including in access to healthcare caused by social inequalities, pre-existing legal and policy barriers, racism, harmful social norms, stigma, and multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. As a result, persons in marginalised situations – indigenous peoples, torture survivors, ethnic and religious minorities, LGBTIQ+ persons, migrants, persons with disabilities and those living with HIV, and persons deprived of their liberty – have experienced higher rates of COVID-19 death and related illnesses, and have been pushed further behind.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) by exacerbating ongoing failures to fully guarantee these rights. Those who already face greater obstacles in the enjoyment of their SRHR, namely low-income, LGBTIQ+ persons, adolescents, migrants, the homeless, bonded workers, persons living with disabilities and with HIV, and sex workers, have also experienced greater barriers and disruptions in accessing sexual and reproductive health services.
The ubiquitous impact of the pandemic reminds us that health is a global public good that should be accessible to everyone, everywhere and that progress towards universal health coverage – and guaranteeing SRHR as a part thereof – is imperative. It has also shown that in order to tackle pandemics, it is necessary that everybody has access to prevention and mitigation tools, including vaccines, testing and treatment.