The Health and Human Rights Oral History Project

The Health and Human Rights Oral History Project (HHROHP) is a growing archive of video testimonies from diverse figures in the health and human rights movement. The Project fills a critical gap in the modern history of public health by providing an inside view of the decisions, discussions, and dynamics behind some of the most impactful health and rights interventions of the past several decades.

The pilot phase of the HHROHP, launched in early 2022, is comprised of 30 oral histories from former staff and grantees of the Open Society Foundations’ Public Health Program, one of the many entities to apply an international human rights framework to policy and practice in public health, as well as other key pioneers in the field of health and human rights. Our vision is to create an archive that continues to grow as other organizations, institutes, and individuals are inspired to add their own oral histories that deepen our collective understanding of the global health space. 

The HHROHP is a growing project with an aim to inspire others to create their own oral histories and contribute to deepening knowledge of global public health and human rights. The second phase of the project, currently underway, is a partnership between the USC Institute on Inequalities in Global Health and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. This phase of the HHROHP seeks to interrogate the methodology used to construct the the first part of the project, as well as explore and extrapolate what questions are answered by the oral history collection thus far, what questions remain, and how we can continue to strengthen and deepen the archive.

Browse the collection

Hover over an individual below to navigate directly to their full oral history video, transcript, and other archival material housed at the USC Digital Library. You can also search the complete HHROHP archive directly in the USDL system, and discover material based on keywords, geographies, and content type. We also recommend taking a look at our user guide, which explains how to navigate the archive within the USC Digital Library system.

Former staff and grantees of the Open Society Foundations’ Public Health Program

Tahir Amin
"How are we going to challenge patents?"
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Marine Buissionniere
“Crises are also moments when one can redistribute the cards."
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Raluca Bunea
"Support, not control."
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Jonathan Cohen
"Health and legal services can be scaled up."
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Wiktor Dynarksi
“Authoritarian regimes very often attack gender minorities."
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Sarah Evans
"It's about creating a space where people are safe."
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Dr. Kathleen Foley
"This was just not kindness and compassion and care, this was much more than that."
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Françoise Girard
"The way you treat your most vulnerable citizens is a sign of what kind society you've got.”
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Mikhail Golichenko
"You start removing the most harmful things that actually make these people key populations."
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Carolina Gomez
"These companies are being made accountable by the public and the press."
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Grace Kamau
"We were about 300 sex workers, shouting on the streets and singing."
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Oanh Khuat
"If those people have opportunity, they can thrive."
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Pavlo Kovtoniuk
"Mostly those old systems exist because people don't dare to attack them directly."
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Allan Maleche
"You must also be able to stand firm for the truth and have integrity in what you do."
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Kasia Malinowska & Daniel Wolfe
"People who use drugs were treated like drugs themselves."
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Ruth Morgan Thomas
"Why would we need to criminalize women?"
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Sisonke Msimang
"I am very interested in how to leverage and ensure that people have the power to get things done."
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Aibek Mukambetov
"It's a trust between the funding agency and community leaders and this movement of people who are fighting for their rights."
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Denise Namburete
"We realized that we needed to operate beyond the health sector."
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Ioan Petre
"What Carusel does, it's to humanize the act."
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Michèle Duvivier Pierre-Louis
"Building communities with a sense of citizenship [and] enfranchisement is the most important thing."
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Umunyana Rugege
"We needed to have real information and evidence about how the private health system was working."
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Maja Saitovic Jovanovic
"Communities were actually informing the messages to the authorities."
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Nina Schwalbe
"It was figuring out what people wanted and where we could push the change."
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Robert Weissman
"The problem of too much corporate power is a public health problem."
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Rebecca Cook
"I was struck by the injustices of women being denied access to healthcare."
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Mandeep Dhaliwal
"It's about being bolder about human rights in the area of health."
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Vuyiseka Dubula-Majola
"We didn't just die silently, we're going to die fighting."
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Sofia Gruskin
"We had to show there were civil and political rights violations."
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Learn about the process of building the Health and Human Rights Oral History Project, from the student interviewers who made it possible.

PS: Check out our launch event!

In December 2022, we unveiled the first 30 oral histories in the collection at a 90 minute virtual launch event. It included dialogue between select interviewees and their student interviewer, as well as an academic roundtable which examined the research and scholarship potential of the HHROHP. You can watch the event recording above.


Situate yourself within the larger context of the health and human rights movement and uncover some of the hidden histories contained within the first 30 interviews of the Health and Human Rights Oral History Project.

April 1993

The Open Society Institute is founded

Later renamed the Open Society Foundations, philanthropist George Soros creates a singular organization with a mission to promote democracy and human rights worldwide.


The Project on Death in America is founded

… with the aim to transform public attitudes on death and highlight the importance of palliative care. Hear more from Kathy Foley.

April 1995

The birth of FOKAL

The Foundation on Knowledge and Liberty (FOKAL) is founded to support programs for the Haitian population in the fields of education, development, and arts and culture. Hear more from Michele Pierre Louis.


The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) is established to streamline and advocate for global action towards the spread of HIV/AIDS.


OSF begins work in Croatia to deinstitutionalize people with intellectual and developmental disabilities which leads to a shift towards community-based programs. Hear more from Raluca Bunea.

December 1998

Gugu Dlamini, a South African woman activist with HIV, is murdered for publicly disclosing her positive status during a radio show aired on World AIDS Day. Hear more from Sisonke Msimang.


The Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, created by Médecins Sans Frontières, is launched to increase availability of essential medicines to Global South countries by lowering the prices of existing drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic tests. Hear more from Robert Weissman.


Creation of the MDGs

The UN establishes the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) intended to address major challenges facing human development and health globally.


Launch of PEPFAR

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is launched by George W. Bush to provide antiretroviral treatment to HIV patients in resource-limited settings.


OSF’s Sexual Health and Rights Program (SHARP) publishes findings on global funding for sex workers’ health and rights organizations and identifies major gaps in resource provision.


The Roma Health Scholarship Program is established providing 60 Roma students from Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, and Serbia with resources to pursue medical and pharmaceutical studies. Learn more from Marine Buissonniere.


The African Sex Workers Alliance is formed to support the rights of sex workers and publicly denounce the stigma, discrimination, and criminalization of sex work. Hear more from Grace Kamau.


OSF releases an official statement calling for amendments to Polish drug policy, including the decriminalization of possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use. Hear more from Daniel Wolfe and Kasia Malinowska.


The Carousel Association opens in Bucharest, Romania, offering social and medical services to the most vulnerable and marginalized populations. Hear more from Ioan Petre.

December 2011

President Obama signs the FY2012 omnibus spending bill which reinstates a federal funding ban on needle exchange programs.

June 2013

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that requiring non-governmental organizations to institute an explicit anti-prostitution policy in order to receive federal funding violates the First Amendment. Learn more from Francoise Girard.


Mozambique takes out $2.08 billion in loans meant for supporting its maritime security and tuna-fishing economy. It is later revealed that the Mozambique public did not benefit from any of the loans, resulting in a string of fraud convictions for government officials. Hear more from Denise Namburete.


The Strategic Advisory Group (SAG) is formed following Ukraine’s Maidan Revolution, also known as the Revolution of Dignity. The SAG will go on to remake and reimagine Ukraine’s primary healthcare system. Hear more from Pavlo Kovtoniuk.

May 2015

Open Society leaves Russia

OSF is declared an “undesirable organization” in Russia, limiting its capacity for aid and inducing risk upon its operations, as well as barring Russian nationals from associating with OSF. Hear more from Nina Schwalbe.

September 2015

The Gender Accordance Act, drafted in 2012 by Polish LGBTQI-rights organization Trans-Fuzja, is passed in the Polish parliament. This act is the first piece of gender recognition legislation to pass in Polish history and gives citizens the right to legal recognition of their gender identity. Hear more from Wiktor Dynarski.

September 2015

The UN builds on the MDGs to create 17 interconnected Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030.


HIV/AIDS in Russia

HIV prevalence reaches between 0.8-1.0% of the Russian population, indicating that the HIV epidemic in Russia is one of the fastest growing in the world. Hear more from Mikhail Golichenko.

June 2016

The Nairobi Strategy on Tuberculosis and Human Rights is created with specific objectives and activities to implement a human rights-based approach to TB at the global, regional, national, and local levels. Learn more from Allan Maleche.

January 2017

The Trump administration reinstates the global gag rule, which prevents any non-governmental organization that provides abortion care or information related to abortion from recieving U.S. federal funding.

January 2019

Large-scale price regulation for pharmaceutical drugs is instated in in Colombia, resulting in an average of 50% decrease in the cost of over 902 drugs. Hear more from Carolina Gomez.

March 2020

The WHO designates COVID-19 as a pandemic; nations instate lockdown procedures and international travel bans.

October 2020

The European Commission launches the EU Roma Strategic Framework which centers the promotion of equality, inclusion, participation, education, employment, health, and housing for Roma populations. Hear more from Maja Saitovic.

December 2021

The first overdose prevention center opens in New York City. Hear more from Sarah Evans.

June 2022

The U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, removing federal protections for abortion care.