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Jonathan Mann

This article is about the renowned leader in public health and human rights. For the CNN journalist, see Jonathan Mann (journalist).

Dr. Jonathan Mann (July 30, 1947 - September 2, 1998) was a former head of the World Health Organization's global AIDS program.

Mann resigned his post at the WHO to protest the lack of response from the UN and international organization with regard to AIDS, and the actions of the then WHO director-general Dr. Hiroshi Nakajima. Mann's work against AIDS, his conflict with Dr. Hiroshi Nakajima and its impact on WHO's AIDS efforts have been documented as a part of PBS Frontline documentary "The age of AIDS" [1] During Jonathan Mann's leadership, the AIDS program became the largest single program in the history of the WHO. He was a key figure in highlighting the need for a global response to the crisis.

Mann died in the 1998 crash of Swissair Flight 111 along with his wife, AIDS researcher Mary-Lou Clements-Mann. [2] At the time of his death, Mann was the dean of the Allegheny University School of Public Health, which is now the Drexel University School of Public Health in Philadelphia.

Dr. James Curran of the Centers for Disease Control said of Mann, "It was always safe for scientists and institutions to think of AIDS as a virus, a transmissible infection… but Dr. Mann structured it as a human rights issue, and a global rights issue. He really was a spiritual leader as well as scientific leader."

Additional recommended knowledge



Mann was president of National Honor Society in the Newton South High School class of 1965.

Struggle to Promote Health and Human Rights

Jonathan Mann was a central advocate of combining the synergistic forces of public health, ethics and human rights. He theorized and actively promoted the idea that human health and human rights are integrally and inextricably connected, arguing that these fields overlap in their respective philosophies and objectives to improve health, well-being, and to prevent premature death.1

Mann proposed a three-pronged approach that has appropriately acted as a fundamental explanation of the relationship between health and human rights. First, health is a human rights issue. Secondly (and conversely), human rights are a health issue. Human rights violations result in adverse health effects.2 Thirdly, linkages exist between health and human rights (a hypothesis to be rigorously tested).3 Literature substantiates the affects of the first two points, but Mann and colleagues proceeded to call for the validation of the third point and challenged the world to practice it.4 His work led to the development of the Four-Step Impact Assessment, a multi-disciplinary approach of evaluating interdependent and overlapping elements of both disciplines of Human Rights and Public Health.

With this framework, Mann attempted to bridge a perceived gap of philosophies, correspondence and vocabulary, education and training, recruitment, and work methods between the disciplines of bioethics, jurisprudence, public health law and epidemiology. Furthermore, Mann knew that the history of “conflictual relationships” between officials of public health and civil liberties workers presented challenges to the pursuit of what he called a “powerful” confluence of health and human rights – a positive approach.4

While conflict between disciplines exists, Mann thought it important to first raise awareness of these challenges. In the spirit of negotiation and acting as mediator, Mann pointed out that such an intersection of fields can only benefit if a common ground in philosophies is uncovered and planted with a flag of cooperation.

Mann’s biography is itself a compelling narrative, perhaps a treatise of a man who was both visionary and practical in the pursuit of health and rights for all. He advocated non-discrimination, an ideal that reached beyond borders regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, socioeconomic status, and access to care. He was born in 1947, the year the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was drafted, and died in a plane crash with his wife in 1998 while on the way from New York to Geneva for a United Nations (UN) AIDS vaccine conference. He was a gifted academic who spoke fluent French and rallied many to the cause. He served in several roles at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and in 1986 founded the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Global Program on AIDS. Mann had raised nearly $100 million in funding two years later. "The program was himself [Mann], a secretary and one typewriter," said colleague Daniel Tarantola.5 Later, in 1994, Mann directed the launch of the journal Health and Human Rights, published by the François Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, which he also helped to establish.6

List of works

  • Vamps, Virgins and Victims: How Can Women Fight Aids? Robin Gorna, Jonathan M. Mann
  • Health and Human Rights: A Reader Sofia Gruskin, Jonathan M. Mann, Michael A. Grodin
  • AIDS in the World II: Global Dimensions, Social Roots, and Responses Jonathan M. Mann, Daniel J. M. Tarantola


  1. Gostin LO. Public Health, Ethics, and Human Rights: A Tribute to the late Jonathan Mann. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. 2001. 28:121-130.
  2. Schusky RW. Jonathan's Mantle. Lancet. 1998. 352(9145):2025.
  3. Mann JM, Gruskin S, Grodin MA and Annas GJ, eds., Health and Human Rights: A Reader New York: Routledge. 1999:11–18.
  4. Mann JM, Gruskin S, Grodin MA and Annas GJ, eds., Health and Human Rights: A Reader New York: Routledge, 1999:7.
  5. Marks SP. Jonathan Mann’s legacy to the 21st century: The human rights imperative for public health. JLME suppl 29. 2000:131–138.
  6. Ligon-Borden L. Biography: Dr. Jonathan Mann: champion for human rights in the fight against AIDS Seminars in Pediatric Infectious Diseases. Pediatric HIV Infections in the HAART Era. 2003. 14(4):314-22.
  7. Campbell C. Prostitution, AIDS, and preventive health behavior. Sm Sci Med. 1991. 32(12):1367-78.
  8. Institute of Medicine. Future of public health. Washington DC: National Academy Press, 1988:1-7.
  9. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. JAMA. 1998. 280(5):469-70.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Jonathan_Mann". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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