At the XIX International AIDS Conference on July 26th, the NGO Delegation officially launched the publication of the results from its 2011 Report to the UNAIDS Board. Delivered at the 29th meeting in December 2011, the report focuses on the importance of the legal environment to national HIV responses. For its findings, the NGO Delegation conducted a series of 27 focus groups, involving more than 240 participants from every region of the world. This is the published version of the report.
Robert D. Suttle from SERO (Serostigma & Empowerment Resource Organization) tells his personal story of HIV criminalization and discrimination as a person of colour during the PCB ‘HIV and Enabling Legal Environments’ thematic.
My name is Robert Suttle. I am not a criminal. I am not a sex offender; but the state of Louisiana says I am. I was convicted for failing to disclose my HIV status to a former male partner, who later went to the police and pressed charges against me when we broke up. I never lied to him about my HIV status.
The South in the United States, where I am from, has the highest incarceration rate of anywhere in the world. People of color, especially young black males, are at the highest risk of incarceration and they are at the highest risk of acquiring HIV. Both factors represent a terrible injustice, but when you add criminalization, it becomes an injustice of historic proportions.
In my case, the prosecutors and judicial system didn’t know much about HIV or the routes and risks of transmission. When they decided to prosecute me, there was no consideration of science or shared responsibility of whether or not HIV was actually transmitted.
Where I am from, young gay black men often get the maximum sentence, no matter what the charge or circumstances. Had I gone to trial I’d faced up to ten years in prison. That was a risk I would not take. So, I agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of two years’ probation.
SUMMARY OF THE UNAIDS 29TH UNAIDS PROGRAMME CO-ORDINATING BOARD
THEMATIC SEGMENT: HIV AND ENABLING LEGAL ENVIRONMENTS
15 December 2011
By the Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG, Australia, Commissioner, UNDP Global Commission on HIV and the Law (2010-12)
LOOKING BACK, AROUND AND FORWARD
We gather in this space to face a continuing global peril and do so in the name of fellow human beings who have no voice. The AIDS epidemic, which first confronted the world 30 years ago, is by no means over. We meet at a time of new crises in sustaining the global mobilisation to overcome the human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) and to fund the therapies that palliate its cruel impact on our species.
A quarter century ago, at WHO headquarters, I was summoned by a great servant of humanity, Dr. Jonathan Mann, to serve on the inaugural Global Commission on AIDS. Little did we think, when we assembled not far from this meeting room, that the world would still be confronted by a huge puzzle, a quarter of a century later. In those days, we were so full of hope and optimistic expectations. Participants in the Commission included two fine scientists, Robert Gallo of the United States of America and Luc Montagnier of France, the latter of whom later won the Nobel Prize for Medicine, that a vaccine and a cure for AIDS were only 10 to 20 years in the future. Yet here we are and as yet there is not a reliable vaccine. And although great strides have been made in the development of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) mankind still has no curative medicines to rid the body of HIV.
In the past decade, under the leadership of UNAIDS, a mighty effort has been made to provide ART to more than 7 million human beings on every continent. The Global Fund Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (the Global Fund) has been a vehicle to save and enhance the lives of millions. Yet, even as we meet, more than 7 million others, who do not yet have access to ART, depend on our efforts, and those of UNAIDS and the Global Fund, to bring to zero the needless deaths from HIV/AIDS, and the suffering, discrimination, fear and stigma that travel in its wake. On every continent, men, women and children live in fear. The fear is escalated by the global financial crisis which has occasioned cancellation of the replenishment of the Global Fund’s resources to bring lifesaving drugs to all of those in need.
Requests the PCB Bureau to take appropriate and timely steps to ensure that due process is followed in the call for themes for the 33rd and 34th Programme Coordinating Board meetings, as necessary;