Today is the launch of the much anticipated Global Commission on HIV and the Law report on how law and human rights can transform the global AIDS response with evidence-informed solutions for protecting the health and human rights of people affected by HIV. Over the past year and a half, the NGO Delegation has been posting about and has been involved in the regional consultations that have provided evidence for the report’s research.
The Report findings found that:
- In more than 60 countries, it is a crime to expose another person to or transmit HIV. More than 600 HIV-positive people across 24 countries have been convicted of such crimes. These laws and practices discourage people from seeking an HIV test and disclosing their status
- 78 countries criminalise same-sex sexual activity. These laws make it difficult to prevent HIV amongst those most vulnerable to infection.
- Even though they may provide harm reduction services informally, laws in some countries criminalise some aspects of proven harm reduction services for injecting drug users. In contrast, countries that legalise harm reduction services have almost completely stopped new HIV infections among injecting drug users.
- More than 100 countries criminalize some aspect of sex work. The legal environment in many countries exposes sex workers to violence and results in their economic and social exclusion. It also prevents them from accessing essential HIV prevention and care services.
- Laws and customs that dis-empower women and girls, from genital mutilation to denial of property rights, undermine their ability to negotiate safe sex and to protect themselves from HIV infection. 127 countries do not have legislation against marital rape.
- Laws and policies that deny young people access to sex education, harm reduction and reproductive and HIV services help spread HIV.
- Excessive intellectual property protections that hinder the production of low-cost medicines, especially second-generation treatments, impede access to treatment and prevention.
It concluded with dozens of recommendations on intellectual property, key populations, women, youth, discrimination and criminalization. One of the recommendations calls on countries not to enact laws or to repeal laws that explicitly criminalise HIV transmission, HIV exposure or failure to disclose HIV status. It also requests the UN Secretary General to “convene a neutral, high-level body to review and assess proposals and recommend a new intellectual property regime for pharmaceutical products”. You can read the complete list of recommendations in the full report.
In December 2011, the NGO Delegation submitted its own report that set out to understand the experiences of civil society around legal issues and HIV responses. Discussions with civil society aimed to understand the personal experiences of those involved, the common trends and difficulties encountered and the solutions needed in order to increase access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services.
As a Delegation, our decision not to bring forward the full scope of our recommendations in our NGO Report at the 29th PCB in December was in part due to the development of the report by the Commission on HIV and the Law. We saw this report as a key document to reinforce the correlation between the legal environment and access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.
It is disheartening that we have not seen the report document containing key recommendations on creating legal environments that enable access to all people living with and at risk for HIV, as it is so timely and relevant to our discussions.
The NGO Delegation, along with our diverse array of constituents, would have liked this board to be able to take forward UNAIDS’ own policy guidance calling for the repeal of HIV-specific laws that criminalize HIV non-disclosure, exposure or transmission.
Since its creation on 13 February, 1340 supports have signed onto the Oslo Declaration on HIV Criminalisation. Prepared by civil society in Oslo, Norway, on the eve of the global High Level Policy Consultation on the Science and Law of the Criminalisation of HIV Non-disclosure, Exposure and Transmission, the declaration is an advocacy and policy statement against the overly-broad use of the criminal law to regulate and punish people living with HIV for behaviour that in any other circumstance would be considered lawful.
On February 8, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear two landmark cases on the issue of criminalization of HIV non-disclosure in R v. Mabior and R v. DC. According to the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the “Court’s decisions in these two appeal cases will have profound implications not only for people living with HIV, but also for Canadian public health, police practice and the criminal justice system.”
Welcomes the promulgation of the “UNAIDS Action Framework: Universal Access for Men who have Sex with Men and Transgender People”, and the follow-up action that is already underway, and urges UNAIDS and other partners to support further action, particularly on decriminalization as part of the agreed Unified Budget and Workplan priorities, and also in other areas of policy and practice both inside and beyond the health sector