In another update to events mentioned in the 2011 NGO Report entitled Voices from the Field: How Laws and Policies Affect HIV Responses, we had noted that prosecution for HIV non-disclosure was becoming a significant legal issue:
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.
Calls upon States, in implementation of the 2011 Political Declaration and bearing in mind its paragraphs relevant to this decision, with the support of UNAIDS and civil society, to1 :
i. Work towards achieving an enabling legal environment supportive of effective national AIDS response by intensifying national efforts to create enabling legal frameworks through law, law enforcement, and access to justice;
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.
Thank you to many of you in the Secretariat and the working group for the work and negotiations that went into the production of this document. Without taking away from this work and good intentions, the NGO Delegation must state its frustration with the process and development of these key issues since the last PCB.
We think the current report, while important to have and fully supported by our constituencies, only contributes to maintaining the status quo. Rather than moving forward to reach populations most at risk of transmitted HIV, we are stalled in our discussions. We will not be able to address HIV without addressing key populations, including gay men and other men who have sex with men and transgendered people, people who inject drugs, sex workers, as well as women and girls, youth, and prisoners.
The document does not fully reflect the richness of the thematic session held in December.
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.