HIV Justice Worldwide - December 2017
In September, three HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE founding members - Laurel Sprague, Executive Director of the Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP+), Lynette Mabote, Regional Programmes Lead at ARASA and I - presented at the Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA) Philanthropy Summit in Washington DC on the worldwide movement to end HIV criminalisation, alongside our key partner, Luisa Cabal, Special Adviser on Human Rights and Gender at UNAIDS. The session was chaired by Sergey Votyagov, Executive Director of the Robert Carr civil society Networks Fund, which funds the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE (HJWW) coalition.
As you can see from the video of our session, we were already pretty proud of our achivements to date, but the last few months of 2017 have seen some remarkable advances in HIV justice.
Hot on the heels of the modernisation of the HIV criminalisation law in California (advocated for by our in-state partners, Positive Women's Network-USA), we saw the emergence of a new national network of Mexican anti-criminalisation advocates (supported by SERO, and funded through the HJWW coalition) and an immediate victory with a lawmaker's U-turn in Quintana Roo state. (Watch a short video about the meeting and its impact here.)
And in Canada, following years of advocacy from our key partner, the Canadian HIV Legal Network and their allies in the Canadian Coalition to Reform HIV Criminalisation, it was announced by Federal and Provinicial ministers on World AIDS Day that - finally! - the latest science relating to the prevention benefit of HIV treatment should be taken into consideration when prosecuting alleged HIV non-disclosure: an important, but modest advance. There is a now a call for both a moratorium on all HIV-related prosecutions and a review of existing convictions and for a more radical overhaul of Canada's framing of HIV non-disclosure as aggravated sexual assault.
But perhaps our proudest moment of 2017 was HJWW's finanical and technical support that led to the galvanising of (mostly) women activists in Malawi, who managed to persuade lawmakers to remove all of the problematic provisions of the HIV/AIDS (Prevention and Management) Bill, including provisions to make HIV testing and treatment mandatory for select populations on a discriminatory basis, and provisions that would have criminalised negligent, reckless and intentional HIV exposure and transmission. You can read the press release from some our HJWW partners (ARASA, GNP+ and SALC) amongst others, but to really understand the power of these women, go over to Twitter to watch some short videos here and here of their advocacy messaging to parliamentarians.
And speaking of amazing women, please visit the IAS website, where for Human Rights Day (December 10) they highlighted an interview with Ugandan nurse, Rosemary Namubiru, who was wrongfully accused of exposing a child to HIV whilst administering an injection. I was also asked to write an accompanying blog post which summarises the current state of HIV criminalisation around the world.
Finally, please check out our new HIV JUSTICE Toolkit, which will continue to expand in both scope and languages in 2018. It includes one of our latest videos, The Colorado Story, which explains how the law was modernised in that US state last year. Why not subscribe to the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE YouTube Channel and be the first to be notified when we upload our next videos.
Wishing you all a safe and happy holiday season: here's to even more HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE in 2018!
Edwin J Bernard
Global Co-ordinator, HIV Justice Network / HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE
Features, opinions and analysis
Malawi: Human Rights Activists celebrate adoption of amended HIV law that removes rights infringing provision - Press release
November 28, 2017
Lilongwe – On Tuesday, 28 November, Malawi Members of Parliament voted to reject coercive and criminalising provisions that threatened human rights in a long-deliberated HIV (Prevention and Management) Bill.
Activists and people living with and affected by HIV celebrated outside Parliament after having protested for months against rights-infringing provisions in the HIV Bill, tabled earlier this year. The Bill, which had its origins in a 2008 Law Commission Report, included provisions to make HIV testing and treatment mandatory for select populations on a discriminatory basis, and provisions that would criminalise HIV exposure and transmission, amongst others. More →
Mexico: First Spanish language "HIV is not a crime" meeting leads to new Network and impressive early results
November 22, 2017
In October 2017 the first Spanish-language ‘HIV Is Not A Crime’ meeting took place in Mexico City, supported by the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE coalition.
The two-day meeting brought together people living with HIV, activists, lawyers, human rights defenders, and academics from across Mexico – alongside HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE partners CNET+ (Belize), Sero Project (USA), and the HIV Justice Network – to discuss the current state of HIV criminalisation nationally, regionally and globally. More →
HIV Justice toolkit to support advocacy is now online
October 5, 2017
HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE today announced the launch of the HIV Justice Toolkit, which aims to support advocates to oppose HIV criminalisation at all levels – from educating communities and lawmakers to defending individual cases.
Curated by Sally Cameron, Senior Policy Analyst at the HIV Justice Network (HJN) with input and assistance from HJN’s Global Co-ordinator, Edwin J Bernard and HJN’s Research/Outreach Co-ordinator, Sylvie Beaumont, the Toolkit’s creation was faciliated by the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Steering Committee, designed by Thomas Patterson/NAM, and supported by a grant from the Robert Carr civil society Networks Fund. More →
Brazil: Activists celebrate as "deliberate HIV transmission" law amendment is withdrawn
September 1, 2017
News broke that populist Congressman, Pompeo de Mattos, has withdrawn an amendment originally proposed in 2015 to make ‘deliberate’ HIV transmission a ‘heinous crime’.
The amendment, Bill No. 198, 2015, would have added to the list of heinous crimes – which currently includes murder, extortion, rape, child exploitation and spreading an epidemic that results in death – those who “transmit and infect consciously and deliberately others with the AIDS virus. (sic)”. More →
New Steering Committee Members
|AIDS Action Europe
“Despite recent developments in some countries of Europe and the scientific evidence, many of our countries still have and apply HIV-specific criminalization, which needs joint advocacy efforts to address and change. That is why AIDS Action Europe is delighted and honoured to join the Steering Committee of HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE and work together via our European HIV Legal Forum project to end the unjust and harmful criminalization of our communities."
Ferenc Bagyinszky, Project Manager, AIDS Action Europe / European HIV Legal Forum
AIDS Action Europe (AAE): AIDS Action Europe was established in 2004 and with over 400 members from WHO Europe region has grown to be one of the largest HIV-related networks in Europe and Central Asia. AAE is governed by a Steering Committee and its office is hosted by the Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe e.V., based in Berlin, Germany.
AAE has been working on addressing legal barriers to accessing HIV-prevention, treatment and care services via its European HIV Legal Forum (EHLF) project, addressing access for migrants and other mobile populations in irregular situations. From 2018, within the framework of EHLF, AAE decided to work on legal barriers to access for people in prison and other closed settings and criminalization of HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission (HIV criminalization) in the countries of the European Union and beyond. More →
"The criminalization of HIV is an insidious attack on human rights and one that dangerously undermines global efforts to combat the epidemic. We are thrilled to join the Steering Committee of HIV JUSTICE WORLWIDE and contribute to its important work combatting HIV criminalisation around the world."
Paula Donovan and Stephen Lewis, Co-Directors, AIDS-Free World
AIDS-Free World is an international advocacy organization that works to promote more urgent and effective global responses to HIV/AIDS by targeting the underlying inequalities, harmful practices, and failures of leadership that facilitate the spread of HIV. Using high-level advocacy, strategic communications, and creative legal approaches, we tackle the root causes that have turned HIV into a global pandemic. More →
Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC)
“In the last year, southern Africa has seen efforts to introduce new, overly-broad laws criminalising HIV transmission and exposure in Malawi, unjust prosecutions for HIV exposure in Zimbabwe and Malawi, and undertakings by the Zambian government to coerce HIV testing and treatment. Collective and coordinated resistance to these trends and action to ensure justice and human rights are at the forefront of the HIV response is critical. We have seen the success in our own advocacy and litigation on the rights of people living with HIV and key populations of working with strong networks of local, regional and international partners. We are honoured to join HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE as Steering Committee members to contribute to this important movement.”
Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, Executive Director, Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC)
The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) is a regional human rights organisation that works to promote human rights and rule of law primarily through partnering to provide legal and litigation support at country-level as well as through advocacy, and capacity-building. SALC’s programmatic areas include work on health rights and the rights of people living with HIV, the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, sex workers’ rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and women’s land and property rights, amongst others.” More →
HIV Justice Worldwide Partners Activities
In September 2017, the first European HIV Academy for Enabling Legal Environments brought together 35 advocates from 20 countries working on HIV-related law and policy reform across the WHO Europe region. This European Legal Environments Training Academy (#ELETA) was a joint collaboration of the HIV Justice Network, AIDS Action Europe , European AIDS Treatment Group and Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP+).
The meeting, held in Berlin, was a fantastic opportunity to increase awareness and understanding of the many legal barriers to health, dignity, and HIV prevention for people living with, and affected by, HIV; increase skills and capacity of people living with and affected by HIV by using new tools created by each of the #ELETA partners; develop stronger relationships and networks within and across Europe; and catalyse co-ordination and strengthen community voices from across Europe on the road to AIDS 2018 and beyond.
Thanks to our hosts at Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe / AAE, the #ELETA faculty (Ferenc Bagyinszky, Edwin J Bernard, Julian Hows, Laurel Sprague, Bryan Teixeira, Ann Isabelle Von Lingen), Lisa Power, Nicholas Feustel, everyone who participated, and to our funding partners, OptTEST by HIV in Europe (co-funded by the 2nd Health Programme of the EU) and ViiV Europe. To find out more visit: http://bit.ly/HIVacademy
Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MLQYaNEJ04
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network at ICASA
As a side event to the ICASA conference in Côte d’Ivoire in early December, HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (Legal Network) organized a unique meeting on HIV criminalization in francophone Africa.
Bringing together people living with HIV, activists, lawyers and a judge, as well as organizations representing or working with the LGBTI communities, drug users and sex workers in North, West and Central Africa, this meeting helped lay the foundations for a francophone network against HIV criminalization.
At the centre of the discussion is a brand new report entitled La pénalisation du VIH en Afrique francophone : état des lieux [Status of HIV Criminalization in Francophone Africa]. This report is the result of an investigation conducted by Stéphanie Claivaz-Loranger in cooperation with the Legal Network and HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE with numerous service providers and advocates in the region. The report is currently only available in French but is in the process of being translated into English.
This report is unique because it the the first time that the relevant criminal provisions and recorded legal proceedings have been compiled in a single document; it also takes stock of civil society mobilization in 28 francophone African countries.
There are 18 countries with HIV-specific laws, and 16 criminalize the transmission of or exposure to HIV. Moreover, other legal provisions in force in a country can be used against people living with HIV. While some countries have already amended their legislation or adopted more restrictive laws, other reforms are underway in Niger, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic.
Information available on proceedings against people living with HIV in francophone Africa is limited. However, proceedings (including abandoned cases or cases settled out of court) were recorded in at least 11 countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Togo and Tunisia. HIV criminalization is a concerning issue to the local stakeholders.
Proceedings resulting in a court decision have been recorded in five countries: Morocco, Congo, Cameroon, Niger, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. In at least four cases, the accused was a woman. In one of those cases, the accused was a sex worker who turned out to be seronegative. In Morocco, the accused persons were ultimately acquitted in relation to HIV, but convicted of other charges of immorality.
People living with HIV, women, the LGBTI community, sex workers and drug users continue to be subjected to all kinds of discrimination and acts of violence in francophone Africa, including by the police and healthcare workers who literally put their lives in danger. HIV criminalization and the criminalization of marginalized groups are the most perverse form of this discrimination. They contribute to perpetuating and legitimizing violence and reinforcing stigmatization.
The HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Coalition is striving to abolish the laws and policies that govern, control and punish people living with HIV because of their serological status. The Coalition came away from the ICASA conference with renewed strength and fortification thanks to the francophone organizations and activists who joined the movement.
A huge thank you for their participation and support
AIDS-Free World at ICASA
Building on the success of its Legal Consultation Center at the International AIDS Conference in Durban last year, AIDS-Free World organized another Legal Consultation Center throughout the five days of this year’s ICASA conference in Abidjan.
For so many whose rights have been targeted, even knowing if the problem you face could have a legal remedy is an insurmountable—and often unaffordable—obstacle to justice. The Legal Consultation Center provides delegates and other visitors with that initial conversation through a free, informal discussion with an experienced lawyer.
Thanks to a fantastic international team of 28 volunteer lawyers, including many from HJWW partners, the Legal Consultation Center was able to offer legal consultations to 90 visitors from Bénin, Cameroun, Cote d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, The Gambia, Kenya, Libera, Niger, Nigeria, Togo, Tunisie, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.
GICASA was also an opportunity for AIDS-Free World to share news of a new legal and advocacy effort. At a press conference on December 5, victims of former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s fraudulent AIDS “cure” recounted their harrowing experiences, describing one of the most egregious orchestrated assault on people living with HIV in the history of the global AIDS crisis.
They described being ordered to stop taking ARVs, growing progressively weaker as their only treatment consisted of a home-brew concoction, sometimes administered by Jammeh himself. Some sessions were even broadcast on Gambian television with the unwilling participation of “patients” who had not yet disclosed their HIV status to family and friends.
An estimated 9000 Gambians were coerced into this so-called treatment program. Many victims suffered serious health setbacks. Some became infected with opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis. Some died while at the treatment center, although the exact figure is not known.
AIDS-Free World, working in concert with the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, Gambian lawyers, and international partners including UNAIDS, announced it will support the survivors and relatives of those who died at Jammeh's hands to pursue all possible legal avenues in their search for justice.
Michel Sidibe, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, spoke alongside the survivors and AIDS-Free World lawyers at the press conference, noting that “if we fail to ensure that the rights of people are protected and respected, we will never be able to end this epidemic.” AIDS-Free World will be sure to share updates with the HJWW network as these legal and advocacy efforts develop.
Positive Women's Network-USA
Positive Women's Network releases two new HIV criminalisation resources
PWN-USA is excited to announce the launch of two new resources for 2018 as part of our continued efforts to reform HIV criminalisation laws nationwide and to support people living with HIV targeted by those laws.
The first resource is a Know Your Rights Guide for HIV Criminalization. This guide is a collection of important legal information created to be a tool to help people living with HIV protect themselves from prosecution and/or being criminalised under discriminatory HIV-specific laws. It includes specific sections that have information relevant to communities that are most heavily impacted by these laws as well as general information about navigating encounters with law enforcement.
An overview of the guide will be included as part of our second resource, the HIV Criminalization First Responder webinar series. This four-part series will prepare individuals to provide on the ground support for people criminalized because of their HIV status, focusing on expanding capacity to provide legal, social, and media support.
Webinar details and registration links are available here.
HIV Criminalisation News from Around the World
|US: Georgia Coalition to End HIV Criminalisation seeks re-evaluation of state's HIV criminal laws.
Dec 17, 2017 - From The Pulse
Are state’s HIV laws unfair? Activists say it’s time for change
Zimbabwe: Country's laws on deliberate transmission are too broad and should be reviewed
Dec 17, 2017 - From Bulawayo 24
Pregnant HIV+ mothers face jail
US: Trevor Hoppe discusses the history and future of HIV criminalisation activism.
Dec 13, 2017 - From The Body
What's the Future of HIV Criminalization Activism? An Interview With Trevor Hoppe
Canada: Lawyers are asking for current cases and past convictions of non-disclosure to be revisited in light of federal justice department report
Dec 12, 2017 - From The Lawyers Daily
Lawyers urge second look at HIV non-disclosure cases, convictions following report
Africa: African Commission launches report providing framework for an African human rights-based response to HIV
Dec 11, 2017 - From SALC
Human Rights organisations applaud African Commission's launch of HIV report
Canada: Alberta courts urged to follow Ontario example and stop prosecuting people for not disclosing their HIV status
Dec 6, 2017 - From Metro News
Alberta should curb prosecutions for HIV nondisclosure: Advocate
Canada: Ontario decision to limit HIV criminalisation seen as a step forward but more still needs to be done
Dec 5, 2017 - From CTV News
HIV-positive community says Ont. ruling is first step of long process
Malawi: Police officers urged to stop criminalising sex-workers due to their HIV status
Dec 4, 2017 - From The Maravi Post
Malawi law enforcers urged to desist from criminalizing sex-workers over HIV/AIDS status
Canada: HIV criminalisation is unacceptable states UNAIDS Director Michel Sidibé in Ottawa on World AIDS Day
Dec 3, 2017 - From L'Actualit
VIH: la criminalisation est inacceptable, selon le directeur d’ONUSIDA
Canada: Canadian organisations issue joint statement on the federal Justice Minister report “Criminal Justice System’s Response to Non-Disclosure of HIV.”
Dec 1, 2017 - From The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
An important modest advance on World AIDS Day
Canada: Ontario will no longer prosecute people who don't disclose their HIV status if they have a suppressed viral load
Dec 1, 2017 - From The Star
Ontario to curb prosecution of HIV non-disclosure cases
Canada: Federal Justice Ministry releases its long-anticipated report “Criminal Justice System’s Response to Non-Disclosure of HIV
Dec 1, 2017 - From The Department of Justice - Government of Canada
Government releases Report on the Criminality of HIV non-disclosure
Philippines: LGBTQ rights groups and advocates appeal to government authorities and medias to "Stop HIV shaming"
Nov 30, 2017 - From Rappler
‘Stop HIV shaming’: When status is not the story
US: Exploring the link between HIV criminalisation, the threat of long prison sentences, racial inequalities and plea bargains
Nov 29, 2017 - From Rolling Stone Magazine
Michael Johnson, HIV Disclosure, and the Coercive Nature of Plea Bargains
Canada: Over 150 Canadian organisations call on Federal Government to reform the Criminal Code
Nov 29, 2017 - From Positive Light
Time to act: Over 150 organizations across Canada call on Federal and Provincial Governments to end unjust criminalization of HIV
US: New initiative launched by Equality Florida hopes to convince lawmakers to update laws exposing people with HIV to criminal prosecution
Nov 21, 2017 - The Advocate
Should we punish the sick?
UK: Professor Matthew Weait reflects on the first convictions for intentional HIV transmission in England & Wales
Nov 16, 2017 - From The Conversation
Daryll Rowe guilty – but is criminal law the right way to stop the spread of HIV?
Mexico: The Network against the Criminalisation of HIV report that 30 out of 32 states criminalise "exposure to infection" in Mexico
Nov 7, 2017 - From Desatre
En México 30 estados criminalizan el VIH como “delito de peligro de contagio”
Sweden: Swedish organisations hope Supreme Court will set a new precedent when reviewing HIV criminalisation case
Nov 1, 2017 - From Dagens Juridik
'HD:s prövning är välkommen - åtala inte personer som lever med HIV om överföring inte har skett'
Mexico: T20 NGOS set up the Network against HIV criminalisation in Mexico
Oct 29, 2017 - From La Vanguardia
Una red de ONG lucha contra ley que criminaliza el VIH en México
US: Ohio Supreme Court rules to to uphold its HIV criminalisation laws
Oct 27, 2017 - From The Center for HIV Law and Policy
Ohio Supreme Court Rules to Uphold Outdated and Unscientific HIV Criminalization Policies
UK: The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill proposes mandatory HIV testing following an alleged spitting/biting assault on frontline staff
Oct 19, 2017 - From The Huffington Post
Stabbed, Spat At, Punched: Emergency Workers Tell HuffPost UK Why New Law Is Needed To Protect Them
US: CDC acknowledgment that Undetectable = Untransmittable is likely to have a huge impact on legal fights over HIV disclosure laws
Sept 29, 2017 - From Think Progress
CDC joins consensus on HIV that ‘Undetectable = Untransmittable’
For news prior to Sept 29, 2017, please go to: http://www.hivjustice.net/site/news/news-from-other-sources/
Latest HIV Criminalisation Cases
Man arrested in Arkansas for alleged HIV exposure
Man accused of exposing woman to HIV, Little Rock police say
Dec 17, 2017