HIV Justice Weekly - 11 June 2021

A landmark week for HIV criminalisation
This past week has seen a huge amount of activity related to HIV and, specifically, HIV criminalisation.
Illinois is about to become only the second US state ever to completely repeal its HIV criminalisation law which has been on the books since 1989.
Meanwhile, Nevada has modernised its HIV criminalisation law, and in Michigan a county prosecutor has ordered a review of all prosecutions brought under the state’s law before it was modernised in 2019.
All of these successes were celebrated at the HIV is not a Crime Training Academy (HINAC4) that took place virtually last week and helped galvanise activists working for HIV, racial and gender justice across the US, even as there was disappointment that the High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS, which took place at the same time, ended up adopting a joint Political Declaration that was lacking in global consensus, with both watered-down language on human rights and some key issues completely missing.
Despite back and forth among the countries, with opposition from Russia, Belarus, Nicaragua, and that Syrian Arab Republic to the final draft’s progressive language, such as naming ‘key populations’, the Declaration did include language on HIV criminalisation as part of the 10-10-10 targets on societal enablers calling for member states to end all inequalities faced by people living with HIV, key and other priority populations by 2025.
Specifically, the Declaration “express[es] deep concern about stigma, discrimination, violence, and restrictive and discriminatory laws and practices that target people living with, at risk of and affected by HIV - including for non-disclosure, exposure, and transmission of HIV…” and “commit[s] to eliminating HIV-related stigma and discrimination, and to respecting, protecting and fulfilling the human rights of people living with, at risk of and affected by HIV…by creating an enabling legal environment by reviewing and reforming, as needed, restrictive legal and policy frameworks including discriminatory laws and practices that create barriers or reinforce stigma and discrimination such as … laws related to HIV non-disclosure, exposure, and transmission.”
Still, even as we celebrate some of these progressive commitments, much work needs to be done. Advocates and organisations have voiced their concerns that the watered-down Declaration may not fully commit countries to take action.

HIV Justice in the NEWS 


Follow the Science

From IAS: The HIV response must build on 40 years of robust science and also incorporate important lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenge is ensuring that the results of scientific research inform policies implemented at scale and enhance the delivery of programmes and healthcare practices. This can be achieved in three main ways: promote science, support action and empower people.

Prioritising human rights to end inequalities and end AIDS
From UNAIDS: Inequalities and human rights barriers, which have been magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic, are preventing progress towards ending AIDS as a global public health threat by 2030. To highlight the critical need for progress on human rights barriers, and to call on all stakeholders to play their part to increase action, UNAIDS convened civil society partners, United Nations Member States, jurists and development organizations on the sidelines of the United Nations High-Level Meeting on AIDS in New York.
Video recording of the meeting


Blood donations to meet the same health safety requirements, regardless of one’s sexuality
From TETU: The French National Assembly has passed an amendment allowing MSMs to donate blood under the same conditions as heterosexual men. The measure is due to come into force in 2022.



Arrest of a man in Mexico City for allegedly hiding HIV from his partner sparks harsh criticism
From Los Angeles Times: The arrest in Mexico City of a man for allegedly hiding the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from his girlfriend sparked controversy on social networks and harsh criticism of the Mexico City District Attorney's Office on Friday.

Young man beaten and killed in Cancun after disclosing his HIV status (In Spanish)
From Milenio: LGTB collectives and organisations issue a statement condemning and demanding justice for the murder of a young man who was tortured, burned and killed after he revealed that he had HIV.


Laws Criminalising HIV Are Obstructing Efforts to End the AIDS Epidemic
From truthout: To reach the goal of ending the epidemic of HIV/AIDS by 2030, archaic state laws that criminalise the most marginalised people impacted by HIV must be updated or repealed altogether.

LGBTQ groups share mixed feelings on bills that passed or failed through state legislatures in 2021
From Nevada Current: LGBTQ groups following the legislative process have mixed feelings about the measures lawmakers took. “So many of the bills are just to be able to gain basic dignity and we’re coming from such a deficit.” The Human Rights Campaign called 2021 the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation.

It is time to review previous convictions under the former HIV law and issue pardons
From Michigan Advance: The HIV law in Michigan has changed, but those prosecuted under former measure struggle to overcome convictions.

The history and harm behind Illinois’s criminal HIV transmission law
From Injustice Watch: Injustice Watch and the Chicago Reader examined the origins of Illinois's HIV transmission law, and how Cook County prosecutors have leveraged it.

Activists in Georgia Are Working to Modernize HIV Criminalisation Laws
From TheBodyPro: TheBodyPro interviews Eric Paulk, J.D., deputy director of Georgia Equality, and Malcolm Reid, director of programs at THRIVE SS, about Senate Bill 164, a proposed measure to reform the state’s HIV criminalisation laws, and the impact its passage will have on PLWH and the stigma they face.


Man found guilty of aggravated sexual assault for alleged HIV non-disclosure sentenced to 7 months and a half in Nova Scotia
From CBC News: A Halifax man who failed to disclose his HIV-positive status to a sexual partner has been sentenced to 7 ½ months in jail.


24-year-old man from Perm region sentenced to 3 years for alleged HIV transmission 

From В курсе.ру: The Chernushinsky District Court of Perm Region found a 24-year-old man guilty of infecting his sexual partner with HIV. The man did not disclose his status.


COVID-19 Justice in the NEWS


G7 support for pharma monopolies is putting millions of lives at risk
From Amnesty International: "The English county of Cornwall, where the G7 Summit takes place, has administered more vaccinations than 22 African countries combined". The self-interest of G7 countries is the biggest obstacle to ending the Covid-19 pandemic, a group of campaigning organizations said today.


Human rights group slams Miaoli stay-at-home order for migrant workers

A Taiwanese human rights group on Wednesday called on the Miaoli County government to revoke a controversial order requiring migrant workers to stay inside amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, saying the policy was "discriminatory."


‘Outrageous’: why was a US health worker charged with spreading Covid?

From The Guardian: Attempt to hold a worker criminally liable for the spread of Covid resulted in Josefina Brito-Fernandez losing her license to work, fearing deportation.

Other NEWS and related EVENTS

Open Letter to the CDC: Networks of People Living with HIV Demand a Moratorium on Molecular HIV Surveillance

HIV surveillance is widely recognized as a public good. Public health leaders often say that they count on surveillance data to guide their interventions. However, for people and communities affected by HIV, surveillance may act as a double-edged sword, especially when it participates in stigmatizing and even criminalizing them.

This call addresses the stigmatizing and criminalizing potential of HIV surveillance, focusing on a concerning set of techniques and practices that have become more commonplace in recent years: molecular HIV surveillance (MHS), or cluster detection and response.

If you are based in the US, you can sign the letter here.

9th Symposium on HIV, Law and Human Rights 

Our HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE partner, the HIV Legal Network is organising the 9th symposium on HIV, Law, and Human Rights, scheduled for Thursday, June 17, 2021. 

The theme is "Hitting the Mark: Ending the HIV pandemic by realizing rights for people who use drugs".

HIV Legal Network believes instead of prohibition and punishment, drug policy must be grounded in sound public health evidence, and in the principle of the universality of human rights — rights to which all people are equally entitled, including people who use drugs.

More details and registration can be found here.
Removing Legal and Structural Barriers to Ending AIDS by 2030: Lessons from the Global Commission on HIV and the Law

Nothing Without Us: Civil Society Solutions to the COVID-19 Pandemic 

This webinar brings together the experience of fierce HIV and COVID-19 advocates from grassroots organisations around the globe with shared and vital goals of learning from one another, defining best practices, valuing the role of communities, and demanding accountability in the fight for equity in the global COVID-19 response. 
This webinar is designed for clinical decision makers and community members who are actively involved in HIV and COVID-19 care, research, and advocacy.

The COVID Advocates Advisory Board is a group of civil society organisations and global health advocates committed to bringing communities together and, by gleaning insight from HIV activism, setting the path toward resolving the inequities that COVID-19 has exacerbated.

Registration closes on Tuesday, June 22, 2021, 6:00 AM (PT). Individual registration is required, even if you are viewing as a group, in order to receive CME credit or a certificate of participation.

Date and Time: Jun 22, 2021 @ 07:00 AM Pacific Time


HIV criminalization — UNAIDS Human rights fact sheet series 2021

"The 2021-2026 Global AIDS Strategy has bold and critical new targets on realizing human rights, reducing stigma, discrimination and violence and removing harmful punitive laws as a pathway to ending inequalities and ultimately ending AIDS.

To aid in the scale up of interventions to remove these societal barriers, UNAIDS has produced a series of fact sheets on human rights in various areas, highlighting the critical need to scale up action on rights. They are a series of short, easy to digest and accessible documents outlining the latest epidemiology, the evidence of the impact of human rights interventions, the latest targets, and international guidelines, recommendations and human rights obligations relating to each topic".

Fact sheets released in June 2021: 
HIV criminalization
HIV and people who use drugs
HIV and gay men and who have sex with other men
HIV and transgender and other gender-diverse people
HIV and sex work
HIV and people in prisons and other closed settings and 
HIV and stigma and discrimination.

Another four will be released later in the year.

“Everyone said no” Biometrics, HIV and Human Rights, A Kenya Case Study

This report,  published by KELIN and the Kenya Key Populations Consortium, provides an overview to the HIV epidemic in Kenya, an analysis of the legal and human rights issues in use of biometrics in HIV research, and documentation of the case study and advocacy in Kenya. As one key populations’ advocate said, the advocates were and remained strongly unified in their opposition to use of biometrics, which they saw as both high-risk and intrusive: “Everyone just said no, and we kept saying no.” They also successfully involved global health donors and UN agencies to support their engagement. The report makes recommendations to global health donors, Kenyan authorities, and civil society groups facing similar debates in other countries.

Law, Criminalisation and HIV in the World: Have countries that criminalise achieved more or less successful AIDS pandemic response?

How does the use of criminal law affect disease-fighting efforts, particularly in a pandemic? This longstanding question for governments around the world is felt acutely in the context of the COVID-19 and HIV pandemics. Many countries have laws and policies that criminalise behaviours, making same-sex relationships, illicit drug use, and sex work illegal. Meanwhile, some countries have enshrined gender- and rightsprotective institutions in law.

Under the global AIDS strategy of the last five years, national AIDS response efforts in countries have focused on reaching people living with HIV with testing and antiretroviral treatment to suppress the HIV virus, preventing mortality and HIV transmission. At the end of this 5-year push, this article by Matthew M. Kavanagh et al. provides an ecological analysis of whether those countries with criminalising legal environments achieved more or less success. 

HIV Criminalization in Georgia: Length of Incarceration and Fiscal Implications

Using data from the Georgia Department of Corrections, this update from the Williams Institute to their 2018 report analyses enforcement of HIV-related crimes in Georgia between 1999 and 2020. It focuses on prison incarcerations and the total cost of incarceration to the state for HIV-related offenses.

The new analysis reveals that even more people have been impacted by Georgia’s HIV crimes than previously known, that enforcement of these laws has not decreased in recent years, and that the cost to Georgia of incarceration alone for these laws adds up to over $9 million in the last two decades. Georgia incurs additional costs related to the enforcement of HIV crimes—including for policing, prosecution, parole, and probation—that are not included in this cost estimate.


Advancing Human Rights of Inadequately Served Populations

In 2019, 50 RCF-funded networks contributed to improving human rights policies and ensuring that good laws are enforced and harmful laws are amended, from repealing or preventing HIV criminalisation laws to strengthening gender identity laws to protect transgender people.

Achieving change for human rights requires time and multiple strategies. This is why RCF provides long-term support to its grantees and prioritises flexible core funding. RCF-funded networks often pursue a range of approaches which frequently build on each other, from generating evidence and mapping strategies to developing and launching advocacy campaigns; engaging formally with decision-making bodies and processes; and improving laws, policies, service access or quality, and availability of funding.



A list of global and national resources, tracking laws and policies implemented in response to the pandemic as well as data analyses, statements and recommendations is available at: 


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