The HIV Justice Network (HJN) is a community-led non-governmental organisation building a co-ordinated, effective global response to HIV criminalisation.
HJN was formed in 2012 due to growing concern about punitive approaches to HIV prevention, and in particular, the inappropriate use of criminal law. We have grown in size, capacity and impact in the intervening decade.
HJN leads and supports the global movement against HIV criminalisation through several mutually reinforcing activities. We build the evidence base against the unjust criminalisation of people living with HIV by gathering relevant data and information from around the world; raise awareness of the harms of HIV criminalisation in scientific, medical, policy, advocacy, media and donor communities; galvanise and nurture the global movement against HIV criminalisation, providing an advocacy hub to bring individuals and national, regional and global networks and organisations together to catalyse change; and co-ordinate the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE (HJWW) coalition which campaigns to end HIV criminalisation globally.
HJN is also the lead grantee for the HIV Justice Global Consortium, the mechanism through which HJN – and most HJWW activities – are funded thanks to the Robert Carr Fund for civil society networks.
HJN’s fiscal host is the HIV Justice Foundation, an independent, non-profit legal entity registered in the Netherlands in 2017 (as Stichting HIV Justice) specifically for this purpose.
Our team operates remotely and is located in countries across Europe, Africa and the Americas.
We benefit from the strategic input of two governance mechanisms: a Supervisory Board and our Global Advisory Panel, an international expert group comprising individuals working on HIV and intersectional criminalisation from all regions of the world.
The idea behind the HIV Justice Network was first conceived when NAM (HJN’s former fiscal host) partnered with the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (HIV Legal Network) on a pre-conference on HIV criminalisation in Vienna prior to AIDS 2010. It was here that the need for a global network of advocates working to end HIV criminalisation was conceptualised by Edwin J Bernard, who eventually became HJN’s first Global Co-ordinator, and subsequently its Executive Director.
In 2012, Edwin co-ordinated the Oslo Declaration on HIV Criminalisation. More than 1700 individuals and organisations from 120 countries have since supported the Declaration, which became HJN’s founding document.
Following seed funding from the Monument Trust, HJN officially launched in November 2012, with a website that remains a unique asset to advocacy on this issue. It was the first international resource to effectively centralise information not only about HIV criminalisation laws, policies and law enforcement, but also the growing global movement against HIV criminalisation.
HJN’s strength (and its growth in influence) came from collaborating with larger organisations that shared similar goals, values and principles. It has also made innovative use of video and social media to achieve a significant increase in awareness of the issue of HIV criminalisation despite only having limited resources.
In early 2015, HJN approached a number of partners to create the first HIV Justice Global Consortium – comprising the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA, financial lead); HJN (technical lead); HIV Legal Network, GNP+, the Sero Project (Sero) and Positive Women’s Network-USA – which was successful in its application for three-year funding from the Robert Carr Fund for civil society networks.
The six organisations began a joint workplan in January 2016, launching HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE (HJWW) in March 2016. HJWW established a Steering Committee (SC) comprising the six Consortium partners plus the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW).
In July 2017, the HIV Justice Foundation was established as an independent, non-profit legal entity, registered in the Netherlands. This allowed HJN to scale-up its capacity to become both the financial and technical lead for the second iteration of the HIV Justice Global Consortium. This Consortium, comprising the six previous partners plus the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), was successful in its application for a further three-year funding cycle (2019-2021) from the Robert Carr Fund for civil society networks.
HJN is currently the lead granteee of the third iteration of the RCF-funded HIV Justice Global Consortium (2022-24), comprising ARASA, Eurasian Women’s Network on AIDS (EWNA), GNP+, HJN, HIV Legal Network, Sero, and SALC.
In June 2021, HJN published our 2022-26 Strategic Plan. It was developed through a two-stage process: a strategic review between August and November 2020, followed by a strategic planning process between January and April 2021. The process was participatory and involved a range of internal and external stakeholders that included the team, HJN’s Supervisory Board and Global Advisory Panel, and HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE partners.
People living with HIV remain firmly at the heart of this strategy. All of our work is designed to to contribute towards an environment in which people living with HIV feel safe, empowered and able to enjoy their human rights.
We also recognise that HIV criminalisation can disproportionately impact people who are criminalised in other ways (e.g., sex work, drug use, irregular migrant, poverty) and those who are otherwise targeted by discriminatory legal systems and socioeconomic policies. We strive to unmask privilege and marginalisation, and proactively address intersectional stigma, discrimination and criminalisation.
Mindful of the many challenges inherent in removing discriminatory laws, policies and practices 2022-26 Strategic Plan identifies on five specific areas of focus. These focus areas align with the Global AIDS Strategy 2021-2026 and reflect the 2021 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS.
Our Strategic Plan area of focus are:
- legal reform so that there are fewer unjust HIV-related criminal laws and limited application of other criminal laws to people living with HIV;
- putting ‘justice’ back into the criminal legal system, ensuring that key stakeholders at the front end of the criminal legal system are more aware of standards and norms around HIV and human rights, science and public health, and treat people living with HIV with dignity;
- changing the media narrative so that stigma and intersecting discrimination that is perpetuated through sensational and inaccurate reporting is challenged and reframed;
- rights-based public health policies and practices, and greater recognition and awareness that HIV and other communicable diseases such as hepatitis, tuberculosis and COVID-19, as well as future pandemics, are public health issues, not criminal issues; and
- growing the HIV Justice movement by collectively building solidarity across movements and agency for those who are marginalised and under-served.
Based on our strengths and expertise, HJN has have developed four strategic approaches to achieve these goals, within an overall framework of intersectional analysis:
- building the evidence base;
- producing and collating advocacy tools and resources;
- convening, connecting and supporting; and
- representation and awareness-raising.
The success of this Strategic Plan depends on people living with HIV and our allies building power together. We can achieve far more by working in partnership and so we will continue to rely on the support of our members, partners and funders.