Global: UN Global Commission on HIV and the Law launched, US refuses entry to TAG member

Yesterday, UNDP and UNAIDS launched the new Global Commission on HIV and the Law, previously mentioned here.

The Commission’s aim is to increase understanding of the impact of the legal environment on national HIV responses. Its aim is to focus on how laws and law enforcement can support, rather than block, effective HIV responses.

Although most reports have simply reworked parts of the UNDP or UNAIDS press releases, there is a lot more detail available from the UNDP website, including links to the five page information note and detailed biographies of the Commissioners and members of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG).

The Global Commission on HIV and the Law brings together world-renowned public leaders from many walks of life and regions. Experts on law, public health, human rights, and HIV will support the Commissions’ work. Commissioners will gather and share evidence about the extent of the impact of law and law enforcement on the lives of people living with HIV and those most vulnerable to HIV. They will make recommendations on how the law can better support universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. Regional hearings, a key innovation, will provide a space in which those most directly affected by HIV-related laws can share their experiences with policy makers. This direct interaction is critical. It has long been recognized that the law is a critical part of any HIV response, whether it be formal or traditional law, law enforcement or access to justice. All of these can help determine whether people living with or affected by HIV can access services, protect themselves from HIV, and live fulfilling lives grounded in human dignity.

The list of Commissioners is extremely impressive and includes two former presidents – Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil and Festus Gontebanye Mogae, former President of Botswana – and several currently elected politicans – US Congresswoman Barbara Lee, New Zealand Representative Charles Chauvel and Hon. Dame Carol Kidu, MP in Papua New Guinea. It also includes the two most respected judges in the field of HIV and the law – Australia’s Hon. Michael Kirby and South Africa’s Justice Edwin Cameron.

I’m also proud to note that many members of the TAG are friends and colleagues including Aziza Ahmed, Scott Burris, Mandeep Dhaliwal, Richard Elliott, Kevin Moody, Susan Timberlake, and Matthew Weait.

Last week (17-18 June), the TAG held its first meeting at the UNDP building in New York. I hear it was amazingly interesting and productive. However, one member of the TAG, Cheryl Overs, was missing. This tireless and passionate advocate on behalf of sex workers, who is currently Senior Research Fellow in the Michael Kirby Centre for Public Health and Human Rights at Monash University, was apparently denied entry by US immigration because she deemed a security risk due to her association with sex work. Oh, the irony!

The Commission’s findings and recommendations will be announced in December 2011, in time for AIDS 2012 due to be held in Washington DC.