Advocates in Nigeria have successfullly argued to remove a clause criminalising the ‘willful or deliberate spead of HIV’ from the latest draft of the long-awaited HIV and AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act.
Last week, the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) held a two-day stakeholders forum on the much delayed national anti-discrimination law. The meeting aimed to re-energize the passing of the bill into law, and to ensure that it incorporated international human rights conventions and standards as they relate to people living with HIV.
The national law also aims to harmonise state anti-discrimination laws. Currently, three states – Lagos, Enugu and Cross River State – include HIV criminalisation statutes in their their laws.
The vaguely-worded proposed HIV criminalisation statute of the draft national anti-discrimination bill read as follows:
Section 31 Willfull or Deliberate Spread of HIV Virus
Any person, having known his/her seropositive status, deliberately transmits the HIV directly or indirectly shall be guilty of an offence and, upon conviction be sentenced up to twelve months imprisonment or fine of up to N500,000 or both.
At the meeting, many stakeholders proposed to keep the HIV criminalisation statute in the bill, but civil society organisations, led by the Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), successfully advocated against the statute.
Instead, the provisions of the anti-discrimination bill were expanded from covering workplace discrimination to be broadly applicable at the workplace, school, correctional institutions, religious institutions, and in society at large.
The draft harmonized bill as proposed with input from NEPWHAN and other civil society organisations is below. Note the absence of Section 31. Although this is unlikely to be the final wording of the law, it certaily shows how successful advocacy can remove problematic provisions in otherwise supportive and enabling HIV-related laws.