September 14 is Sex Worker Pride!

HJN stands in solidarity with sex workers and asks everyone to support the upcoming Sex Worker Pride Day (September 14) that aims to increase the visibility of sex workers and their activism.

Sex Worker Pride is an opportunity to celebrate and share stories of sex workers’ self-determination and the achievements of the sex worker rights movement, according to the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) which began the day in 2019. NSWP upholds the voice of sex workers globally and connects regional networks advocating for the rights of female, male, and transgender sex workers.

NSWP states that Sex Worker Pride “extends to all marginalised by criminalisation, discrimination, and stigma across the sex worker movement and celebrates the diversity within our community during International Sex Worker Pride.”

Edwin J Bernard, HJN’s Executive Director says: “We stand in solidarity with all sex workers. Sex work is work. We oppose all forms of criminalisation and other legal oppression of sex work, including sex workers, clients, third parties, families, partners, and friends.”

Sex Worker Pride is one of four international sex worker rights days observed every year: 3rd March (International Sex Workers Rights Day), 2nd June (International Sex Workers Day), and 17th December (International Day to end violence against sex workers)

To show solidarity, please join the conversation and organising on social media using the hashtag #SexWorkerPride.

Uganda to re-consider problematic HIV law provisions

After five years of waiting, the Constitutional Court of Uganda has finally begun to hear a landmark case challenging the overly broad and draconian provisions of the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 2014.

Constitutional Court Judge Christopher Izama Madrama has instructed the Attorney General of the Government of Uganda to submit a formal reply to the HIV Constitutional Petition No. 4 of 2016, after it came up for mention in the Court on August 12th, 2021.

The petition, by a coalition of HIV, human rights, and LGBTQ organisations, seeks for the removal of three problematic clauses in the HIV Prevention and Control Act which was passed on May 13, 2014 by the Ugandan Parliament.

The Act allows for stringent punishments for the vague ‘crimes’ of attempted and intentional HIV transmission. The other problematic provisions in the Act are mandatory HIV testing for pregnant women and their partners and allowing medical providers to disclose a patient’s HIV status to others without consent.

The Act’s problematic provisions have been known to have been used in a broad range of circumstances, including the arrest, conviction, and acquittal of a nurse wrongfully convicted of injecting a baby with HIV-infected blood and the charging of two different women for exposing an infant to HIV via breastfeeding.

This is the one of three pieces of good news from Uganda this week.

Earlier this year, HJN joined other civil society and human rights organisations in condemning the passage of Uganda’s Sexual Offences Bill which would have negatively impacted sex workers, the LGBTQ communities, and people living with HIV.

The Bill defined rape as ‘misrepresentation’, running the very real risk of being interpreted by the criminal legal system as HIV status non-disclosure. If the accused was found to be living with HIV, this would have resulted in the death penalty.

However, last week it was reported that President Museveni declined to sign the Bill into law, saying many provisions are redundant and already provided for in other laws.

In addition, last week Uganda’s Constitutional Court scrapped a controversial anti-pornography law whose provisions included a ban on women wearing miniskirts in public saying the law was “inconsistent with or in contravention of the constitution of the Republic of Uganda.”

Learn how to challenge HIV criminalisation in Africa

Activists and advocates in East and Southern Africa are encouraged to register and participate in a free moderated online course on HIV criminalisation.

If you work with civil society organisations based in Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, then this course is for you.

Organised by HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE partner, the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA), the aim of the online course is to increase awareness of the harmful impacts of policies that criminalise people living with HIV and learn how to strengthen advocacy in this area.

The course will start on 13 September 2021 and end on 8 October 2021.

You can apply for the course here.

All applications must be received by no later than the close of business on 30 August 2021.

Successful applicants will be notified by 2 September 2021.

For any questions, please write to Bruce Tushabe at bruce[at]arasa[dot]info and copy communications[at]arasa[dot]info.

To learn more about HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE, the global movement to end HIV criminalisation, please visit https://www.hivjusticeworldwide.org/en/

Illinois fully repeals its HIV criminalisation law

This week, the Governor of the US state of Illinois signed a bill that fully repeals its HIV criminalisation law, becoming only the second US state ever to do so.

Illinois’ HIV-specific criminal law was first enacted in 1989, and then “modernized” in 2012. An in-depth investigational analysis examining the history of the law and how it has been applied, published in June by Injustice Watch and the Chicago Reader, found that the law had been used at least 80 times since 1989.

Even after the law was amended in 2012 to include “intent to transmit” as an element of the ‘crime’, it appears to have been (ab)used in 22 criminal cases over the past nine years.

That’s why the Illinois HIV Action Alliance was formed in 2019 with the lofty goal of completely repealing the law. This coalition of more than 25 state and national organisations  – including our HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE partners, Positive Women’s Network-USA and the Sero Project – undertook a huge amount of awareness, education, and outreach.

Read this excellent article published by The Body in June to learn exactly what they did, and how.

Key to their surprisingly rapid success were two political champions, State Senator Robert Peters, and State Representative Carol Ammons.

“Illinois’ HIV criminalisation law was rooted in fear and racial biases,” Senator Peters noted in an Illinois HIV Action Alliance press release. “It was used to abuse people in our state, targeting people living with HIV and disproportionately affecting LGBTQ+ people, women, and Black and Brown communities.”

“Not a single study throughout the country shows HIV criminalisation has reduced HIV transmission in any jurisdiction where it exists,” added Representative Ammons. “It was far past time to get rid of this harmful law, and we thank Governor Pritzker for repealing it once and for all.”

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Facebook page live-streamed the bill signing event, held at the LGBTQ Center on Halsted in Chicago’s ‘Boystown’ on Wednesday. The repeal of the HIV criminalisation law was part of a package of legislation that also included measures to make it easier for couples to receive marriage certificates with gender-neutral language, and to get new certificates if one or both legally change their names subsequent to the initial document being issued.

At the signing, Governor Pritzker called HIV criminalisation laws archaic: “They don’t decrease infection rates, but they do increase stigma,” he said. “It’s high time we treat HIV as we do other treatable transmissible diseases.”

The law’s repeal was effective immediately on signing, but the advocacy doesn’t stop there.

First, the bill does not expunge the records of those who’ve already been prosecuted under the original or updated law.

And second, the first US state to repeal its HIV criminalisation law was Texas, in 1994. However, since then, there have been many unjust prosecutions under general laws, including that of a homeless man whose saliva was considered to be a ‘deadly weapon’ when he spit on a policeman who was arrested him for vagrancy, resulting in a 35 year prison sentence.

Consequently, advocacy is still required to ensure that police and prosecutors implement Watch a special 4-minute 30-second edit, produced by HJN, of the bill signing ceremony that features Timothy Jackson of AIDS Foundation Chicago, who led the Illinois HIV Action Alliance, along with Senator Peters, Representative Ammons, and Governor Pritzker.

WATCH HIV Justice Live! (Ep 4): How to advocate for prosecutorial guidance for HIV-related cases

The fourth episode of HIV Justice Network’s web show, HIV Justice Live! that streamed live on July 14 is now available to watch on YouTube.  The episode, which our colleagues at the HIV Legal Network called a master class in advocacy” discussed the newly launched UNDP’s Guidance for Prosecutors on HIV-related criminal cases and provided insights into how to work with prosecutorial authorities so that they have a clear understanding of how to – and more importantly how not to – use HIV criminalisation laws.

Guidance like this is a good example of a ‘harm reduction’ approach if you can’t change or repeal HIV criminalisation laws, and adopting such guidance can result in fewer miscarriages of justice, as well as improve the criminal legal system’s understand of, and approach to, people living with HIV.  Once implemented it’s also a good way of holding prosecutors to account.

The Guidance was developed for UNDP by our HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE colleagues, Richard Elliott and Cécile Kazatchkine of the HIV Legal Network. The process, which took two years, involved multiple consultations. Several other colleagues, including HJN’s Executive Director Edwin J Bernard, HJN Supervisory Board member Lisa Power, and HJN Global Advisory Panel member Edwin Cameron were part of the Project Advisory Committee.

The episode, hosted by Edwin J Bernard and featuring UNDP’s Kene Esom alongside Lisa Power and Richard Elliott, also included a special edit of HJN’s documentary, Doing HIV Justice, which demystifies the process of how civil society worked with the Crown Prosecution Service of England and Wales to create the world’s first policy and guidance for prosecuting the reckless or intentional transmission of sexual infection.

The full-length, 30-minute version of this documentary is now available as part of a YouTube playlist that also features two other educational and informative videos: an introduction by the CPS’s Arwel Jones with some useful tips about how to engage with prosecutors, and a workshop that took place after the world premiere screening in Berlin, featuring Lisa Power and Catherine Murphy (who helped advocate for the implementation of guidance in England & Wales, and Scotland, respectively) as well as former UNAIDS Senior Human Rights and Law Adviser, Susan Timberlake.

HJN proudly joins the Support.Don’t Punish campaign

The HIV Justice Network is a proud supporter of the Support. Don’t Punish campaign now in its ninth year. Tomorrow, Saturday 26 June, is the campaign’s yearly high point, the Global Day of Action.

According to the campaign’s website, Support.Don’t Punish is a global grassroots-centred initiative in support of harm reduction and drug policies that prioritise public health and human rights. The campaign seeks to put harm reduction on the political agenda by strengthening the mobilisation capacity of communities targeted by the “war on drugs” and their allies, opening dialogue with policy makers, and raising awareness among the media and the public.

The theme for this year’s Global Day of Action is “Undoing the ‘war’, building the future that our communities have always deserved”. The date, 26th June is symbolic as it is used by most governments to commemorate the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking to highlight their so-called ‘achievements’ in “the war on drugs.”

The Support. Don’t Punish campaign aligns with the following key messages:

  • The drug control system is broken and in need of reform.
  • People who use drugs should no longer be criminalised.
  • People involved in the drug trade should not face harsh or disproportionate punishments, where retained.
  • The death penalty should never be imposed for drug offences.
  • Drug policy should focus on health, well-being, and harm reduction.
  • Drug policy budgets need rebalancing to ensure health and harm reduction-based responses are adequately financed.

Last year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Global Day of Action saw 288 events in 239 participating cities in 90 countries. The activities organised were incredibly varied and involved over 150 community representatives. In twelve of the regions, networks of people who use drugs were joined by initiatives from convergent movements (including people living with HIV, sex workers, and service providers), strengthening a solidarity block against criminalisation.

This year, we urge you to join the Support.Don’t Punish Global Day of Action. Visit their homepage to check out where activities are taking place near you, and use these resources to amplify the campaign’s messages on social media, including on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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.

HIV criminalisation survivor Kerry Thomas, currently incarcerated in Idaho, speaking from prison at HINAC4. Although Kerry has been able to present by phone at previous international events, this is the first time anyone has been able to both see and hear Kerry.

Despite back and forth among the countries, with opposition from Russia, Belarus, Nicaragua, and the 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.

A crucial new advocacy tool to challenge HIV criminalisation

A crucial new advocacy tool to challenge HIV criminalisation

This week UNDP published a crucial new tool to support our advocacy efforts in challenging HIV criminalisation.

Guidance for prosecutors on HIV-related criminal cases presents ten key principles to help prosecutors understand the complex issues involved in a prosecution involving an allegation of HIV non-disclosure, potential or perceived exposure, or transmission.  It also includes key recommendations from the Global Commission, UNAIDS’ 2013 guidance for Ending overly-broad criminalisation of HIV non-disclosure, exposure, and transmission: Critical scientific, medical, and legal considerations, and the 2018 Expert Consensus Statement on the Science of HIV in the Context of Criminal Law.

These principles are:

  1. Prosecutions should be informed at all stages by the most reliable evidence
  2. Ensure that rights of complainant, defendant, and witnesses are respected throughout
  3. Pursue prosecutions in only limited circumstances, as HIV most effectively addressed as a public health matter
  4. Establish a sufficient evidentiary basis for a prosecution
  5. Consider whether prosecution in a given case is in the public interest
  6. Generally consent to pre-trial release, absent exceptional circumstances
  7. Avoid arguments that could be inflammatory, prejudicial, or contribute to public misinformation about HIV
  8. Ensure correct interpretation of science and its limitations if seeking to prove actual HIV transmission
  9. Ensure no discrimination in sentencing
  10. Ensure sentencing is not disproportionate

Although the Guidance is aimed specifically at prosecutors, it will be useful for lawmakers, judges, and defence lawyers

So far, very few jurisdictions have produced such guidelines. Ensuring that advocates understand why these Guidelines are an important harm reduction tool in our work towards ending HIV criminalisation, and how to advocate for them, will be a major focus of our work moving forward.


Video toolkit: How to advocate for prosecutorial guidelines. This workshop held in Berlin in September 2012, discussed the challenges associated with the creation of such guidelines, providing important insights from prosecutors and civil society alike, and included the European premiere of HJN’s documentary ‘Doing HIV Justice: Clarifying criminal law and policy through prosecutorial guidance’.


The Guidance was developed for UNDP by our HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE colleagues, Richard Elliott and Cécile Kazatchkine of the HIV Legal Network. The process, which took two years, involved multiple consultations. Several other colleagues, including HJN’s Executive Director Edwin J Bernard, HJN Supervisory Board member Lisa Power, and HJN Global Advisory Panel member Edwin Cameron were part of the Project Advisory Committee.

At the launch of the Guidelines earlier this week, UNDP committed to continuing to support civil society in working with law and policymakers, and the criminal legal system, towards ending HIV criminalisation as part of its ongoing follow-up work on behalf of the Global Commission on HIV and Law, which published its main report in 2012 as well as a 2018 supplement. An evaluation of the Global Commission, published this month, highlights the many ways the Global Commission has beneficially impacted HIV-related laws and policies, including galvanising the movement for HIV Justice.

HJN commemorates the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia!

Today, May 17, is celebrated globally as the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT).

According to the May 17 website, the day “represents a major global annual landmark to draw the attention of decision-makers, the media, the public, corporations, opinion leaders, local authorities, etc. to the alarming situation faced by people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics.”

This is a day to not only say no to violence and discrimination against LGBT+ persons but also a rallying cry to ensure equality, dignity, and full respect for human rights of all sexual and gender minorities, including all LGBT+ living with HIV.

The day was created in 2004 to draw attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBT+ people and all other people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics.  The date of May 17 was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

The theme for this year is “Together: Resisting, Supporting and Healing”

At HJN, we note that HIV still disproportionately affects many in the LGBT+ community. In many regions of the world, punitive laws and practices against LGBT+ individuals continue to block effective responses to HIV. Evidence and experience have shown that punitive laws and practices drive sexual minorities away from HIV services.

Some of these punitive practices include criminalisation of same-sex relationships, ‘effeminate’ behavior, cross-dressing, sodomy, and ‘gender impersonation.’

To learn more, this Wednesday, the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Groups on HIV & AIDS; Global LGBT+ Rights; and STOPAIDS will host a virtual parliamentary event: HIV and the criminalisation of LGBT+ communities to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.

The event will bring together leading HIV and LGBT+ community representatives from around the world. Through a panel discussion and Q&A, they’ll be exploring the barriers that LGBT+ communities face from realising their right to health and how parliamentarians and the UK Government can advance the decriminalisation of LGBT+ and HIV.

Chaired by Rt Hon David Mundell MP, panelists include:

  • Joel Simpson – Managing Director, Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD Guyana)
  • Simran Shaikh, Co-Founder of Rajmala Welfare Society and Director Transgender Health at John Hopkins University School of medicine
  • Jesse Sperling, Deputy Director, Kaleidoscope Trust
  • He-Jin Kim, Regional Key Populations Programme Officer, AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA)
  • Saoirse Fitzpatrick, Advocacy Manager, STOPAIDS

To RSVP, please email Anna Robinson at anna.robinson@parliament.uk

Uganda’s new Sexual Offences law a setback for HIV justice and human rights

The HIV Justice Network (HJN) joins other civil society and human rights organisations in condemning the passage of the Sexual Offences Bill in Uganda earlier this week.

The move by Ugandan Parliamentarians to pass the Sexual Offences Bill is a major concern for those working to end HIV and intersectional criminalisation. Considering that Uganda already passed the HIV Prevention and Control Act in 2014, which criminalises HIV transmission, attempted transmission, and behaviour that might result in transmission by those who know their HIV status, this new law goes further.

One of the definitions of rape in the Bill is ‘misrepresentation’, which runs the very real risk of being interpreted by the criminal legal system as HIV status non-disclosure, and if the accused is found to be living with HIV, this results in the death penalty.

The Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) stated: “Singling out HIV and AIDS as a factor for aggravated penalty for rape, discriminates against people living with HIV. The provision places the burden on people living with HIV which do not fall to those living with other infectious illnesses. Using HIV and AIDS as a factor for aggravated offence treats people with HIV as vectors of disease, rather than as people with an interest in their own health and rights. This provision undermines the efforts to eliminate the stigma that surrounds people living with HIV and AIDS. … [This] law falls most heavily on those who ‘took the trouble’ to get tested and may even by engaging in safe sex options. This may discourage those who do not know their status from having an HIV test.”

The Bill, which attempted to fill a gap in current legislation around issues of sexual assault and rape, goes much, much further by also criminalising same-sex acts and sex work.

“It is clear from the Bill that some of the clauses directly reinforce sections of the Penal Code Act Cap 120 of Uganda that criminalise homosexuality and sex work. This is, therefore, a direct threat of chapter 4 of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda that promotes human rights of all Ugandans,” said Richard Lusimbo, the National Coordinator of the Uganda Key Populations Consortium.

His sentiments are echoed by Women with a Mission and Triumph Uganda, who have analysed the Bill’s implication to the LGBTQ+ and sex workers community, and who have urged for a re-review and amendments to the problematic clauses, which were passed suspiciously.

“We urge the President of Uganda to task parliament to re-review provisions of the Bill that will fuel human rights violations, impede, and undermine the registered gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS. We urge all stakeholders in the health sector to voice the negative implications of the law against HIV/AIDS, STIs, and justice on the key priority and marginalized communities and civil society organizations in Uganda.

With the passage of the legislation, the President is expected to assent the Bill into law within fourteen working days. The legislation was first tabled by Hon Monica Amoding, MP for Kumi Municipality on April 14, 2016, and was described as consolidating and amending the law to sexual offences from various enactments. At the third reading of the bill, the MPs included the various contentious clauses and amendments that are now being challenged.