HJN looks to the future with our new Strategic Plan (2022-2026)

Today, the HIV Justice Network looks to the future with the publication of our new Strategic Plan, covering the years 2022-2026.

People living with HIV remain firmly at the heart of this strategy, and all our work aims to contribute towards an environment in which they can feel safe, more empowered, and able to enjoy their human rights.

However, we also recognise that HIV criminalisation can disproportionately impact people who are either additionally criminalised, or who are otherwise mistreated by discriminatory legal systems – or both and we seek to better understand and proactively address intersectional stigma, discrimination, and criminalisation.

Mindful of the many challenges ahead in removing discriminatory laws, policies, and practices that unjustly regulate, control, or criminalise people living with HIV, in all of our diversities, this Strategic Plan focuses on five specific areas that we, as an organisation, seek to address in the next five years. These also align well with the Global AIDS Strategy 2021-2026 and reflect the 2021 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS.

We also believe there is significant learning from our work on HIV criminalisation that can be leveraged to support the COVID-19 response and recovery, as well as future pandemic preparedness.

  • We want legal reform so that there are fewer unjust HIV-related criminal laws and limited application of other criminal laws to people living with HIV.
  • We want to put the ‘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.
  • We want to change the media narrative so that the stigma and intersecting discrimination that is created by HIV criminalisation and perpetuated through harmful narratives in the media is challenged and reframed.
  • We want rights-based public health policies and practices, and seek to ensure 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 we want to grow the HIV Justice Movement, by collectively building community solidarity across movements and individual power and agency for all those who are marginalised and under-served.

Based on our strengths and expertise, we 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.

Edwin Bernard, HJN’s Executive Director, hopes the new strategy will strengthen existing partnerships and create new ones. “The success of this Strategic Plan will only be possible when people living with HIV and our allies build power together. We understand that we can achieve far more by working in partnership with others, and so we will continue to rely on the support of our members, as well as current and future partners and funders.”

Kevin Moody, who serves as the Chair of the Supervisory Board of HJN, said the new strategy “… acknowledges that the quality of life of people living with HIV is dependent on their ability to live free of discrimination and criminalisation.”

“Our new strategy further recognises that people living with HIV experience oppression based on multiple factors and, therefore, aims to build strategic partnerships to reduce intersectional aspects of discriminatory laws, policies, and practices around the world,” he added.

The Strategic Plan was developed through a two-stage process. A detailed Strategic Review took place between August and November 2020, followed by a strategic planning process between January and April 2021. This process was participatory and inclusive and involved a range of internal and external stakeholders.

We would like to thank all the individuals and organisations that contributed to the development of this Strategic Plan, as well as the Robert Carr Fund for funding this process, and we look forward to working with all of you in its delivery.

View our Strategic Plan 2022-2026

HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Steering Committee Statement: 2021 Political Declaration

KEEP THE PRESSURE ON TO ENSURE COMMUNITY-LED RESPONSES, REMOVAL OF PUNITIVE LAWS, AND EXPANDED INVESTMENTS IN SOCIETAL ENABLERS REMAIN SPECIFIC COMMITMENTS IN THE 2021 POLITICAL DECLARATION

As a global coalition campaigning to abolish criminal laws and similar policies and practices that regulate, control and punish people living with HIV in all of their diversities, because of their HIV status, we are deeply concerned about ongoing negotiations at the United Nations General Assembly on the wording of the 2021 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS.

The Political Declaration is crucial to translating into strong political commitments the approach of the Global AIDS Strategy 2021-2026 to end inequalities and close the gaps that are preventing progress towards ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

Areas of particular concern include ensuring that the Declaration:

  • Names all key populations, as well as a commitment to address the specific structural barriers that key populations face.
  • Commits to the removal of punitive laws, policies, and practices against people living with and impacted by HIV in all of their diversities; such a commitment needs to go beyond the absence of discrimination.
  • Endorses the 10-10-10 targets on societal enablers related to punitive laws, policies, and practices as well as gender-based inequalities and gender-based violence, stigma, and discrimination.
  • Supports community leadership in line with the 30-60-80 targets on community-led testing and treatment, societal enablers, and prevention programmes.
  • Commits to increase annual HIV investments in low- and middle-income countries to US$29 billion and expand investments in societal enablers to US$3.1 billion by 2025.
  • Commits to establish a mechanism to regularly track and review progress across all targets, including financing, and to course-correct promptly if gaps emerge.

Now more than ever, evidence-based responses and renewed political will are called for – especially in face of the additional burdens imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. If the Declaration does not specifically include all of these, then the 2021 Political Declaration will remain no more than words on paper.

The Declaration needs to build upon previous commitments towards enabling legal and policy environments for all people living with and affected by HIV. We urge all involved in this process to ensure that the Declaration does not use watered-down language and, instead, commits to action to do what we already know are the essential and necessary elements to achieve progress.

The evidence base for removing punitive laws and policies based on HIV status is comprehensive and clear. Numerous studies and meta-analyses on the impact of punitive laws on HIV responses, as included in our HIV Justice Toolkit, provide evidence that bolsters the efforts of advocates and public health experts to remove such counterproductive laws.

In particular, the publication of an Expert Consensus Statement on the science of HIV in the context of criminal law in 2018 has strengthened litigants’ and advocates’ arguments that HIV criminalisation is not grounded in science. In addition, the 2018 release of a supplement to the previous report of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law underscores the consensus of public health experts that punitive laws undermine HIV responses, cause needless suffering, and should be removed.

The 2021 High-Level meeting on HIV/AIDS – and the Political Declaration that results from it – is a crucial opportunity to create sustained momentum for the policies, programmes, and funding that are needed to end HIV as a global health threat by 2030.

Consequently, we also endorse, and want to highlight, the Civil Society Declaration for the United Nations General Assembly 2021 High-Level Meeting (HLM) on HIV/AIDS “End inequalities. End AIDS. Act now!” developed by the Multi-Stakeholder Task Force for the 2021 HLM, supported by its advisory group, and signed by over 700 organisations, networks and institutions globally.

HIV Justice Network’s Supervisory Board gains new members and a new Chair

The HIV Justice Network (HJN) is delighted to announce a number of significant changes to its Supervisory Board.

Following a joint meeting of the Supervisory and Management Boards earlier this month, Kevin Moody was appointed as the new Chair of the Supervisory Board, taking over from Lisa Power who stepped down after almost four years as the “start-up” Chair.

“Like all organisations that want to survive it’s vital that HJN grows and changes to meet an ever-changing world, the changing faces of HIV and the stigma that leads to criminalisation,” said Ms Power. “I’m very confident in handing over to Kevin Moody (as Chair) that this will continue. I think the greatest challenge in the next decade is to engage and enthuse the newer generations of people with HIV and allies to continue the fight; to challenge inappropriate, unfair and often intersecting laws and those who enforce them without heed to human rights, science and common sense.”

Mr Moody, who was appointed to the Supervisory Board in September 2020, is an independent consultant working on evidence-based research, policy and programming to support the development of person-centred initiatives to improve the health and quality of life of people living with and affected by HIV. A former CEO of the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+), he has previously worked with the World Health Organization and Médecins sans Frontières.

Mr Moody said he was excited to Chair the Supervisory Board as “it is an opportunity to work with incredibly talented people at HJN. I hope to support the continued development and success of HJN as it works globally to eliminate the unjust regulation, control and punishment of people living with HIV.”

In addition HJN welcomed three new members to the Supervisory Board this month, including former founding Director of the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA), Michaela Clayton who was elected Treasurer; George Ayala, Deputy Director of the Alameda County Public Health Department and the former Executive Director of MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights; and Sarai Chisala-Tempelhoff, a Malawian human rights lawyer and a legal researcher with over 15 years of experience in women’s access to justice. Australian lawyer and activist, Paul Kidd, will continue in his role as Secretary.

Ms Chisala-Tempelhoff said she ‘felt at home’ with her new role.I am celebrating my new role serving HJN on the Supervisory Board! HIV decriminalisation has been my passion and research focus since I wrote my undergrad dissertation on this two decades ago! This role and this organisation feel like home.”

Lisa Power, as outgoing Chair, will remain on the Supervisory Board as a member without portfolio. Reflecting on her term as Chair, Ms Power said, “The great public achievement of HJN in the past few years has been the Expert Consensus Statement, but I think the most notable feature of HJN – and this is down to [Executive Director, and sole Management Board member] Edwin J Bernard’s leadership – is the universal regard for the organisation and its work in a very difficult and often fraught field, which has been a constant. All I did was give Edwin the space to create while being a sounding board for his concerns as he steered HJN from being one man with a very bright idea to a solid organisation.”

You can read more about the Supervisory Board here.

Welcoming two new members to the HIV Justice Network team

The HIV Justice Network (HJN) is delighted to announce that two new members have joined the team, bringing their unique skills and life experiences to better help us deliver on our mandate to end HIV criminalisation globally.

Sive Stofile – Grants & Compliance Manager

Sive Stofile has joined the HJN team in a part-time grants and compliance management role.  Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sive started her career working with biotechnology research grants and has extensive knowledge in the end-to-end process of managing grants. She has worked in grants management for several South African government agencies under the National Department of Science and Technology.

In addition, she has been involved in a project management role in various local NGOs focusing on youth development and child welfare. Sive has previous experience working on HIV and global health advocacy through her role as Grants manager for the International Civil Society Support (ICSS) and specifically through the Global Fund Advocates Network (GFAN) where she still works on a part-time basis.

 

Denis Nzioka – Communications Co-ordinator

Denis Nzioka has joined the HJN team in a part-time role as our communications co-ordinator, where he will oversee all of our communications channels, as well as co-ordinate the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE campaign. Based in Nairobi, Kenya, Denis is a respected sexual, and gender minority activist-author-journalist with a particular focus on LGBTIQ and sex workers’ communities in Kenya, and across Africa. His focus is on using development communication to make social change and impact people’s lives. As a Pan-African, he has worked with national, regional and international organisations in a variety of roles. He advocates for marginalised populations and intersecting human rights issues.

Denis, who holds a BA in Journalism and Media Studies, founded the Denis Nzioka News Agency and Service in 2010 as the first-ever exclusive media agency and service for key populations communities in Kenya.  He was recognized by the Defenders Coalition of Kenya as its 2019 Munir Mazrui Lifetime Achievement honouree. This is in addition to receiving other multiple awards and accolades. He unveiled, in 2020, the Gay and Lesbian Archives of Kenya, dubbed KumbuKumbu, an open, online, and free repository for records documenting the history and culture of the LGBTIQ movement in Kenya from mid-1800 to present, and is currently writing his second book.

New date for Beyond Blame: Challenging Criminalisation for HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE @ HIV2020 Online

New date – Wednesday 8 July 2020

Registration for Beyond Blame at HIV2020 Online now open

Last September, the nine organisations comprising the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Steering Committee announced that we had unanimously agreed to support HIV2020, and that Beyond Blame, our flagship meeting for activists, advocates, judges, lawyers, scientists, healthcare professionals and researchers working to end HIV criminalisation, would be integrated into the HIV2020 programme.

Now that the HIV2020 conference has been reimagined as a series of virtual convenings that will take place between July and October, we are delighted to announce that Beyond Blame: Challenging Criminalisation for HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE has been selected by the HIV2020 programme committee to take place on Wednesday 8 July 2020, from 3pm-5pm Central European Time.  See the time in your time zone here.

This year, the online version of Beyond Blame is a unique opportunity for both new and long-established activists to learn why HIV criminalisation matters, as well as hear about the wide range of initiatives and strategies that have been used by activists around the world to end the inappropriate use of criminal law to regulate and punish people living with HIV.

The first part of this interactive web show will be hosted by HJN’s Executive Director, Edwin J Bernard, and features interviews with various members of the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Steering Committee, as well as members of the HIV Justice Network’s Global Advisory Panel (GAP).

The second part of the session is an interactive Q&A, hosted by PWN-USA’s Naina Khanna. Throughout the session attendees will be further engaged with polls, video clips, and a surprise guest.

By the end of the session, attendees will be equipped with a greater understanding of the importance of HIV criminalisation, knowledge of strategies used for advocacy, and a set of follow-up actions.

Register now at HIV2020 Online

Programme (subject to change)

Welcome to Beyond Blame 2020

Edwin J Bernard (HJN)

“Nothing about us without us”

Sean Strub (Sero)

Women challenging HIV criminalisation in Africa

Michaela Clayton (GAP) and Sarai Chisala-Tempelhoff (GAP)

The impact of HIV criminalisation on women and people who use drugs in EECA

Alexandra ‘Sasha’ Volgina (GNP+) and Svitlana ‘Sveta’ Moroz (Eurasian Women’s Network on AIDS / ICW)

Building networks to challenge criminalisation in Mexico and across Francophone Africa

Gonzalo Aburto (Sero) and Cécile Kazatchkine (Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network)

HIV criminalisation and key populations: who gets prosecuted, where, and why?

Cecilia Chung (Transgender Law Center / GAP), Jules Kim (Scarlet Alliance / GAP) and Elie Ballan (M-Coalition / GAP)

Bringing science to justice, and justice to science

Sally Cameron (HJN) and Alexander McClelland (GAP)

Interactive Q&A

Naina Khanna (PWN-USA) with Paul Kidd (HJN Supervisory Board)

Closing message

Edwin Cameron (former South African Constitutional Court Justice / GAP)

All virtual sessions offered as part of the HIV2020 Online series will be entirely FREE and made available later as recordings online. The webinar will be in English, but HIV2020 will provide simultaneous translation in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Russian.

Previous Beyond Blame meetings were held in Melbourne (2014)Durban (2016), and Amsterdam (2018).

In Amsterdam, more than 150 attendees from 33 countries attended the one-day meeting. Participation was extended to a global audience through livestreaming of the meeting on the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE YouTube Channel.

New Francophone Africa HIV criminalisation advocacy factsheet published today

Today, HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE releases a new advocacy factsheet developed by and for Francophone activists engaged in the fight against HIV criminalisation in Francophone Africa.

Co-authored by Cécile Kazatchkine of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and Alain Kra, an expert in HIV and human rights Expert from Côte d’Ivoire, on behalf of HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE, the factsheet is the first of several that will be published throughout the year focusing on a particular language and region.

“We are delighted to share this new resource with you today,” Cécile Kazatchkine writes below. “In it, you will find everything you need to know about HIV criminalisation in francophone Africa, the issues it raises and the strategies adopted by activists to address it. Many thanks to Alain Kra, an expert in human rights and HIV from Côte d’Ivoire, who co-authored this factsheet, and to our colleagues from the Francophone HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE network for their contributions and for sharing their experiences.”

Nous sommes heureux de partager aujourd’hui cette nouvelle ressource développée par et pour les militants francophones engagés dans la lutte contre la pénalisation du VIH. Vous y trouverez tout ce que vous devez savoir sur la pénalisation en Afrique francophone, les enjeux qu’elle soulève et les stratégies adoptées par les militants pour y répondre. Un grand merci à Alain Kra, Expert en droits humains et VIH de Côte d’Ivoire et co-auteur de ce feuillet d’information ainsi qu’à nos collègues du réseau francophone HIV Justice Worldwide pour leurs contributions et le partage de leurs expériences.

Cécile Kazatchkine, le Réseau juridique canadien VIH/sida

 

To provide a taste of the content to English-speakers, here are some of the introductory paragaphs from the 16-page PDF.

African HIV legislation was drafted on the basis of the N’Djamena model law developed during a three-day workshop in 2004 organised by Action for West Africa Region-HIV/ AIDS (AWARE-HIV/AIDS) and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  This model, presented as a tool for the rapid dissemination of “good practices”, has led to a veritable “legislative contagion” in terms of HIV criminalisation across the continent, particularly in francophone Africa.

“Nineteen countries in francophone Africa currently have HIV-specific laws. Sixteen of these laws, which are supposed to guarantee the rights of people living with HIV, also criminalise HIV transmission or exposure. Criticism of the model law and a better understanding of the risks associated with HIV criminalisation have led to the revision of some laws in Togo, Guinea and Niger to limit the scope of HIV criminalisation.

“Similarly, criminal provisions in HIV laws adopted in 2010 in Senegal, 2011 in the Congo and 2014 in Côte d’Ivoire are more protective of the rights of people living with HIV. Like the revised laws, they include provisions expressly excluding criminalisation in certain circumstances, such as where condoms have been used or in cases of mother-to-child transmission. Congolese law precludes criminal liability in the greatest number of circumstances. In Cameroon and Gabon, HIV bills with provisions criminalising HIV were eventually abandoned, while in Comoros and Mauritius, HIV laws have never included criminalising provisions. Finally, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the section of the HIV law criminalising the ‘deliberate’ transmission of HIV was repealed in 2018.”

The information sheet goes on to cover the disproportionate impact of HIV criminalisation on women across Africa; shows the many reasons why HIV criminalisation does more harm than good to the HIV response; explores the impact of science on laws and prosecutions; and includes links to further resources including those contained in the French-language version of the HIV Justice Toolkit.

Global HIV Criminalisation Database launched today
on the new HIV Justice Network website

Today, we are delighted to announce a new version of the HIV Justice Network (HJN) website, www.hivjustice.net.

The centrepiece of the new website is the Global HIV Criminalisation Database, which comprises three separate but interrelated databases:

  • Laws and Analyses – a new portal providing updated information and analysis of HIV criminalisation laws previously collated by GNP+ as part of the Global Criminalisation Scan;
  • Cases – a regularly updated searchable global database of reported HIV criminalisation cases; and
  • Organisations – a new directory of organisations around the world actively working against HIV criminalisation.

Each section of the Database also features an interactive search tool and global map providing a visual account of where different kinds of laws are used, where various types of cases have been reported, and where organisations operate.

Laws and Analyses

The list of laws used for HIV criminalisation contained in the Global HIV Criminalisation Database is based on GNP+’s groundbreaking Global Criminalisation Scan.

“We hope this new, improved version of our website will continue to be an essential source of up-to-date information for individuals and organisations advocating against HIV criminalisation around the world. We would especially like to acknowledge GNP+’s tremendous work developing and promoting their Global Criminalisation Scan, and take seriously our responsibility as custodians of global HIV criminalisation data moving forward.”

Edwin J Bernard, HJN’s Executive Director

Further substantial assistance was provided by Australian law firm Hall & Wilcox, with support from the UNAIDS secretariat in Geneva, as well as networks of advocates and civil society organisations from around the world.

In addition, we are grateful to the Center for HIV Law and Policy for allowing us to link to their regularly updated original research and analysis on HIV-related criminalisation in the United States, excerpted from ‘HIV Criminalization in the United States: A Sourcebook on State and Federal HIV Criminal Law and Practice’.

We are currently confirming data for a number of jurisdictions, particularly those in the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa. Those data will be published shortly.

Cases

We continue to include a searchable list of cases primarily curated from media reports. Although the reports do not usually reflect the views or values of HJN, they provide examples of the way HIV criminalisation cases are publicly described. 

We count cases from the moment there is a media report, even if the case does not reach a court. However, total estimated case numbers for any particular jurisdiction may not always tally with the number of case reports on our site, because not all cases are reported in the media. We also include a range of other sources to estimate case numbers, including information provided to us by local community agencies and academic institutions, and/or found in court databases.

Therefore cases, and case numbers, should be considered illustrative of what is likely to be a more widespread, poorly documented use of criminal law against people living with HIV.

Organisations

Another new element of the Global HIV Criminalisation Database is a directory of organisations undertaking a range of activities related to HIV criminalisation, including case monitoring, community mobilisation, legal support, political advocacy, public education, research, and work with the media.

The directory only includes organisations that have ‘opted-in’ to our previous surveys by asking to be included in the directory, and inclusion does not imply endorsement by HJN. If your organisation is not included in the directory and you would like to be included, please fill in this form. If you wish to amend your organisation’s details, please contact us, letting us know the information you wish to change.

News, Publications, Videos

The website continues to feature regular news about all aspects of HIV criminalisation, including news curated from other sources that we think is relevant to the global movement to end HIV criminalisation.

Earlier this year we relaunched our newsletter, HIV Justice Weekly. Published each Friday, it is a dynamic and useful summary of the week’s news collated by HJN. Given the current parallel pandemic of bad laws and overly zealous law enforcement, this is where we are also currently covering punitive responses to COVID-19, especially where these responses intersect with HIV criminalisation.

Recent publications produced by the HIV Justice Network, including our Advancing HIV Justice 3 report, and videos produced by us and others can also be found on the website.

About HJN

The HIV Justice Network (HJN) is a global information and advocacy hub for individuals and organisations working to end the inappropriate use of the criminal law to regulate and punish people living with HIV. Our mission is to collate, create and disseminate information and resources enabling individuals and communities to effectively advocate against inappropriate criminal prosecutions for HIV non-disclosure, potential or perceived exposure and transmission.

The HIV Justice Network also serves as the secretariat for a global coalition campaigning for HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE (HJWW), run by a nine organisation Steering Committee and with more than 100 members. Visit www.hivjusticeworldwide.org (also available in French, Russian, and Spanish) to learn more about what we do, what you can do, and how you can join the movement to end HIV criminalisation.

HJN is also the lead grantee for the HIV Justice Global Consortium, funded by Robert Carr Fund for civil society networks, which is the mechanism through which HJN – and most HJWW activities – are funded.

HIV Justice Network reaches key milestone with the publication of our first annual report

Today, the HIV Justice Network (HJN) reaches an important milestone with the publication of our first annual report, covering January – December 2019.

2019 was a landmark year for HJN, not only in terms of organisational growth, but also in terms of the scale-up of key resources – most published in four languages – and the provision of technical and financial support to organisations and networks in many regions of the world, all of which led to some remarkable advocacy successes.

HJWW2020 HJN board and teamThe HJN Team and Supervisory Board (SB) dine together following a successful Strategy Meeting in Amsterdam, January 2020 (L-R): Paul Kidd (Secretary, SB) , Sally Cameron (Senior Policy Analyst), Rebekah Webb (Senior Associate), Sylvie Beaumont (Outreach / Research Co-ordinator), Lisa Power (Chair, SB), Dymfke van Lanen (Finance Manager), Edwin Bernard (Executive Director), Julian Hows (GAP Co-ordinator) and Raoul Fransen (Treasurer, SB).

 

“Our 2019 Annual Report illustrates the importance of joined-up activism towards a common goal. We can all play a part in resisting HIV criminalisation at home and across the globe. HJN, under the passionate leadership of Edwin Bernard, gives us the tools, the structures and the inspiration to do the job.” Lisa Power, Chair, Supervisory Board

 

Members of HJN’s team also participated in a number of global and regional meetings, presenting on various aspects of our work, such as monitoring, supporting strategic litigation, and working with the media.

As a result, we forged stronger relationships with many organisations undertaking human rights work around the world, including establishing new contacts for possible collaborative projects in the future.

As well as HJN’s own workplan, much of the team’s time is spent co-ordinating a wide range of activities on behalf of HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE (HJWW), as well as managing the Robert Carr Fund grant to the HIV Justice Global Consortium.

“This report highlights the achievements of our small team and our global partners in the last year, and demonstrates that we are delivering on our mission of challenging HIV criminalisation around the globe. We strive to defend the human rights of marginalised people with HIV in the face of unjustified and unscientific punitive laws – something that is now in even sharper focus with the coronavirus pandemic.” Paul Kidd, Secretary, Supervisory Board

 

There are exciting plans ahead for HJN in 2020, including a new version of HJN’s website that will incorporate – and update – data previously collected in GNP+’s Global Criminalisation Scan, and the debut of HJN’s live streamed web show, HIV Justice Live!

Proudly announcing HIV Justice Network’s Global Advisory Panel

Today, the HIV Justice Network is proud to announce our Global Advisory Panel (GAP), an international expert reference group of activists, lawyers and academics – more than half of whom are openly living with HIV – from all regions of the world who are working on ending  HIV and intersectional criminalisations.

Sarai Chisala-Tempelhoff, a Malawian human rights lawyer, says: “As an African woman and feminist who has been researching and exploring the interactions between law, HIV and women’s lives for almost two decades, being a member of the GAP feels like a fitting culmination of my life’s passions and goals: to keep bridging that gap between marginalised women’s lived realities and the laws that they live under.”

 

Members have been selected on the basis that they have specific skills, interests, and knowledge of the issues that we work on, and how this intersects with other social justice issues and movements.

Elie Balan, who works on LGBT rights in the Middle East / North Africa region says: “As a person living with HIV I have seen HIV criminalisation happen around me and to people I know, and to me it is a personal issue more than anything. I am excited to be part of the GAP to ensure such practices are ceased within my country and region.”

 

The GAP, co-ordinated by HJN team member, Julian Hows, has been convened to assist HJN deliver on its mission by:

  • Providing feedback on our current work, activities and outputs.
  • Being both a ‘critical friend’ as well as an ambassador for the ways that we are delivering on our mission, strategically and operationally.
  • Assisting us with building strategic alliances towards the common goal of ending HIV-related criminalisation around the world.

Alexander McClelland, a Canadian activist and social scientist living with HIV, says: “Being part of the GAP is vital to ensure we share globally what is happening in our respective countries, so we can learn strategies of resistance, and build a forceful collective response to help end practices of criminalisation.”

 

All members have indicated a willingness to serve for an initial period of two years (i.e. 1 January 2020 until 31 December 2021).  In fact, the GAP has met twice – virtually – since initally coming together in January 2020, including earlier this week where information was exchanged regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on HJN’s work, and in the countries, regions and constituents served by GAP members. 

Jeffry Acaba, who fights for the rights of people living with HIV in the Asia Pacific region: “HIV criminalisation continues to take place in many parts of the world and the platform that the GAP provides is vital to our collective effort to finally end this unjust and unfair policy practice. I’m honored to be contributing towards that change through the GAP.”

 

We very much welcome all of the GAP members, and look forward to working together to achieve HIV justice.

The current members of the Global Advisory Panel are:

  • Jeffry Acaba (ASIA PACIFIC)
  • Elie Ballan (MENA)
  • Edwin Cameron (AFRICA) 
  • Sarai Chisala-Tempelhoff (AFRICA)
  • Cecilia Chung (NORTH AMERICA)
  • Michaela Clayton (AFRICA)
  • Ann Fordham (EUROPE)
  • David Haerry (EUROPE)
  • Jules Kim (ASIA PACIFIC)
  • Ron MacInnis (NORTH AMERICA)
  • Allan Maleche (AFRICA)
  • Alexander McClelland (NORTH AMERICA)
  • Gennady Roschupkin (EECA)
  • Robert Suttle (NORTH AMERICA)

To read more about the individual members of the GAP – and their many achievements – please visit HJN’s dedicated GAP page.

HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Steering Committee
Statement on COVID-19 Criminalisation

Communicable diseases are public health issues, not criminal issues: what we have learnt from the HIV response

Measures that are respectful of human rights and the empowering of communities are more effective than punishment and imprisonment.

As the world struggles with a new global pandemic, law- and policymakers are taking drastic measures in an attempt to minimise the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The situation continues to evolve rapidly and, as it does so, our liberties are being limited in unprecedented ways.

We remind law- and policymakers that each and every limitation of rights should satisfy the five criteria of the Siracusa Principles, as well as be of a limited duration and subject to review and appeal. These principles are:

  • The restriction is provided for and carried out in accordance with the law;
  • The restriction is in the interest of a legitimate objective of general interest;
  • The restriction is strictly necessary in a democratic society to achieve the objective;
  • There are no less intrusive and restrictive means available to reach the same objective;
  • The restriction is based on scientific evidence and not drafted or imposed arbitrarily, that is in an unreasonable or otherwise discriminatory manner.

We also warn law- and policymakers against the temptation to use the criminal law or other unjustified and disproportionate repressive measures in relation to COVID-19. These measures can be expected to have a devastating impact on the most vulnerable in society, including those who are homeless and/or living in poverty, as well as individuals from marginalised and already stigmatised or criminalised communities – especially where no economic and social support is provided to allow people to protect themselves and others, including through self-isolation.

As a global coalition campaigning to abolish criminal and similar laws, policies and practices that regulate, control and punish people living with HIV based on their HIV-positive status, we know the deleterious consequences of the criminalisation of diseases on both human rights and public health.

Criminalisation disproportionately impacts the most marginalised, stigmatised and the already criminalised people and communities in society.

 

Criminalisation is not an evidence-based response to public health issues. In fact, the use of the criminal law most often undermines public health by creating barriers to prevention, testing, care, and treatment – for example, people may not disclose their status or access treatment for fear of being criminalised.  It can also lead to ill-informed ‘trial’ by social and news media, and to a myriad of human rights violations, from arbitrary arrests and detentions to unfair trials (or no trials at all under new emergency measures) and harsh prison sentences. This can also lead to the spread of infections and communicable diseases in prisons and is of particular relevance in the context of COVID-19, which reveals, once again, the need to address overcrowding and other poor healthcare and sanitation conditions that are all too common in prisons and other closed settings.

Our experience has taught us that hastily drafted laws, as well as law enforcement, driven by fear and panic, are unlikely to be guided by the best available scientific and medical evidence – especially where such science is unclear, complex and evolving. Given the context of a virus that can easily be transmitted by casual contact and where proof of actual exposure or transmission is not possible, we believe that the criminal justice system is unlikely to uphold principles of legal and judicial fairness, including the key criminal law principles of legality, foreseeability, intent, causality, proportionality and proof.

The human rights of those involved in criminal cases related to COVID-19 are at risk of being ignored or violated.

 

We therefore urge law- and policymakers, the media, and communities at large, to keep human rights front and centre as we collectively respond to a new public health crisis in a climate of fear and uncertainty. It is more critical than ever to commit to, and respect, human rights principles; ground public health measures in scientific evidence; and establish partnerships, trust, and co-operation between law- and policymakers and communities.

The HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Steering Committee, comprising: AIDS Action Europe; AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA); Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network; Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+); HIV Justice Network;  International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW); Positive Women’s Network – USA; Sero Project; and Southern Africa Litigation Centre.

 

Additional references

Last week, a group of human rights experts at the United Nations warned governments against the abuse of emergency measures to suppress human rights:

“While we recognize the severity of the current health crisis and acknowledge that the use of emergency powers is allowed by international law in response to significant threats, we urgently remind States that any emergency responses to the coronavirus must be proportionate, necessary and non-discriminatory,” the experts said. “Restrictions should be narrowly tailored and should be the least intrusive means to protect public health.” Also, authorities must seek to return life to normal and must avoid excessive use of emergency powers to indefinitely regulate day-to-day life.”

UNAIDS also issued guidance last week that included a number of recommendations, including recommending that States “avoid the use of criminal laws when encouraging behaviours to slow the spread of the epidemic”, noting that empowering and enabling people and communities to protect themselves and others will have a greater overall effect.

And, as described in a recent open letter by more than 800 public health and legal experts in the United States providing recommendations to government officials: “Voluntary self-isolation measures [combined with education, widespread screening, and universal access to treatment] are more likely to induce cooperation and protect public trust than coercive measures and are more likely to prevent attempts to avoid contact with the healthcare system.”