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.”

HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE fully supports HIV2020; no Beyond Blame at AIDS 2020

The nine organisations comprising the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Steering Committee have today (September 18, 2019) announced that they have unanimously agreed to support HIV2020, the international meeting that will take place in Mexico City between July 5-7, 2020.  

HIV2020, which is being led by people living with HIV (PLHIV) and other key populations, will be an alternative meeting for individuals who are unable to enter the United States or unwilling to attend the International AIDS Society’s conference in San Francisco next year.

HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE is a coalition of global, regional and national PLHIV networks and human rights defenders that campaigns to end HIV-related criminalisation.

Last week, two HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Steering Committee members, the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) and the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW), issued a joint endorsement for this community-led event.

“We know that it was not an easy decision for GNP+ and ICW, the only two global networks of people with HIV, to lend their support to an alternative conference rather than the San Francisco conference,” said Edwin J Bernard, Global Co-ordinator of the HIV Justice Network which serves as the secretariat for HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE.

“GNP+ and ICW have partnered with the International AIDS Society (IAS) for years to ensure that the voices of those most affected by policies and research are at the tables where decisions are made. However, it has become increasingly clear that not only does the IAS not view key population groups as equal partners, but also that entering the United States at this time poses grave danger to our communities.

“As a global coalition working to end HIV-related criminalisation, we are choosing not to place our communities, who are at particular risk for surveillance, policing, and violence, in harm’s way. As a consequence, Beyond Blame, our biennial pre-conference usually held prior to IAS international conferences will not take place in San Francisco, but instead will be incorporated into the HIV2020 programme in Mexico City.”

Beyond Blame: Challenging HIV Criminalisation is HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE’s flagship meeting for activists, advocates, judges, lawyers, scientists, healthcare professionals and researchers working to end HIV criminalisation. Previous 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.

Registration for HIV2020 in Mexico City will start on September 23, 2019. Please visit www.hiv2020.org for more information.

We are proud to be joining with others who have issued HIV2020 solidaridy statements in recent days:

ABOUT HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE

HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE aims 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 are working to shape the discourse on HIV criminalisation and to share information and resources, network, build capacity, mobilise advocacy, and cultivate a community of transparency and collaboration. This work is based on an understanding that:

  • HIV criminalisation is discriminatory, a violation of human rights, undermines public health, and is detrimental to individual health and well-being;
  • HIV criminalisation is part of a larger problem of scapegoating, targeting, harassing and policing of vulnerable and marginalised communities;
  • efforts to end HIV criminalisation should be led by those most affected, including people living with HIV and organisations, networks, and institutions led by people living with HIV and/or those most impacted by these laws and prosecutions;
  • the knowledge and perspectives of those most impacted by an issue should be central to the decision-making processes; and
  • regional differences matter, and we respect local knowledge and local leadership.

The HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Steering Committee currently comprises:

In June 2017, HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE invited organisations from around the world who share our values and principles to join the movement. Today, more than 100 organisations have joined the vibrant global community of advocates fighting to abolish HIV-related criminalisation.

HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE is supported by a grant from the Robert Carr Fund for civil society networks

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The Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) and the HIV Justice Network (HJN) condemn dismissal of appeal in Singapore HIV criminalisation case

The Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) and the HIV Justice Network (HJN) condemn dismissal of appeal in Singapore HIV criminalisation case

The Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) and the HIV Justice Network (HJN) condemn the dismissal of the appeal by a Singaporean man living with HIV who was convicted to two years’ imprisonment for not disclosing his status to his sexual partner and for not communicating the risk of HIV transmission to his sexual partner. We are particularly concerned that the judgement has emphasised the lack of explaining the risk of HIV transmission as the main reason for dismissing the appeal.

“HIV prevention is a shared responsibility and therefore not the sole responsibility of people living with HIV. If more people are sensitised to the rights of people living with HIV, including their sexual rights, and were aware of the mechanisms of HIV transmission there would be far less stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV. Furthermore, HIV criminalisation creates a bad public health environment where people living with HIV have fears in disclosing their status, which lead to delay in engaging in care and treatment,” said Rico Gustav, Executive Director of GNP+.

According to the Infectious Diseases Act in 2016 of Singapore, Section 23 (1) a person who knows that he has HIV Infection shall not engage in any sexual activity with another person unless, before the sexual activity takes place — (a) he has informed that other person of the risk of contracting HIV Infection from him; and (b) that other person has voluntarily agreed to accept that risk.

“HIV is the only disease singled out as a transmittable disease in the Infectious Diseases Act,” said Edwin Bernard, Global Co-ordinator of the HIV Justice Network. “Not only does this perpetuate stigma, it also creates a false sense of security, suggesting that only people with diagnosed HIV can transmit HIV, when many new infections come from those who are undiagnosed. Ironically, a law such as this one that places such an onerous burden on people with diagnosed HIV, is only likely to make HIV testing, and open and honest discussions around HIV, less likely.”

Furthermore, the facts of the case reported in the judgement suggest that there was no effective HIV risk during any sexual activity, regardless of whether or not disclosure – and acceptance of risk – was established beyond reasonable doubt. Condoms were used early in the relationship, and subsequently when condoms were not used, the unjustly convicted man had a very low viral load.

As expressed in the Expert Consensus Statement on the Science of HIV in the context of criminal law, HIV criminalisation laws and prosecutions have not always been guided by the best available scientific and medical evidence, have not evolved to reflect advancements in knowledge of HIV and its treatment, and can be influenced by persistent societal stigma and fear associated with HIV. HIV continues to be singled out, with prosecutions occurring in cases where no harm was intended; where HIV transmission did not occur, was not possible or was extremely unlikely; and where transmission was neither alleged nor proven.

GNP+ and HJN not only strongly condemn this legislation and the dismissal of appeal of this case, but all kinds of HIV criminalisation, which often entails legislation that is applied in a manner inconsistent with contemporary medical and scientific evidence and includes overstating both the risk of HIV transmission and also the potential for harm to a person’s health and wellbeing. Such limited understanding of current HIV science reinforces stigma and may lead to human rights violation and undermines efforts to address the HIV epidemic.

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Making Media Work for HIV Justice: An introduction to media engagement for advocates opposing HIV criminalisation now available in Spanish, French and Russian

Today, HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE has published “Making Media Work for HIV Justice: An introduction to media engagement for advocates opposing HIV criminalisation” in three additional languages: Spanish, French and Russian. [Click on the image to download the pdf]

The pMedia toolkit - Frenchurpose of this critical media toolkit is to inform and equip global grassroots advocates who are engaged in media response to HIV criminalisation–and to demystify the practice of working with, and through, media to change the conversation around criminalisation.

The toolkit provides an introduction to the topic of HIV criminalisation and the importance of engageMedia toolkit - Spanishment with media to change narratives around this unjust practice.

The toolkit also includes reporting tips for journalists, designed to educate writers and media makers around the nuances of HIV criminalisation, and the harms of inaccurate and stigmatising coverage.

Finally, the toolkit also includes a number of case studies providing examples of how media played a significant role in the outcome, or the impetus, of HIV criminalisation advocacy.

Media toolkit - RussianPositive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA), the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Steering Committee member organisation that produced the toolkit, has been working on HIV criminalisation for many years, and was an instrumental part of the coalition that brought HIV criminal law reform to the US state of California.

The original English version of “Making Media Work for HIV Justice: An introduction to media engagement for advocates opposing HIV criminalisation” along with the translations, were supported by a grant from the Robert Carr Fund for Civil Society Networks.

The new translations are the latest additions to the HIV JUSTICE Toolkit, currently available in English and French, and soon to be available in Spanish and Russian, which provides resources from all over the world to assist advocates in approaching a range of advocacy targets, including lawmakers, prosecutors and judges, police, and the media.

New report analyses the successes and challenges of the growing global movement against HIV criminalisation

A new report published today (May 29th 2019) by the HIV Justice Network on behalf of HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE provides clear evidence that the growing, global movement against HIV criminalisation has resulted in more advocacy successes than ever before. However, the number of unjust HIV criminalisation cases and HIV-related criminal laws across the world continue to increase, requiring more attention, co-ordinated advocacy, and funding.

Advancing HIV Justice 3: Growing the global movement against HIV criminalisation provides a progress report of achievements and challenges in global advocacy against HIV criminalisation from 1st October 2015 to 31st December 2018.

Although the full report is currently only available in English, a four-page executive summary is available now in English, French, Russian and Spanish.  The full report will be translated into these languages and made available later this summer.

The problem

HIV criminalisation describes the unjust application of criminal and similar laws to people living with HIV based on HIV-positive status, either via HIV-specific criminal statutes or general criminal or similar laws. It is a pervasive illustration of how state-sponsored stigma and discrimination works against a marginalised group of people with immutable characteristics. As well as being a human rights issue of global concern, HIV criminalisation is a barrier to universal access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care.

Across the globe, laws used for HIV criminalisation are often written or applied based on myths and misconceptions about HIV and its modes of transmission, with a significant proportion of prosecutions for acts that constitute no or very little risk of HIV transmission, including: vaginal and anal sex when condoms had been used or the person with HIV had a low viral load; oral sex; and single acts of breastfeeding, biting, scratching or spitting.

Our global audit of HIV-related laws found that a total of 75 countries (103 jurisdictions) have laws that are HIV-specific or specify HIV as a disease covered by the law. As of 31st December 2018, 72 countries had reported cases: 29 countries had ever applied HIV-specific laws, 37 countries had ever applied general criminal or similar laws, and six countries had ever applied both types of laws.

Cases infographic During our audit period, there were at least 913 arrests, prosecutions, appeals and/or acquittals in 49 countries, 14 of which appear to have applied the criminal law for the first time. The highest number of cases were in Russia, Belarus and the United States. When cases were calculated according to the estimated number of diagnosed people living with HIV, the top three HIV criminalisation hotspots were Belarus, Czech Republic and New Zealand.

Screenshot 2019-05-29 at 10.27.51The pushback

Promising and exciting developments in case law, law reform and policy took place in many jurisdictions: two HIV criminalisation laws were repealed; two HIV criminalisation laws were found to be unconstitutional; seven laws were modernised; and at least four proposed laws were withdrawn. In addition, six countries saw precedent-setting cases limiting the overly broad application of the law through the use of up-to-date science.

Screenshot 2019-05-29 at 10.29.06The solution

Progress against HIV criminalisation is the result of sustained advocacy using a wide range of strategies. These include:

  • Building the evidence base Research-based evidence has proven vital to advocacy against HIV criminalisation. In particular, social science research has been used to challenge damaging myths and to identify who is being prosecuted, in order to help build local and regional advocacy movements.
  • Ensuring the voices of survivors are heard HIV criminalisation advocacy means ensuring that HIV criminalisation survivors are welcomed and supported as advocates and decision-makers at all stages of the movement to end HIV criminalisation.
  • Training to build capacity Successful strategies have focused on grassroots activists, recognising that training events must be community owned and provide opportunities for diverse community members to come together, hold discussions, set agendas, and build more inclusive coalitions and communities of action.
  • Using PLHIV-led research to build community engagement capacity Research led by people living with HIV (PLHIV) provides a mechanism to engage communities to develop in-depth understanding of issues and build relationships, mobilise and organise.

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  • Using science for justice HIV criminalisation is often based on outdated and/or inaccurate information exaggerating potential harms of HIV infection. In addition, HIV-related prosecutions frequently involve cases where no harm was intended; where HIV transmission did not occur, was not possible or was extremely unlikely; and where transmission was neither alleged nor proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Engaging decision-makers through formal processes Activists have worked to bring about legal and policy changes not only by lobbying local decision-makers, but also by engaging in other formal processes including using international mechanisms to bring HIV criminalisation issues to the attention of state or national decision-makers.
  • Acting locally and growing capacity through networks Many community organisations working to limit HIV criminalisation are actively supporting grassroots community advocates’ participation at the decision-making table.
  • Getting the word out and engaging with media Activists have employed diverse strategies to extend the reach of advocacy against HIV criminalisation including pushing the issue onto conference agendas, presenting messaging through video, working through digital media forums, using public exhibitions to push campaign messaging, and holding public demonstrations. Sensationalist headlines and misreporting of HIV-related prosecutions remain a major issue, perpetuating HIV stigma while misrepresenting the facts. Activists are endeavouring to interrupt this pattern of salacious reporting, working to improve media by pushing alternative, factual narratives and asking journalists to accurately report HIV-related cases with care.

Acknowlegements

Advancing HIV Justice 3 was written on behalf of HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE by the HIV Justice Network’s Senior Policy Analyst, Sally Cameron, with the exception of the Global overview, which was written by HIV Justice Network’s Global Co-ordinator, Edwin J Bernard, who also edited the report.

We would especially like to acknowledge the courage and commitment of the growing number of advocates around the world who are challenging laws, policies and practices that inappropriately regulate and punish people living with HIV. Without them, this report would not have been possible.

rcnf 346x228We gratefully acknowledge the financial contribution of the Robert Carr Fund to this report.

A note about the limitations of the data

The data and case analyses in this report cover a 39-month period, 1 October 2015 to 31 December 2018. This begins where the second Advancing HIV Justice report – which covered a 30-month period, 1 April 2013 to 30 September 2015 – left off. Our data should be seen as an illustration of what may be a more widespread, but generally undocumented, use of the criminal law against people with HIV.

Similarly, despite the growing movement of advocates and organisations working on HIV criminalisation, it is not possible to document every piece of advocacy, some of which takes place behind the scenes and is therefore not publicly communicated.

Despite our growing global reach we may still not be connected with everyone who is working to end HIV criminalisation, and if we have missed you or your work, we apologise and hope that you will join the movement (visit: www.hivjusticeworldwide.org/en/join-the-movement) so we can be in touch and you can share information about your successes and challenges.

Consequently, this report can only represent the tip of the iceberg: each piece of information a brief synopsis of the countless hours and many processes that individuals, organisations, networks, and agencies have dedicated to advocacy for HIV justice.


Suggested citation: Sally Cameron and Edwin J Bernard. Advancing HIV Justice 3: Growing the global movement against HIV criminalisation. HIV Justice Network, Amsterdam, May 2019.