The Importance of Human Kindness and
Connection: Sero’s Holiday Card Project

In an era where the term ‘lockdown’ is used to limit our movements, spare a thought for the many prisoners living with HIV (some of whom have been unjustly convicted under HIV criminalisation laws) who are experiencing real lockdowns and severe isolation.

With community support interventions becoming increasingly formalised, and NGOs pushed to operate in terms of strategic plans, deliverables, outputs and outcomes, Sero’s Holiday Card Project stands as a rare example of an organisation recognising the worth of a project focused solely on gestures of basic human kindness.

Last year, the project delivered Holiday cards to around 900 incarcerated people, most of whom are living with HIV. For some, it was the only mail they received all year.

So how did the Holiday Card Project come to be, has it made a difference, and how can you help this year?

Back in the 1980s and ’90s, Cindy Stine lost a lot of friends to HIV. In 1996, just before effective treatments became available, she lost a close friend who was like a son. She made a promise to him that she would continue to be involved in the AIDS response. That’s a promise she’s kept.

Cindy Stine of the Sero Project

In 2011, Cindy was serving on the board of a local LGBT centre when she invited two speakers from the fledgling Sero Project to speak at an event. The speakers were Sean Strub, Sero’s Executive Director, and Robert Suttle. Sean introduced the audience to the concept of HIV criminalisation, a new issue for most, including Cindy. Robert talked about what it means to live as an HIV criminalisation survivor, explaining that as the result of an HIV non-disclosure charge, he served six months in the Louisiana state prison and would be registered as a sex offender for 15 years. Robert showed an image of his driver’s license, with ‘sex offender’ stamped in bold red lettering: ID he has to show often and in many different circumstances.

Cindy approached Sean and Robert to let them know that she wanted to help. A few days later, Sean rang Cindy and invited her to his office where he showed her a stack of letters that Sero had received from people in prison. Sean asked Cindy if she’d volunteer to take on the task of answering the letters. She agreed.

Things could have ended there, with Cindy answering people’s individual letters, but as Cindy read those letters week after week, each letter more heart-breaking than the last, she began to really appreciate the isolation, loneliness and desperate need for connection experienced by many of those inside. She talked it over with her Sero colleagues, and they decided their efforts to build a movement against HIV criminalisation needed to expand to be more inclusive of those who were incarcerated; those directly impacted by HIV criminalisation. They decided to explore how they could support development of a prisoners’ network, starting by compiling a database of contact details of those who’d written.

As Sero grew, Cindy was employed to take on community education and other projects but her work answering prisoners’ letters continued. Cindy says of those letters, “sometimes the people writing didn’t even have access to paper, so they’d write on any scrap of paper they could find – recycled envelopes or bits of paper torn off something else. Many of those sending letters weren’t really literate but they wanted to communicate.”

As the 2015 Holiday season approached, Cindy found the letters got harder to read. “A lot of people wrote about loneliness and about their families disowning them after finding out they had HIV, or were gay, or were transgender. People felt they’d been thrown away and forgotten.” Then she had a simple thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice for them to know that they’re not alone.” Then another, “We should send Holiday cards”. She took the idea to Sean, who agreed.

By then, Cindy’s database was so large that she realised Sero would need to prioritise who got cards, focusing on those who were incarcerated as a result of HIV, or they had HIV or another debilitating illness. Cindy also wanted to ensure each person got at least three or four cards but … how to go about it? Cindy put out a call to the 900 or so people on the Sero list-serve asking if anyone was interested in writing some Holiday cards. The response was overwhelming. Many offered to help, with some asking to do 20 cards, some asking to do 200.

The Holiday Card Project has continued each year since then. People express an interest, Cindy sends them a list of first names; they write message on the cards, put them in blank envelopes and return them to Sero; Cindy sorts them, addresses them, and mails them off.

Those who write cards come from all different parts of the community, including some working in other HIV advocacy organisations, some parents of prisoners, and some people living with HIV. People are asked not to ask personal questions but to write messages of support: things like ‘hope you’re doing well’, ‘we’re thinking of you’, and ‘you’re not forgotten’. Some write about themselves, their experience living with HIV, their thoughts and prayers. Some write, ‘we’re thinking of you when we fight HIV criminalisation’.

Sero’s staff and volunteers

One group gets together and spends a day each year writing Holiday cards. People come from all over, saying it feels really good coming into a non-judgemental space and writing messages from the heart. Sometimes Sero will set up a table at a conference and invite people to write cards. Others write cards at home. People feel involved. Each step in the process has meaning: the choice of card, the choice of words, with many people sending their cards with stamps to send them on, to further support the project.

Last Holiday season, about 900 people received cards in facilities across the US, including people on death row. The responses from those who received cards is humbling. Some said, it was the only card they’d received all year, but those cards meant that they knew they were not forgotten. They couldn’t describe the feeling of hearing someone from the mailroom say, ‘You’ve got mail’. They knew that somebody out there had thought enough of them to send a card. Recently Cindy received a letter from a man who’s recently been released. He said that for the last three years he’d so looked forward to those cards as it was the only mail he got. It meant a lot that people had taken the time to write.

The project is not without its challenges. Cindy spends considerable time keeping track of people, as prisoners are often moved. There are also major issues regarding mail screening. Although Cindy has worked to build a rapport with those managing mail distribution at many of the prisons, that hasn’t guaranteed mail is always received. Mail screening rules differ from state to state, institution to institution, and the rules keep changing. Some prisons have now banned cards altogether, some won’t allow glue or glitter or coloured paper, etc. If mail is considered contraband it may be thrown out or returned to Sero. That process has at times driven Cindy to photocopy returned cards, sending the copies in the hope the person will still receive the good wishes.

The Holiday Card Project may have modest goals – to show compassion and care to those who feel abandoned, but it has delivered far more. It has made a difference to the lives of many, letting them know that there are people outside of prison ready to provide support. It has raised awareness about HIV criminalisation and provided a mechanism for people to show they care. It has also helped build trust between prisoners and Sero, a facor that has proven critical to the development of a stronger prisoners’ network and greater engagement with Sero. A stronger prisoners’ network has meant more support for those inside, and it has also resulted in other great projects, like Turn It Up, the health magazine that includes information about HIV for those in prison, largely written by people who are, or have been, incarcerated.

Some of Sero’s Holiday cards

While Sero is best known for its HIV criminalisation reform programmes, its efforts to support network building and empowerment have proven equally important. Sero operates from the belief that those most directly impacted should be at the centre of this work, which is why facilitating the creation and strengthening of networks of People Living with HIV and allies, particularly those representing key populations, remains critical and a priority.

Every year the Holiday Card Project has grown, with prisoners writing to Cindy to let her know if they’ve been moved to another facility. Others write saying, “a friend of mine got cards. Can I be put on the list?” Parents get in touch too, asking for their children to be added to the list, and also writing letters of thanks for cards received.

Still, Cindy thinks there is room for the project to grow; sending cards for holidays celebrated by other religions at other times of the year, and also considering whether cards could be sent for some non-religious events, such as Halloween or Thanksgiving. That way the project can become more inclusive and people won’t have to wait an entire year for mail. Of course, that will mean attracting more people to write cards so that more people can receive them.


If you’re interested in supporting the work of the Holiday Card Project, please contact Cindy at, Subject – Holiday Card Project.




US: New initiative to combat Anti-Black racism, end criminalisation of pandemics and abolish systems of imprisonment

Announcing the Health Not Prisons Collective

As Calls for Justice Echo Around the United States, National Groups Led by Most-Policed Communities Affected by HIV and COVID-19 Join in Partnership

The Health Not Prisons Collective Vows to Combat Anti-Black Racism, End Criminalization of Pandemics and Abolish Systems of Imprisonment

 June 18, 2020: The Health Not Prisons Collective is a new, three year national initiative of longtime collaborators led by, and accountable to, communities most affected by HIV criminalization in the United States: Counter Narrative Project, Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN), Sero Project, Transgender Law Center, and the U.S. Caucus of People Living with HIV (The Caucus).

HIV criminalization is the wrongful use of a person’s HIV-positive status in a criminal prosecution, including charging people living with HIV (PLHIV) under HIV-specific criminal statutes, or under general criminal statutes, for behaviors which would not be crimes if the person did not have HIV. There is little legal or other support available for those charged with HIV crimes, yet the consequences of being charged under an HIV criminalization law are severe, even without conviction, and persist long after a person leaves the criminal justice system.

Collectively, and with steadfast allies, the founders of the Collective have pushed criminalization to the forefront of the HIV policy agenda. Now, in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Collective will build the power of the intersectional national HIV movement led by Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), women, LGB people, and transgender and gender non-conforming people (TGNC) to refocus our efforts instead of blame, punishment and the denial of basic needs.

Criminalization is never a solution to health challenges. Communities that are already heavily surveilled, policed, and criminalized bear the brunt of HIV criminalization are at the highest risk of harm from COVID-19 related surveillance, policing, criminal charges and/or penalty enhancements. A response rooted in policing and criminalization not only undermines public health and human rights, but jeopardizes the long-term survival of our communities.

“The specifics of the COVID-19 pandemic may be unprecedented — but the racial disparities, intensification of stigma and marginalization, and threats of criminalization in the COVID-19 pandemic are sadly not unanticipated to those of us living with HIV,” said Andrew Spieldenner of the U.S. Caucus of People Living with HIV. “As we work together to overturn the criminalization of HIV baked into policies and laws decades ago, we will also urge our communities and leaders to repudiate the panic and reactive thinking that says police, prosecutors and prisons are the way to handle public health emergencies like COVID-19.”

With support from Gilead Sciences, the Collective’s three-year strategy incorporates political education and training; grassroots and grasstops organizing; policy analysis and advocacy; legal intervention; and narrative change designed to shift discourses about HIV, risk, blame, responsibility, and the role of the carceral state in public health, centering racial and gender justice.

“Most HIV criminalization laws in the U.S. were established at a time when less was understood about HIV transmission. There’s no evidence it has ever contributed to HIV transmission reduction. Today, it directly contradicts current public health efforts to encourage people to know their HIV status and engage in health care and treatment; very few laws have been updated in light of advances in scientific advancements,” explained Tami Haught of Sero Project.

“We can’t stop HIV or COVID-19 criminalization without recognizing the underlying politics of racism, blame and bias that fuel them,” said Charles Stephens of Counter Narrative Project “Only a strategic and sustained movement led by those most targeted by criminalization ourselves and that changes the very narratives of blame in our society will overcome the root conditions that make it politically feasible to pin harm on vulnerable individuals from targeted communities.”

“Successful advocacy to end HIV criminalization requires centering PLHIV and those from overpoliced communities. Despite limited resources, members of the Collective have already had significant success in advancing the community and public discourse as well as influencing policy,” explained Cecilia Chung of Transgender Law Project. “We must now remove the remaining barriers that stop our leaders, including transgender and gender non-conforming Black and brown people, disabled people and others, from scaling up our movement and winning the freedom to thrive as we are.”

Due to lack of resources, work on HIV criminalization to date has largely been episodic, resulting in less coordination and varying results. This coordinated, strategic, multi-year effort will fill a critical gap at the nexus of policy, grassroots organizing, movement building, increasing political will to decriminalize, and culture change at a vital time. The Collective urges funders and people of privilege to invest in multi-year initiatives, honoring the passion and truths of communities with the resources it takes to rapidly scale efforts to win significant, lasting change.

“Our members are on the frontlines of pandemics, and they’re also deep in the resistance to overturn the system that profits from anti-Black racism and violence,” said Naina Khanna of Positive Women’s Network – USA. “We need to honor their commitment and vision with resources. Ongoing dedicated funded initiatives have the best chance to shift the social, legal and political landscape of our nation.”

 If you need help with a pandemic-related prosecution or threat, contact Sero Project for HIV-related issues and Community Resource Hub for COVID-19-related issues.


The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation leads multi-state effort to decriminalise HIV and modernise laws leading to discrimination

The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation Launches Initiative for Modernization of Laws and Criminal Penalties for People Living with HIV

The Foundation partners with Gilead Sciences, Inc. and the Health Not Prisons Collective on a major, multi-state effort to decriminalize HIV and modernize laws that lead to the discrimination of people living with HIV.

LOS ANGELESJune 18, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF) announced today a new national initiative focused on the modernization of criminal laws and penalties for people living with HIV. The effort will launch in partnership with Gilead Sciences, Inc., and a national alliance of advocacy partners including The Counter Narrative Project, Positive Women’s Network, The Sero Project, Transgender Law Center, and the US People Living with HIV Caucus. The Artemis Agency, a Los Angeles-based social impact firm, will be working with ETAF on the public education and awareness campaign. ETAF will also partner with state-based organizations as needed to ensure the initiative’s success.

Catherine Brown, ETAF Executive Director explains, “Very simply, science and the law have not caught up with each other on this issue, there is a disparity between what science tells us and what the laws and statutes in more than 30 states believe. HIV is not a crime, and those living with HIV are being held back by harmful laws and policies that discourage people from getting tested and treated.”

Gilead Sciences, Inc., a research-based biopharmaceutical company with headquarters in Foster City, California, is committed to the initiative and to supporting ETAF and The Health Not Prisons Collective.

“Gilead is proud to support this critical work against the criminalization of HIV,” said Brett Pletcher, Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs and General Counsel. “These outdated and unjust laws disproportionately affect marginalized communities and further perpetuate the misinformation and stigma that result in decreased testing and poorer health outcomes. This collaborative initiative creates the possibility for systemic change that moves us closer to our collective vision of a more just society, free from discrimination and othering.”

On June 25th, ETAF will host a virtual town hall event to launch the initiative and address the effects of the current environment on the HIV community, as racial inequality and COVID-19 have disproportionately affected and threatened the lives of those who have been incarcerated as a result of their HIV status.

The campaign to modernize criminal laws and penalties that target people living with HIV will focus its initial efforts in Nevada and Ohio, where staffers will work with local advocates to prepare and introduce legislation. The effort also intends to address issues of insurance discrimination against people living with HIV in California, and will support legislation introduced in Missouri once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted for lawmakers in that state.

Read more about The Town Hall on July 25, 2020 and ETAF here:

More information about Gilead’s community work in HIV here:

About The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation
Working tirelessly on the AIDS crisis through the 1980s, Elizabeth Taylor established The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF) in 1991 to reach her vision of an AIDS-free world. ETAF works to provide the direct care needed for people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS. Emphasizing Elizabeth’s commitment to marginalized communities, ETAF’s work ensures that HIV prevention education and access to treatment are available through domestic and international initiatives. HIV Decriminalization nationally, is ETAF’s primary advocacy initiative. We now have the necessary tools to stop the spread of HIV and end the AIDS crisis with sufficient resources.

Media Contacts
Catherine A. Brown
Executive Director

SOURCE The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation

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.”

Human rights are key to ending the epidemics

OPINION: End epidemics by breaking down human rights barriers to health

Access to healthcare is a right, not a luxury. We have an historic opportunity to rid the world of HIV, TB and malaria. Let’s seize that opportunity.

Peter Sands is the executive director of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and Antonio Zappulla is the chief executive of the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Among the many challenges involved in improving health services, one is both pervasive and largely hidden. Human rights-related barriers to health, some explicit, others expressed in behaviours and norms, prevent millions of people from access to lifesaving prevention and treatment.

Think of a girl who is forced to get married at 15 and needs her husband’s permission to undergo an HIV test, or to get a bed net to protect herself and her children from malaria. Or a gay man who is beaten up by police and charged with sodomy when he secretly visits the home of a community health care worker to obtain condoms. Or a group of miners working 14 hours a day deep in a mine without ventilation and health insurance despite widespread tuberculosis.

Money alone cannot ensure and protect basic human rights for people most at risk from infectious diseases.

If the media stokes the appetite for a witch hunt against LGBT+ people or condones violence against women, how will society behave? If laws allow abuse and discrimination to be justified, how can social justice be achieved?

Stigma, ignorance, prejudice and lack of opportunities are some of the toughest road blocks to remove. But the combined power of the law and the media can make a difference.

Fair and balanced news coverage is critical in informing public opinion. Respect for human rights is essential to ensure access to health services. Combined, they become the key to unlocking systemic change.

In sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls are twice as likely to be HIV-positive compared to young men. Contributing factors include gender inequality, violence and limited access to education. Meanwhile, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, sex workers and transgender people often lack access to health programmes. The root cause? Social taboos, punitive laws and fear of arrest.

Framing health as a human right creates an obligation on states to ensure accessible, acceptable and affordable health care of appropriate quality. But this conception of health as a human right is not shared around the world. You have only to look, for example, at how HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission is still criminalized in 86 jurisdictions worldwide.

We will never end the epidemics of HIV, TB and malaria –  which killed 3 million people in 2017 alone – unless we dismantle social and human rights barriers to health services.

Everyone has a right to healthcare, encompassing dignity and respect. Not only is this a basic human right, but it is critical to fostering social stability and boosting economic growth. It is predicted that drug-resistant TB will cost the global economy approximately US$17 trillion by 2050 if progress is not made fast enough.

The Global Fund and the Thomson Reuters Foundation are joining forces to combine the power of an international health financing organization with global media and legal expertise, to help break down barriers to health services.

Each year, the Global Fund mobilizes and invests more than US$4 billion to support health programs run by local experts in more than 100 countries. Through its “Breaking Down Barriers” Initiative, the Global Fund is working with countries to reduce human rights-related barriers to health services: to ensure that everybody, including the most marginalized, also have access to prevention, treatment and care services; to see that health care workers are trained not to discriminate against, turn away, or fear people living with HIV or TB; to ensure that police are sensitized to support LGBT people to access prevention and treatment, rather than subject them to extortion, arbitrary arrest and violence; and to inform women, girls and others most affected by disease and violence about their rights and access to legal support. In the last three years, over US$120 million have gone to these and other programs to reduce stigma and discrimination and increase access to justice, an unprecedented investment in human rights as a critical component of our efforts to end HIV, TB, and malaria.

But more needs to be done. In its new partnership with the Global Fund, the Thomson Reuters Foundation will facilitate legal services and support for civil society partners in key countries, including development of “know your rights” training, capacity-building for health practitioners, services providers and their clients, plus guidance for NGOs and civil society groups working in challenging social contexts. The Thomson Reuters Foundation will also train journalists on human rights and health issues, and support awareness-raising on human rights-related barriers to health. Our hope is that by combining forces, we can achieve real impact.

Access to healthcare is a right, not a luxury. We have an historic opportunity to rid the world of HIV, TB and malaria. Let’s seize that opportunity.

On Human Rights Day, please endorse the EECA Statement against HIV Criminalization

Today, December 10, 2019, Human Rights Day, National and Regional Networks and Civil Society Organizations on HIV Criminalization in the EECA Region are asking you to support the movement against HIV criminalization by endorsing the following Statement.

Download a pdf of the Statement in English or Russian.

Endorse the Statement in English here.  EПодпишите заявление на русском языке здесь.

On November 25-26, 2019, the “Decriminalization of HIV transmission in the EECA region: the role of civil society and advocacy tools” meeting was held in Minsk, Belarus, by the Eurasian Women’s Network on AIDS (EWNA), the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) and CO “100 PERCENT LIFE”. Activists representing national, regional and international networks discussed the current situation with HIV criminalization in the EECA region and options available to strengthen the movement in order to counter that HIV criminalization in the EECA region.

HIV criminalization is a global issue that undermines human rights and impedes the development of public health and, as a result, weakens the efforts to eradicate the HIV epidemic. An analysis of recent HIV criminalization cases shows that they do not reflect the demographics of local epidemics, and the likelihood of persecution is compounded by discrimination against marginalized groups on the basic of drug use, ethnicity, gender identity, immigration status, sex work and sexuality.

The Global Commission on HIV and the Law, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Joint United Nations Program on AIDS (UNAIDS), among others, declare that any use of criminal law against people living with HIV should be strictly limited to exceptional cases of intentional and malicious HIV transmission to another person and only where real harm occurred. However, the law and law enforcement practice go beyond this limitation in many countries.

According to HIV Justice Worldwide, Europe and Central Asia is the region with the second highest number of laws criminalizing HIV exposure, non-disclosure and transmission. 18 of the 19 countries where such laws have been adopted are in the EECA region. Many of them allow criminal prosecution for actions that do not pose a risk of HIV or pose a low risk only. These laws do not recognize condom use or low viral load as a means of protection against prosecution. They criminalize oral sex, individual breastfeeding cases, as well as bites, scratches, bites, or spitting. Such laws were developed in the times when efficient ARV therapy was not yet available and the HIV diagnosis was equated with a death sentence. The implementation of such laws is most often informed by myths, misconceptions on HIV transmission ways, and stigma against people living with HIV and vulnerable communities.

The laws of the EECA countries criminalizing the HIV transmission vary in their severity and in specific sanctions. The Russian Federation and Belarus are global and regional leaders in terms of the number of criminal cases related to HIV6. In Uzbekistan, a person living with HIV can be prosecuted regardless of whether his/her partner wants to initiate a criminal case. In 2019, a punishment was introduced in the law in Tajikistan for those who refuse to receive HIV therapy7. In many EECA countries, the punishment for any crime involving an HIV-positive person is exacerbated by the positive HIV status.

Concerned by the fact that prosecutions are not always informed by the best available scientific and medical evidence, 20 of the world’s leading HIV scientists have presented the Expert consensus statement on the science of HIV in the context of criminal law.

The criminalization of HIV transmission is a growing human rights issue in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This fact is also confirmed by the first regional report, prepared in 2017 using the data of the communities of women living with HIV. The study was organized and conducted by EWNA with the support of GNP+ and HIV Justice Worldwide.

The study has shown that HIV criminalization is a gender issue10. The stories and cases documented in the report and other recently conducted studies illustrate that women are more likely to be persecuted, as they are often the first to become aware of their status through regular HIV testing during pregnancy, but they are less likely to safely disclose their HIV positive status to their partner due to gender inequality in the family, economic dependence and high levels of violence. In addition, women living with HIV are less likely to receive adequate legal assistance and to have competent representation in court. In their stories, women talk about violence, threats, and blackmail associated with their HIV-positive status. The laws adopted were designed to protect women from HIV. Unfortunately, this is not the case in the reality as HIV criminalization makes women more vulnerable to violence and structural disparities. HIV criminalization increases the vulnerability of women to deprivation of parental rights, property loss, and poverty.

EECA activists make essential efforts to advocate for the decriminalization of HIV infection. Thus, the active advocacy work conducted by the community of people living with HIV pushed Belarus to adopt an important legislative amendment: the HIV-positive partner should be exempt from criminal liability if he or she has timely warned the HIV-negative partner about HIV and the latter has voluntarily agreed to take actions, which created a risk of infection. However this step alone is not sufficient to solve the issue of HIV criminalization.

We call attention of the EECA countries to the fact that in a society with low stigma and discrimination, people are more likely to be voluntarily tested for HIV and, learning about their status, begin ARV treatment.

We urge communities of people living with HIV and other criminalized and marginalized communities, in particular sex workers, LGBT people, people who use drugs, to unite and take a consolidated position to counter HIV criminalization, presenting a united front against HIV stigma and discrimination embedded in the law.

We urge governments and parliamentarians to use general law to prevent HIV transmission in the harm to health context and, instead of applying criminal law in any cases other than actual infection transmission by malicious intent, take steps to encourage people to be tested, take ARV treatment, communicate their HIV status and have safe sex without fear of stigma, discrimination and violence. This can be achieved by adopting and applying anti-discrimination laws and organizing public information campaigns to dispel myths about HIV, as such campaigns are evidence-based and are led by people living with HIV.

We urge prosecution agencies and prosecutors, to use scientific evidence and evidence-based medicine, in particular the evidence included in the Expert consensus statement on the science of HIV in the context of criminal law, in pre-trial and trial proceedings, in order to limit or prevent abuse of criminal prosecution in cases of allegations of HIV transmission or exposure or in cases of non-disclosure of HIV status.

We urge the media to stop demonizing people living with HIV, presenting us as criminals and as sources of infection. We request the media to consider HIV related issues from the perspective of human rights and use facts and evidence-based medicine while covering such issues.

We encourage donors to invest in communities and advocates opposing HIV criminalization, which undermines human rights and public health.

US: Growing number of Ohio public health experts and advocates call for reform of HIV criminalisation law

Experts: Ohio law on HIV status disclosure hurts public health

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A growing number of Ohio public health experts and advocates are now working to stop what they call the criminalization of HIV.

Daphne Kackloudis, Chief Public Policy Officer at Equitas Health, told News 5 Ohio’s current law charging someone who fails to disclose their HIV status with a felony in all cases is hurting public health.

Kackloudis said the threat of up to eight years in prison is causing too many people to avoid getting tested, because according the current law if someone doesn’t get tested, and isn’t aware of their status they can’t be prosecuted.

“It is a disincentive for someone to get tested, and that’s not good for an individuals health and the public health,” Kackloudis said.

“We want them to get on antiretroviral therapy to get as healthy as possible, and be virally suppressed so they can not transmit HIV.”

Kackloudis believes the potential penalty should be moved back to a misdemeanor in cases where those charged are on HIV medication and are a far less infection risk.

She said the current law allows someone to file charges against an HIV-positive partner, even if they didn’t get the virus from that partner.

Kackloudis is a member of the Ohio Health Modernization Movement , which is also making an effort to change Ohio law.

She also made it clear she fully understands why the law was created, and said the proposed change in the law would still allow for full prosecution of those who willingly give others HIV.

Graig Cote of Columbus, who has been HIV positive for 33 years, told News 5 changes in the law are needed because it’s too difficult to prove if someone made proper disclosure of their status or not, unless there was a witness or if it was in writing or recorded.

“If we don’t change the laws, people don’t get tested, if they don’t get tested they don’t know if they’re HIV positive,” Cote said.

“We’re not asking for a free ride, we’re just asking that the laws catch up with the science.”

Cote said he hopes the proposed change in Ohio law is ready to present at the statehouse in the first quarter of 2020, and again made it clear the effort would not keep those who willingly spread HIV from facing full prosecution.

“People who want to infect somebody need to be stopped, there’s no dispute about that,” Cote said.

Ukraine: Svetlana Moroz, chair of the Eurasian Women’s AIDS Network, talks about the campaign to decriminalise HIV

HIV criminalisation creates an atmosphere of false effectiveness of the State

Google translation – Scroll down for article in Russian

Global changes in Ukrainian politics in the spring and summer of 2019 generated a new wave of “high expectations” of civil society in relation to changes in the field of legislation. As a result, along with calls to immediately punish all corrupt officials and restructure the domestic economy, the concept of “decriminalization” has come into use in the media over the past half year.

The most famous today are public campaigns to decriminalize medical cannabis and sex work. Both topics are considered “hot” from the point of view of journalists and there is no doubt that a serious public discussion in this area awaits us in the coming months.

Unfortunately, the topic of decriminalization of HIV today is far from the focus of media attention. The draft amendments to the Legislation in this area was submitted for discussion to state bodies by human rights defenders at the beginning of 2017, but either because of the catastrophic stigmatization of the topic, or because of the total disinterest of officials in solving the problem, it is still “under the cloth” .

About why article 130 part 1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine is so bad, how much the idea of ​​HIV transmission has changed over the past 30 years, and what do we need to do to remove the label “Potential Criminal” from tens of thousands of Ukrainians, we are talking with the chairman of the board of the Eurasian Women’s AIDS Network Svetlana Moroz.

Svetlana, I know that you have a lot of experience in protecting the rights of people living with HIV and you often represent Ukraine at international conferences on this topic. Is it true that the criminalization of HIV is a common place in the Criminal Codes of countries with different ideologies?

According to the HIV Justice Network and the Global Commission on HIV and Legislation, as of July 2018, 68 countries criminalize not reporting an HIV diagnosis, putting people at risk of transmission and transmitting HIV, and HIV-positive status can be considered aggravating and punishment of circumstance.

There is also information about prosecutions for HIV-positive status in 69 countries. The leaders in the number of criminal cases related to HIV are Belarus, Canada, Russia and the USA. Yes, in that order.

But, on the other hand, for the period 2012-2018. In several countries, such as Venezuela, Ghana, Greece, Honduras, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Malawi, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Switzerland, and two US states, laws criminalizing HIV transmission have been repealed. And this is also a fact.

What damage does HIV criminalization do in real life?

The criminalization of HIV is the application of existing criminal or other laws to people living with HIV (PLHIV) who establish responsibility for putting them at risk of infection and becoming infected with HIV.

Excessive use of laws that criminalize PLHIV is a public health problem, as it discredits evidence-based strategies for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for PLHIV, and ignores scientific advances related to the risk of HIV transmission. Criminalization reinforces the stigma associated with HIV status and identifies HIV-positive people as potential criminals, which in turn further increases discrimination.

Thus, the fear of prosecution can deter many people living with HIV, in particular women and members of key groups (people who use drugs, sex workers, migrants, men who have sex with men and people from sex) from receiving the necessary treatment and support, prevents information disclosure and increases the vulnerability of people living with HIV to violence.

Much less commonly discussed is how these laws affect healthcare providers. When a criminal trial was conducted in the United States over an HIV-positive patient, his doctor was called as a witness. She told how she was in a situation where she was forced to violate professional ethics, confidentiality and trust of her patient. When the prosecutor congratulated her on the fact that she helped to put the “scum” behind bars, the doctor felt devastated, because she could not help her patient and even harmed him by violating the main oath – “do no harm”.

In Russia, it is enough for an HIV-positive person to bite or scratch a policeman to get a few months on top of the main sentence. In Belarus, people living with HIV, living in families with children for a long time, receive real terms, depending on who was first registered with the doctor.

How has the perception of HIV transmission changed over the past 30 years?

Science took a big step forward. We live in an era of highly active antiretroviral therapy (ART), which has made HIV infection a chronic disease. Three critical studies have shown that the risk of transmitting the virus to HIV-positive people with sufficiently suppressed ART viral load is zero.

At the same time, taking an HIV-negative person with pre-exposure prophylaxis (PCP) as prescribed by a doctor almost always protects against HIV infection. These facts helped lawyers defend themselves against criminal prosecution on charges of transmitting HIV and putting it at risk of being brought forward from misconceptions about HIV as a “deadly weapon”.

What is the main illusion of the criminalization of HIV?

Criminal prosecution of PLHIV places the responsibility for HIV solely on them, thus creating an atmosphere of false peace for the rest of society for their health. People think their partners will warn that they have HIV under pain of criminal liability. In reality, this rarely happens, because the very dynamics of intimate contact, especially random contacts, exclude such information. As a result, people do not practice safe sex because they believe that if the partner does not report having HIV, then he is healthy and you can’t protect yourself. In many cases, the additional burden of possible criminal responsibility for concealing HIV-positive status only exacerbates the problems, making it difficult to talk openly about HIV in building relationships, in the work community and in the family.

Criminalization creates an atmosphere of false state effectiveness: it is being eliminated from the implementation of effective HIV information and prevention programs.

When my organization began working in prisons in the Donetsk region in 2005, I listened with horror and indignation to the stories of social workers about how HIV + men who did not infect their wives and to whom their spouses had no complaints were serving their sentences. My colleague from Kharkov received a suspended sentence only because she was pregnant (a mitigating factor), otherwise, she would have been in prison for not informing the nurse about her HIV status.

What is the main goal of your advocacy campaign for decriminalizing HIV?

The maximum program is to remove HIV infection from criminal law and use general legislation, for example, causing harm to health where the intent of HIV infection has been proven. Otherwise, it is a stigma built into the laws.

We will also consider as a big advance the cancellation of Part 1 of Article 130 of the Civil Code of Ukraine (Intentionally putting another person in danger of contracting the human immunodeficiency virus or other incurable infectious disease that is dangerous to human life – is punishable by arrest for up to three months or restriction of liberty for up to five years , or imprisonment for up to three years), which human rights activists and activists have been talking about for many years, but the proposed laws were lost in bureaucratic corridors back in 2016. Our country has a very progressive AIDS Law, but the Criminal Code contradicts it.

And, of course, the minimum program – in our country, where laws are still in place that criminalize the transmission of HIV, the courts must, in accordance with the standards of the criminal process, require evidence of intent to transmit HIV. It is impossible to presume or justify the existence of intent by circumstances such as knowledge and / or non-reporting by the accused of their HIV-positive status, participation in unprotected sex, having a baby without taking measures to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, or sharing injecting drug use equipment .

It should be noted that people living with HIV suffer from multiple criminalization, since many of them belong to marginalized groups – people who use drugs and have sex work. They are being persecuted for possession of drugs for personal use and for engaging in sex work. This, of course, is a separate big problem, worthy of increased attention of human rights defenders of Ukraine.

Interview conducted by:  Sergey Myasoedov (Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union)

Криминализация ВИЧ создает атмосферу ложной эффективности работы государства

Глобальные изменения в украинском политикуме весной-летом 2019 года породили новую волну «больших ожиданий» гражданского общества применительно к изменениям в сфере законодательства. В итоге, наряду с призывами немедленно наказать всех коррупционеров и реструктурировать отечественную экономику, в СМИ за последние пол-года в обиход вошло понятие «декриминализация».

Наиболее известными на сегодня являются общественные кампании по декриминализации медицинской конопли и секс-работы. Обе темы считаются «горячими» с точки зрения журналистов и несомненно, что в ближайшие месяцы нас ожидает серьезная общественная дискуссия в этой сфере.

К сожалению, тема декриминализации ВИЧ на сегодня далека от фокуса внимания СМИ. Проект изменений Законодательства в этой сфере был передан правозащитниками на обсуждение в гос органы еще в начале 2017 года, но, то ли в силу катастрофической стигматизированности темы, то ли в силу тотальной незаинтересованности чиновников в решении проблемы, он до сих пор находится «под сукном».

О том, почему статья 130 часть 1-я УК Украины так плоха, насколько изменились представления о передаче ВИЧ за последние 30 лет, и что же нам нужно сделать, чтобы убрать с десятков тысяч украинцев ярлык «Потенциальный преступник» беседуем с председательницей правления Евразийской Женской Сети по СПИДу Светланой Мороз.

Светлана я знаю, что у вас очень большой опыт работы по защите прав людей, живущих с ВИЧ и вы часто представляете Украину на международных конференциях по данной тематике. Правда ли, что криминализация ВИЧ является общим местом в Уголовных Кодексах стран с различной идеологией?

Согласно данным HIV Justice Network и Глобальной комиссии по ВИЧ и Законодательству по состоянию на июль 2018 года, в 68 странах предусмотрена уголовная ответственность за несообщение диагноза ВИЧ, поставление в опасность инфицирования и передачу ВИЧ, а ВИЧ-положительный статус может рассматриваться в качестве отягчающего ответственность и наказание обстоятельства.

Также имеется информация о случаях уголовного преследования в связи с ВИЧ-положительным статусом в 69 странах. Лидерами по количеству уголовных дел, связанных с ВИЧ, являются Беларусь, Канада, Россия и США. Да, в такой последовательности.

Но, с другой стороны, за период 2012-2018 гг. в ряде стран, например, в Венесуэле, Гане, Греции, Гондурасе, Зимбабве, Кении, Малави, Монголии, Таджикистане, Швейцарии и двух штатах США, были отменены законы, предусматривающие уголовную ответственность за передачу ВИЧ. И это тоже факт.

Какой ущерб наносит людям криминализация ВИЧ в реальной жизни?

Криминализация ВИЧ – это применение существующих уголовных или других законов в отношении людей, живущих с ВИЧ (ЛЖВ), устанавливающих ответственность за постановку в опасность заражения и заражение ВИЧ-инфекцией.

Чрезмерное использование законов, которые криминализуют ЛЖВ, является проблемой общественного здравоохранения, поскольку дискредитирует основанные на фактических данных стратегии в отношении профилактики ВИЧ-инфекции, а также лечения, ухода и поддержки ЛЖВ, и игнорирует научные достижения, связанные с риском передачи ВИЧ-инфекции. Криминализация усиливает стигму, связанную с ВИЧ-статусом, и идентифицирует ВИЧ-положительных людей, как потенциальных преступников, что, в свою очередь, еще больше повышает дискриминацию.

Таким образом, страх перед судебным преследованием может удерживать многих людей, живущих с ВИЧ, в частности женщин и представителей ключевых групп (люди, употребляющие наркотики, секс работницы_ки, мигранты, мужчины, имеющие секс с мужчинами и транслюди) от получения необходимого лечения и поддержки, препятствует раскрытию информации и повышает уязвимость людей, живущих с ВИЧ, к насилию.

Намного реже обсуждается то, как эти законы влияют на медицинских работников. Когда в США шел уголовный процесс над ВИЧ-положительным пациентом, в качестве свидетеля была вызвана его врач. Она рассказала, как оказалась в ситуации, когда была вынуждена нарушить и профессиональную этику, конфиденциальность и доверие своего пациента. Когда прокурор поздравил ее с тем, что она помогла отправить за решетку «подонка», врач почувствовала себя опустошенной, поскольку она не смогла помочь своему пациенту и даже навредила ему, чем преступила главную клятву – «не навреди».

В России достаточно ВИЧ-положительному человеку укусить или поцарапать полицейского, чтобы получить несколько месяцев сверху к основному приговору. В Беларуси люди, живущие с ВИЧ, долгое время прожившие в семьях, имеющие детей, получают реальные сроки, в зависимости от того, кто первый был поставлен на учет к врачу.

Как изменилось представление о передаче ВИЧ за последние 30 лет?

Наука сильно шагнула вперед. Мы живем в эпоху высоко активной антиретровирусной терапии (АРТ), которая сделала ВИЧ-инфекцию хроническим заболеванием. Три важнейших исследования доказали, что риск передачи вируса ВИЧ-положительными людьми с достаточно подавленной АРТ вирусной нагрузкой равен нулю.

В то же время, прием ВИЧ-отрицательным человеком доконтактной профилактики (ДКП) в соответствии с предписаниями врача почти всегда защищает от инфицирования ВИЧ. Эти факты помогли юристам в защите от уголовного преследования по обвинениям в передаче ВИЧ и поставлении в опасность инфицирования, предъявленным из неверных представлений о ВИЧ как о «смертельном оружии».

В чем состоит главная иллюзия криминализации ВИЧ?

Уголовное преследование ЛЖВ перекладывает ответственность за ВИЧ исключительно на них, создавая таким образом атмосферу ложного спокойствия остальных членов общества за свое здоровье. Люди думают, что под страхом уголовной ответственности их партнеры предупредят, что у них ВИЧ. В реальности это происходит редко, потому что сама динамика интимного контакта, особенно случайных контактов, исключает подобное информирование. В итоге люди не практикуют защищенный секс, потому что считают, если партнер не сообщил о наличии у него ВИЧ, значит он здоров и можно не предохраняться. Во многих случаях дополнительное бремя возможной уголовной ответственности за сокрытие ВИЧ-положительного статуса только усиливает проблемы, мешая открыто говорить о ВИЧ при установлении отношений, в рабочем коллективе и семье. В результате общество не защищено существующим уголовным законодательством в отношении ЛЖВ от ВИЧ-инфекции, а даже наоборот.

Криминализация создает атмосферу ложной эффективности работы государства: оно устраняется от реализации эффективных программ информирования и профилактики ВИЧ.

Когда моя организация начинала работать в местах лишения свободы в Донецкой области в 2005 году, я с ужасом и негодованием слушала истории соцработников о том, как отбывают свои сроки ВИЧ+ мужчины, которые не инфицировали своих жен и к которым их супруги не имели никаких претензий. Моя коллега из Харькова получила условный срок, только потому что была беременная (смягчающий фактор), иначе, сидела бы в тюрьме за то, что не сообщила медсестре о своем ВИЧ-статусе.

Какова основная цель вашей правозащитной деятельности в связи с кампанией по декриминализации ВИЧ?

Программа максимум – убрать ВИЧ-инфекцию из криминального законодательства и использовать общее законодательство, например, причинение вреда здоровью там, где доказан умысел инфицирования ВИЧ. Иначе, это встроенная в законы стигма.

Большим продвижением мы также посчитаем отмену части 1 статьи 130 КК Украины (Заведомое поставление другого лица в опасность заражения вирусом иммунодефицита человека либо иной неизлечимой инфекционной болезни, опасной для жизни человека, – наказывается арестом на срок до трех месяцев или ограничением свободы на срок до пяти лет, или лишением свободы на срок до трех лет), о которой правозащитники и активисты говорят много лет, но предложенные законы потерялись в бюрократических коридорах еще в 2016 году. В нашей стране существует очень прогрессивный Закон о СПИДе, но Криминальный Кодекс ему противоречит.

И, конечно, программа минимум – в нашей стране, где все еще действуют законы, предусматривающие уголовную ответственность за передачу ВИЧ, суды должны в соответствии со стандартами уголовного процесса требовать доказательства о наличии умысла передачи ВИЧ. Нельзя предполагать или обосновывать наличие умысла такими обстоятельствами, как знание и/или несообщение обвиняемым своего ВИЧ-положительного статуса, участие в незащищенном половом контакте, рождение ребенка без принятия мер по профилактике передачи ВИЧ от матери к ребенку, либо совместное использование инструментария для инъекционного употребления наркотиков.

Тут нужно отметить, что люди, живущие с ВИЧ, страдают от множественной криминализации, поскольку многие из них принадлежат к маргинализированным группам – к людям, употребляющим наркотики и занимающимся секс-работой. Их преследуют за хранение наркотиков с целью личного употребления и за занятие секс-работой. Это конечно же отдельная большая проблема, достойная повышенного внимания правозащитников Украины.

Интервью  вёл: Сергей Мясоедов (Украинский Хельсинкский союз по правам человека)

Mexico: Mexican Network of Organisations against HIV criminalisation calls on Veracruz State Congress to stop proposed criminalisation legislation

NGOs call local deputy to stop proposal that criminalizes people with HIV

Google translation, scroll down for Spanish article

On April 30, 2018, the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation ruled in favour of the Unconstitutionality Action 139/2015 promoted by the National Human Rights Commission

The Mexican Network of Organizations Against HIV Criminalization, called upon the deputy chairwoman of the Administration and Budget Commission of the Veracruz State Congress, Jessica Ramírez Cisneros, to stop the legislative process of her proposal to reform articles 157 and 158 of the Criminal Code of the State , where it is intended to impose from six months to five years in prison and a fine of up to 50 Units of Measurement and Update (UMA) who, fraudulently, endangers of “contagion” of a serious illness to another person

In this, it is considered among these serious and communicable diseases to “syphilis, gonorrhea, hepatitis B and C, herpes, HIV, tuberculosis” , which contradicts the historical ruling of the SCJN that invalidates the modification of the annulment of article 158.

Through a letter addressed to the legislator to channel their efforts for human rights and encourage the repeal of article 158 of the Criminal Code for the Free and Sovereign State of Veracruz of Ignacio de la Llave.

Remember that on April 30, 2018, the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation ruled in favor of the Unconstitutionality Action 139/2015 promoted by the National Human Rights Commission , at the request of the Multisectoral Group on HIV / AIDS and STIs of the State of Veracruz, against the amendment to article 158 of the Criminal Code for the Free and Sovereign State of Veracruz of Ignacio de la Llave, in whose content the penalty for the offense of alleged “contagion” (transmission should be said) was added to who has sexually transmitted infections, specifying HIV.

ONGs llaman a diputada local parar propuesta que criminaliza a personas con VIH

El 30 de abril de 2018, la Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación falló a favor de la Acción de Inconstitucionalidad 139/2015 promovida por la Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos

La Red Mexicana de Organizaciones contra la Criminalización del VIH, hizo un exhorto a la diputada presidenta de la Comisión de Administración y Presupuesto del Congreso del Estado de Veracruz, Jessica Ramírez Cisneros, detener el proceso legislativo de su propuesta para reformar los artículos 157 y 158 del Código Penal del Estado, en donde se pretende imponer de seis meses a cinco años de prisión y multa de hasta 50 Unidades de Medida y Actualización (UMA) a quien, dolosamente, ponga en peligro de “contagio” de una enfermedad grave a otra persona.

En esta, se considera entre dichas enfermedades graves y transmisibles a la “sífilis, gonorrea, hepatitis B y C, herpes, VIH, tuberculosis”, misma que contradice el fallo histórico de la SCJN que invalida la modificación del anula el artículo 158.

A través de una carta dirigida a la legisladora canalizar sus esfuerzos en pro de los derechos humanos y fomente la derogación del artículo 158 del Código Penal para el Estado Libre y Soberano de Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave.

Recuerdan que el 30 de abril de 2018, la Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación, falló a favor de la Acción de Inconstitucionalidad 139/2015 promovida por la Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, a solicitud del Grupo Multisectorial en VIH/sida e ITS del Estado de Veracruz, en contra de la reforma al artículo 158 del Código Penal para el Estado Libre y Soberano de Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave, en cuyo contenido se agregó la sanción por delito de presunto “contagio” (debería decirse transmisión) a quien presente infecciones de transmisión sexual, especificando VIH.

UNAIDS and UNDP urge countries to lift all forms of HIV-related travel restrictions

UNAIDS and UNDP call on 48* countries and territories to remove all HIV-related travel restrictions

New data show that in 2019 around 48* countries and territories still have restrictions that include mandatory HIV testing and disclosure as part of requirements for entry, residence, work and/or study permits

GENEVA, 27 June 2019—UNAIDS and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are urging countries to keep the promises made in the 2016 United Nations Political Declaration on Ending AIDS to remove all forms of HIV-related travel restrictions. Travel restrictions based on real or perceived HIV status are discriminatory, prevent people from accessing HIV services and propagate stigma and discrimination. Since 2015, four countries have taken steps to lift their HIV-related travel restrictions—Belarus, Lithuania, the Republic of Korea and Uzbekistan.

“Travel restrictions on the basis of HIV status violate human rights and are not effective in achieving the public health goal of preventing HIV transmission,” said Gunilla Carlsson, UNAIDS Executive Director, a.i. “UNAIDS calls on all countries that still have HIV-related travel restrictions to remove them.”

“HIV-related travel restrictions fuel exclusion and intolerance by fostering the dangerous and false idea that people on the move spread disease,” said Mandeep Dhaliwal, Director of UNDP’s HIV, Health and Development Group. “The 2018 Supplement of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law was unequivocal in its findings that these policies are counterproductive to effective AIDS responses.”

Out of the 48 countries and territories that maintain restrictions, at least 30 still impose bans on entry or stay and residence based on HIV status and 19 deport non-nationals on the grounds of their HIV status. Other countries and territories may require an HIV test or diagnosis as a requirement for a study, work or entry visa. The majority of countries that retain travel restrictions are in the Middle East and North Africa, but many countries in Asia and the Pacific and eastern Europe and central Asia also impose restrictions.

“HIV-related travel restrictions violate human rights and stimulate stigma and discrimination. They do not decrease the transmission of HIV and are based on moralistic notions of people living with HIV and key populations. It is truly incomprehensible that HIV-related entry and residency restrictions still exist,” said Rico Gustav, Executive Director of the Global Network of People Living with HIV.

The Human Rights Council, meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, this week for its 41st session, has consistently drawn the attention of the international community to, and raised awareness on, the importance of promoting human rights in the response to HIV, most recently in its 5 July 2018 resolution on human rights in the context of HIV.

“Policies requiring compulsory tests for HIV to impose travel restrictions are not based on scientific evidence, are harmful to the enjoyment of human rights and perpetuate discrimination and stigma,” said Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health. “They are a direct barrier to accessing health care and therefore ineffective in terms of public health. I call on states to abolish discriminatory policies that require mandatory testing and impose travel restrictions based on HIV status.”

The new data compiled by UNAIDS include for the first time an analysis of the kinds of travel restrictions imposed by countries and territories and include cases in which people are forced to take a test to renew a residency permit. The data were validated with Member States through their permanent missions to the United Nations.

UNAIDS and UNDP, as the convenor of the Joint Programme’s work on human rights, stigma and discrimination, are continuing to work with partners, governments and civil society organizations to change all laws that restrict travel based on HIV status as part of the Global Partnership for Action to Eliminate all Forms of HIV-Related Stigma and Discrimination. This is a partnership of United Nations Member States, United Nations entities, civil society and the private and academic sectors for catalysing efforts in countries to implement and scale up programmes and improve shared responsibility and accountability for ending HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

*The 48 countries and territories that still have some form of HIV related travel restriction are: Angola, Aruba, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei Darussalam, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, New Zealand, Oman, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Turks and Caicos, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.


The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) leads and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations—UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank—and works closely with global and national partners towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Learn more at and connect with us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.