It’s HIV Justice Network’s 10th Anniversary

Our founding document, the Oslo Declaration, was created 10 years ago this week

On February 13, 2012, a group of individuals from civil society around the world, concerned about the inappropriate and overly broad use of the criminal law to regulate and punish people living with HIV for behaviour that in any other circumstance would be considered lawful, came together in Oslo to create the Oslo Declaration on HIV Criminalisation.

The Oslo Declaration, published on the brand new hivjustice.net website on February 22, 2012, became the founding document of the HIV Justice Network (HJN). Within weeks, more than 1700 supporters from more than 115 countries had signed up to the Declaration, creating a network of diverse activists, all fighting for HIV justice.

HJN was formed due to a growing concern over increasingly punitive approaches to HIV prevention: in particular, the inappropriate use of criminal law, even though HIV criminalisation is discredited as a public health response. We have grown in size, capacity, and impact in the intervening decade thanks to our funders – the Monument Trust, the Robert Carr Fund for civil society networks, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and UNAIDS – our small-but-dedicated HJN team, our Supervisory Board, our Global Advisory Panel and our HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE partners.

Today, we collate authoritative data and information to build the evidence base against the unjust criminalisation of people living with HIV. We also raise awareness of the harms of this approach in critical arenas including among the scientific, medical, policy, advocacy, and donor communities.

Most importantly, we galvanise and nurture the global movement against HIV criminalisation, by providing an advocacy hub to bring individuals, national, regional, and global networks and organisations together to catalyse change.

Thank you to everyone who has supported the organisation on our journey so far. We couldn’t have done it without our funders and partners but, most importantly, we wouldn’t have achieved so much without 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.

Watch HIV Justice Live! which explores the history behind, and impact of, the Oslo Declaration on HIV Criminalisation. Hosted by HJN’s founder and Executive Director, Edwin J Bernard, the show, From Moment to Movement, featured some of the advocates who were behind the Oslo Declaration: Kim Fangen, Patrick Eba, Michaela Clayton, Ralf Jürgens and Susan Timberlake.

 

New Breastfeeding Defence Toolkit
launched at Beyond Blame 2021

Criminal prosecutions related to presumed HIV exposure via breastfeeding are all-too-often driven by stigma, misinformation, and the desire to protect a child from exaggerated risk.  People living with HIV require a vigorous defence based on principles of justice and human rights, good public policy, and accurate science.

Which is why this week we have launched the Breastfeeding Defence Toolkit as a new section of our HIV Justice Tookit.

The Breastfeeding Defence Toolkit provides materials to support lawyers and advocates supporting people living with HIV who face criminal charges or other punitive measures for breastfeeding, chestfeeding, or comfort nursing.

Although the Breastfeeding Defence Toolkit is currently only available in English, we are working on French, Russian and Spanish versions.  In addition, new resources will be added to the Toolkit as they become available.

The Breastfeeding Defence Toolkit was launched at Beyond Blame: Challenging Criminalisation for HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE on Tuesday 30 November 2021.  Watch the 10 minute segment below.

Background

In 1986, it was discovered that HIV could be transmitted from a woman to a child through 
breastfeeding. Since this time, women living with HIV have borne the weight of the 
responsibility of preventing HIV transmission to their offspring. This responsibility has been 
used to justify surveillance, judgement, and limitations on autonomy and decision-making for 
women living with HIV.

Some women living with HIV have faced criminal prosecution for exposing fetuses and/or 
infants to a risk of HIV infection, especially through breastfeeding. These numbers may be small 
compared to the number who have faced criminal charges with respect to HIV non-disclosure, 
exposure and transmission in sexual contexts, but cases are increasing.

The HIV Justice Network 
is aware of at least 13 such cases in the past decade, with a growing number of criminal prosecutions taking place 
across the African continent as well as in Russia since 2018. We are also aware of several cases 
that took place in North America and Europe between 2005 – 2012.

These cases include charges laid against mothers, community members and domestic 
employees. Various criminal charges have been used in these cases, including failure to provide 
the necessaries of life, grievous bodily harm, unlawfully doing an act likely to spread a 
dangerous disease, and deliberately infecting another with HIV.

In addition to these criminal 
cases, many more women have experienced punitive responses from service providers, public 
health, and child welfare authorities.

Criminal prosecutions and other punitive responses to breastfeeding by women living with HIV 
pose significant harms to both the accused and the child. HIV criminalisation threatens the 
health and well-being of people living with HIV and jeopardises the goals of ending HIV 
discrimination and, ultimately, the epidemic. Not only do punitive laws targeting people living with HIV lack a scientific evidence base they also serve as barriers to HIV prevention, treatment, 
and care, and perpetuate stigma.

Infant feeding choices should not be a criminal issue. Parents should be provided with full 
information to make the best choices for their families and infant feeding should be managed 
through clinical support. Science supports that the best outcomes for a mother and a child 
result from proper medical care, access to treatment and openness. Criminalising maternal and 
child health issues generally risks worse outcomes for the infant.

UPDATE: Speakers now confirmed for #BeyondBlame2021!

REGISTER HERE

Beyond Blame, our flagship meeting for activists, human rights defenders, criminal legal system and public health system actors, healthcare professionals, researchers, and anyone else working to end HIV criminalisation, is returning for a special eve-of-World AIDS Day edition.

Following the success of last year’s Beyond Blame @ HIV2020, which was reimagined as a two-hour web show, the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE coalition is delighted to announce that Beyond Blame: Challenging Criminalisation for HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE will take place on Tuesday, November 30, 2021, from 6-8 PM Central European Time. Check this link to find the event in your local time.

REGISTER HERE

Beyond Blame is a unique opportunity to learn why HIV criminalisation matters, as well as hear about the wide range of initiatives and strategies that have been used by activists, lawyers, networks, and organisations around the world to work towards ending the inappropriate use of criminal law to regulate and punish people living with HIV.

We will be highlighting some of the successes and challenges of the global movement to end HIV criminalisation over the past year, including work on ending the criminalisation of women living with HIV for breastfeeding, exploring whether scientific advances, such as the prevention benefit of treatment (U=U) and Molecular HIV Surveillance, help or hinder our movement and much, much more.

Beyond Blame will take place in English, with interpretation available in French, Russian and Spanish.

Follow the conversation on Twitter via #BeyondBlame2021 #HIVJustice

REGISTER HERE

September 14 is Sex Worker Pride!

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

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

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

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

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

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

HJN proudly joins the Support.Don’t Punish campaign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honouring Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31)

Honouring Transgender Day of Visibility

The International Transgender Day of Visibility is held annually on March 31 to celebrate trans-diverse people globally and honour their courage and visibility to live openly and authentically.

This year’s 12th annual celebration is a day to also raise awareness around the stigma and discrimination that trans people still face, especially young transgender people, trans people living with HIV, trans people who are currently transitioning and are therefore more likely to be identified as transgender, and transgender sex workers.

We also acknowledge there are too many invisibilities around the impact of HIV criminalisation on trans persons. Cecilia Chung, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives and Evaluation of the Transgender Law Center, who is also a member of our Global Advisory Panel told our Beyond Blame @HIV2020 webinar that there is not enough data on the impact of HIV criminalisation laws on transgender persons. She said such data are not “uniformly collected across the world… The numbers still remain invisible even though we know for sure there are [HIV criminalisation] cases.”

Although this day primarily serves to celebrate and honour trans-diverse persons, it also offers allies an opportunity to contribute to supportive legislation, policy and financial commitment of trans-diverse communities globally.

HJN also celebrates trans-diverse people globally and we honour their courage and visibility to live openly and authentically. We also call for more visibility for trans people in data collection, including our own, as well as reforms of HIV-related criminal laws and their enforcement that disproportionately target trans-diverse people.

WATCH! From Moment to Movement: HIV Justice Live! Ep 3 – Oslo Declaration 9th Anniversary

From Moment to Movement: HIV Justice Live! celebrates the Oslo Declaration on HIV Criminalisation

The 3rd episode of HIV Justice Live! aired on Wednesday, February 17, to celebrate nine years since the publication of the historic Oslo Declaration on HIV Criminalisation. Hosted by HIV Justice Network’s Edwin J Bernard, the show featured some of the advocates who were behind the Oslo Declaration.

Kim Fangen, co-organiser of the side-meeting that finalised the Oslo Declaration, and who was the only person openly living with HIV on the Norwegian Law Commission, revealed that the Declaration was initially conceived as an advocacy tool to influence policy discussions in Norway as well as neighbouring Nordic countries.

Patrick Eba, now UNAIDS Country Director in the Central African Republic, explained that the reason the meeting took place in Oslo was because the Norwegian Government had supported UNAIDS to produce detailed guidance on how countries should deal with the overly broad use of the criminal law to HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission, by examining scientific, medical and legal issues.

Former ARASA ED, Michaela Clayton, now a member of HJN’s Supervisory Board, said the Oslo Declaration was the first time there was a coming together of activists from both the global north and south around HIV criminalisation. She noted that although there had been some work done regionally and in-country, this was the first global solidarity statement around HIV criminalisation.

Ralf Jürgens, now Senior Coordinator of Human Rights at The Global Fund, who attended the Oslo meeting in an advisory capacity, spoke about his relief and delight that the work that he and others had done as part of the ‘first-wave’ of advocacy against HIV criminalisation was now being undertaken by the HIV Justice Network. Jürgens currently oversees the innovative Global Fund initiative, Breaking Down Barriers, which supports 20 countries to remove human rights-related barriers to health services for HIV, TB malaria, and COVID-19. He said the Global Fund has invested resources to fight laws and policies and discrimination overall and ensure access to justice. He added that the HIV Justice Worldwide movement now plays an “incredibly important” part in this work by providing global leadership and a wide range of advocacy resources.

There was a surprise appearance by Susan Timberlake, who was UNAIDS’ Senior Human Rights Advisor when the Oslo meetings took place. She recognised the Oslo Declaration as the moment that the global movement around HIV criminalisation began. Susan recalled the main meeting fell on Valentine’s Day and participants made posters with “make love, not criminal laws” messaging.

Our regular Mind the Gap segment featured Ellie Ballan, a member of our Global Advisory Panel, who is based in Lebanon. He was interviewed by Julian Hows, HJN’s Partnerships and Governance Co-ordinator.

The Oslo Declaration, has so far, garnered over 1750 signatories from more than 115 countries and been translated into nine different languages, the most recent being Latvian and Turkish. It was also the template for the Mexican Declaration in 2017.  Pozitif Dayanışma, an HIV organisation based in Turkey recently translated the Declaration into Turkish, as well as producing an accompanying info-graphic and social media pack.

Further, the Oslo Declaration has been referred to as key guidance on HIV criminalisation from global organisations such as UNAIDS, Amnesty International, and PEPFAR/USAID, cited in several peer-reviewed journals and used as a strategic planning and advocacy tool all over the world. The Declaration has also been featured in high-profile media, such as the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and POZ magazine.

HIV Justice Live Ep 3: Celebrating 9th Anniversary of the Oslo Declaration

To celebrate the 9th anniversary of the Oslo Declaration on HIV Criminalisation, the HIV Justice Network’s web show for advocates and activists, HIV Justice Live!, will this week feature some of the civil society activists who were behind the influential global call for a cohesive, evidence-informed approach to the use of criminal law relating to HIV non-disclosure, exposure, and transmission.

On February 13, 2012, a group of individuals from civil society around the world, concerned about the inappropriate and overly broad use of the criminal law to regulate and punish people living with HIV for behaviour that in any other circumstance would be considered lawful, came together in Oslo to create the Declaration.

The meeting took place on the eve of the global High-Level Policy Consultation on the Science and Law of the Criminalisation of HIV Non-disclosure, Exposure and Transmission, convened by the Government of Norway and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

The Oslo Declaration, published on the brand new hivjustice.net website on February 22, 2012, became the founding document of the HIV Justice Network. Within weeks, more than 1700 supporters from more than 115 countries had signed up to the Declaration, creating a network of diverse activists, all fighting for #HIVJustice.

Now, nine years later, HIV Justice Live! will meet some of the advocates behind this historic statement including former ARASA Executive Director, Michaela Clayton, now a member of HJN’s Supervisory Board; former Senior Human Rights and Law Adviser at UNAIDS in Geneva, Patrick Eba, now UNAIDS Country Director in the Central African Republic; HIV activist Kim Fangen, a former member of the Norwegian Law Commission and co-organiser of the Oslo Declaration meeting; and Ralf Jürgens, co-founder of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, now Senior Coordinator of Human Rights at The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

HJN’s Executive Director, Edwin J Bernard, who co-organised the meeting that created the Oslo Declaration with Kim Fangen will be discussing the importance of the Declaration as well as taking stock of developments around HIV criminalisation globally over the past decade.

HIV Justice Live! will be streamed on the HJN’s Facebook and YouTube channel on February 17, 2021, at 6 pm CET.

It’s all about justice and love this Valentines!

HIV Justice and Love

It’s Valentine’s Month! February is historically the month of love, and a time to show and share the love.

The HIV Justice Network is pleased to support campaigns in the month of love – February – focusing on HIV-positive living, loving, and justice.

Given the difficulty that some people living with HIV can face when it comes to finding love, including negotiating disclosure, sex for pleasure, and/or creating a family in the context of HIV criminalisation, it is important to acknowledge that everyone is deserving of love and affirmation.

To this end, the HIV Justice Network wishes to acknowledge the following Valentine’s campaigns for and about people living with HIV.

#LovePositiveWomen Campaign

The #LovePositiveWomen campaign is a global initiative running every Feb 1st-14th for each of us to express, share and support women living with HIV or as a friend of the community. It was developed and led by the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW), one of seven founding partners of HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE.

The campaign uses social media to link local grassroots gestures of love to each other. Using Valentines Day as a backdrop, #LovePositiveWomen “creates a platform for individuals and communities to engage in public and private acts of love and caring for women living with HIV.”

Going beyond romantic love to deep community love and social justice, the campaign is also a call to action. The HIV Justice Network has been supporting this campaign since 2017.

“#LovePositiveWomen is a response to the lack of attention and support and to make commitments. It requires participants to spend time reflecting on how they as either a woman living with HIV or an ally will commit to loving women living with HIV. Through action, change can be made to fueling economies of love and compassion. Working from a place of strength, it focuses on the idea of interconnectedness, relationship building, loving oneself, and loving one’s community. By starting from a place of love, within oneself, there are endless ways that the negative impacts that HIV has on women living with HIV can be lessened.”

You can follow the conversation using #LovePositiveWomen on social media.

#LoveandAccountability Campaign – What are you loving?

Initiated by Accountability International, their annual Valentine’s campaign has focused on a variety of thematic areas including consent, Resolution 275, and challenging criminalisation, among others.

For this year, their focus will feature some key messages around love, advocacy, human rights, justice, and accountability.

“Accountability International is well known for our fun and innovative Valentine’s Day campaigns and our collaborative, diverse, and inclusive way of working, so this year we have decided to put our Valentine’s campaign on steroids.”

Watch out for HJN’s Executive Director to be a part of the campaign, which uses the hashtags #LoveandAccountability and #LoveandHumanRights.

With love,

The HJN Team