Colombia: Constitutional court condemns restaurant for not hiring a young man with HIV

The Constitutional Court condemned a well-known restaurant chain in the country for having discriminated against a citizen who applied for a job within said chain.  It stopped the hiring process when it found out that the man was HIV positive. Due to this situation, the Court urged the Ministry of Labor to promptly address complaints in job selection processes for discrimination and establish guidelines for employers.According to the Constitutional Court In Judgment T-031/21, the young man whose identity was protected as a protection measure, filed a reference guardianship on October 22, 2019 by the First Civil Municipal Court of Cali, considering that he was a victim of discrimination by of ‘Mr. Wok ‘, because of being HIV positive, diagnosed since 2016 as an asymptomatic carrier.

According to the young man, the company did not take into account his cognitive ability, academic training and work experience, only his pathology. The Court ruled in favour of the young man and pointed out that they found irregularities in the actions of the IPS and the company.

The Court ruled in favour of the young man and noted that it found irregularities in the actions of the IPS and the company. Regarding the former, it noted that “it evaded the constitutional and legal guidelines that govern it and failed to comply with the duties that frame the ethical conduct of its activity by revealing confidential information related to the applicant’s serological status”.

On the other hand, the restaurant ignored the limits that demarcate the principles of the autonomy of private will and freedom of enterprise, in accordance with the general rules governing due process in relations between private individuals, in the context of a labour selection process”.

The case will now be brought to the attention of the National Superintendence of Health so that it can establish the respective sanction.


Corte condena a restaurante por no contratar a un joven portador de VIH

La Corte Constitucional condenó a una reconocida cadena de restaurantes del país por haber discriminado a un ciudadano que aplicó a un puesto de trabajo dentro de dicha cadena, la cual detuvo el proceso de contratación al conocer que el hombre era VIH positivo.

Por esta situación la Corte exhortó al Ministerio del Trabajo para que atienda oportunamente las quejas en procesos de selección laboral por discriminación y establezca lineamientos para los empleadores.

Según lo relató la Corte Constitucional en la Sentencia T-031/21, el joven al que protegieron su identidad como medida de protección, interpuso una tutela de referencia el 22 de octubre de 2019 por el Juzgado Primero Civil Municipal de Cali, al considerar que fue víctima de discriminación por parte de ‘Sr. Wok’, a causa de ser VIH positivo, diagnosticado desde 2016 como portador asintomático.

Según el joven, la empresa, no tuvo en cuenta su capacidad cognitiva, formación académica y experiencia laboral, únicamente su patología.

La Corte falló a favor del joven y señaló que encontró irregularidades en el accionar de la IPS y de la empresa. Sobre la primera señaló que “evadió los lineamientos constitucionales y legales que la rigen e incumplió los deberes que enmarcan la conducta ética de su actividad al revelar información confidencial relacionada con el estado serológico del accionante”.

Por otro lado, el restaurante desconoció los límites que demarcan los principios de la autonomía de la voluntad privada y la libertad de empresa, de conformidad con las reglas generales que rigen el debido proceso en las relaciones entre particulares, en el contexto de un proceso de selección laboral”.

El caso, ahora será puesto en conocimiento de la Superintendencia Nacional de Salud para que esta establezca la sanción respectiva.

Argentina: Organisations call for Congress to start discussing new HIV, STIs and Hepatits bill

They demand that the HIV and STI bill be dealt with

Translated via Deepl.com. For original article in Spanish, please scroll down.

The new proposal was presented on October 26, 2020. It is the third time it reaches Congress, and different organizations demand that it be debated.

The current HIV regulation (regulation 23.798) dates back to 1990. With the change of contexts and perspectives, it is understandable that it is now outdated and insufficient to guarantee rights.

To reverse this situation, the new bill on HIV, Hepatitis, Tuberculosis and STIs is waiting to be discussed in Congress. As already mentioned, the 24-page document was presented at the end of October and is the result of a network of 40 organizations.

With respect to the current regulation, it establishes a change of perspective: the 1990 regulation has a biomedical approach, while the current draft establishes a gender and human rights approach. It seeks to focus on the social determinants of health and the elimination of stigma.

“It is urgent the treatment because we have a law in force from 1990 that may not be a long time for other laws but for an issue such as HIV or other viral pathologies, taking into account the progress in recent years of science and social behavior in relation to these pathologies, it is necessary to update this purely biomedical character and move to a regulation that is a comprehensive response, with a Human Rights approach,” said Matías Muñoz, president of the Ciclo Positivo Association.

In relation to the previous point, the interviewee commented that although HIV is a virus that runs through people’s blood, it not only has consequences on physical health, but there is a social problem around HIV that is related to stigma and discrimination.

“Currently, a person with HIV has the possibility of accessing treatment free of charge, but there are other social barriers that prevent them from having a good quality of life, such as discrimination in access to employment, job discrimination, dismissal for having HIV, problems in the educational system or with the close environment,” said Muñoz.
Is this the first time that a proposal with these characteristics has been presented? No, the National Front for People’s Health had already worked together with organizations on this project, which entered Congress in 2018, but was shelved.

Following the previous paragraph, on December 1, 2019 it lost parliamentary status. But it was not the first time it happened, in 2016 the same thing happened, despite having favorable opinion of the Social Action and Public Health Committee of the Chamber of Deputies.

It is important to highlight the support that the proposal has from different political parties. We highlight that it bears the signature of 17 deputies of the Frente de Todos, UCR, Coalición Cívica, Pro, Frente de Izquierda y los Trabajadores and Partido Socialista.

Key points of the new bill
In its article 1, it declares of public and national interest -among other things- the medicines, vaccines, procedures and medical products for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure of HIV, Viral Hepatitis, Tuberculosis and STIs.

In another of its points, it establishes the integral and intersectoral response, which guarantees, for example, education and sensitization of the population, access to truthful, sufficient and updated information, and the reduction of risks and damages of stigma, discrimination and criminalization towards people with HIV, Viral Hepatitis, Tuberculosis and STIs.

It also includes palliative care and rehabilitation of these pathologies, including associated, derived and concomitant pathologies, as well as the adverse effects derived from them and/or their treatments.

This project contemplates universal and free coverage. The agents of the public health service, social security and prepaid medicine entities are obliged to provide comprehensive assistance to people affected by HIV, Viral Hepatitis, Tuberculosis and STIs.

In a clear way, the Ciclo Positivo Association highlights, among other points, the following:

– Prohibition of HIV, Hepatitis, TB and STI tests to enter a job position, in pre-employment medical examinations.
– Non-contributory pensions for people with HIV and Hepatitis B or C who have unmet needs. Provision of treatment for those who acquired the virus through vertical transmission and for other key populations such as women, transgender people, transvestites and non-binary people, etc.
– Creation of a National Commission on HIV, Hepatitis, TB and STIs integrated by different ministries, scientific societies and civil society organizations working on the issue.
– Extension of the provision of formula milk up to 18 months (previously only up to 6 months) for babies born to positive mothers.
– Creation of the National Observatory of Stigma and Discrimination within the orbit of INADI, in order to prevent the use of HIV infection, Hepatitis B or C, TB or any STI to prevent the exercise of rights.

There are expectations around this third presentation, due to the wide support of the project and the diffusion generated in the social networks in the last weeks, in order to promote its treatment in the Congress.

On this point, the president of Ciclo Positivo, said that “with the stir that has been achieved in the social networks in the last few days, the deputy Pablo Yedlin, president of the Health and Social Action Commission, told us that he is pleased with the possibility of having an opinion in the next few weeks”.

Although such a step would be taken after the primary elections, the claim must be kept in force. “We understand that we have a project supported by all the blocks, and for that reason, we consider that we can achieve the approval this year”, Muñoz concluded.


Exigen que se trate el proyecto de Ley de VIH e ITS

La nueva propuesta fue presentada el 26 de octubre del 2020. Es la tercera vez que llega al Congreso, y diferentes organizaciones reclaman que sea debatida.

La reglamentación vigente (normativa 23.798) de VIH data del año 1990. Con el cambio de contextos y perspectivas, es entedible que ahora esté desactualizada y que sea insuficiente para garantizar derechos.

Para revertir esta situación, el nuevo proyecto de Ley de VIH, Hepatitis, Tuberculosis e ITS espera ser tratado el Congreso. Como ya mencionamos, el documento de 24 páginas se presentó a fines de octubre, y es resultado de una red de trabajo con 40 organizaciones.

Respecto a la normativa vigente, establece un cambio de perspectiva, la de 1990 tiene un enfoque biomédico, en cambio, el proyecto actual fija un enfoque de género y de derechos humanos. Busca poner foco en los determinantes sociales de la salud y la eliminación del estigma.

“Es urgente el tratamiento porque contamos con una ley vigente del año 1990 que puede que para otras leyes no sea mucho tiempo pero para una cuestión como el VIH u otras patologías virales, teniendo en cuenta el avance de estos últimos años de la ciencia y el comportamiento social en relación a estas patologías, es necesario actualizar este carácter puramente biomédico y pasar a una normativa que sea de respuesta integral, con un enfoque de Derechos Humanos”, dijo Matías Muñoz, presidente de la Asociación Ciclo Positivo.

En relación al punto anterior, el entrevistado comentó que si bien, el VIH es un virus que recorre la sangre de las personas, no solamente tiene consecuencias en la salud física, sino que existe una problemática social alrededor del VIH que está relacionada con el estigma y la discriminación.

“Actualmente, una persona con VIH tiene la posibilidad de acceder a su tratamiento de manera gratuita, sin embargo hay otras barreras sociales que impiden que tenga una buena calidad de vida, como puede ser la discriminación en el acceso al empleo, la discriminación laboral, despidos por tener VIH, problemas en el sistema educativa o con el entorno cercano”, comentó Muñoz.
¿Es la primera vez que se presenta una propuesta con estas características? No, el Frente Nacional por la Salud de las Personas ya había trabajado en conjunto con las organizaciones sobre este proyecto, que ingresó al Congreso en 2018, pero fue cajoneado.

Siguiendo el párrafo anterior, el 1 de diciembre de 2019 perdió estado parlamentario. Pero no fue la primera vez que pasó, en 2016 sucedió lo mismo, a pesar de tener dictamen favorable de la Comisión de Acción Social y Salud pública de la Cámara de Diputados.

Es importante destacar el apoyo que tiene la propuesta de diferentes partidos políticos. Resaltamos que lleva la firma de 17 diputados y diputadas del Frente de Todos, UCR, Coalición Cívica, Pro, Frente de Izquierda y los Trabajadores y Partido Socialista.

Puntos claves del nuevo proyecto
En su artículo 1º, declara de interés público y nacional- entre otras cosas- los medicamentos, vacunas, procedimientos y productos médicos para la prevención, diagnóstico, tratamiento y cura del VIH, las Hepatitis Virales, la Tuberculosis y las ITS.

En otro de sus puntos, se establece la respuesta integral e intersectorial, que garantiza, por ejemplo, la educación y sensibilización de la población, un acceso a la información veraz, suficiente y actualizada, y la reducción de riesgos y daños del estigma, la discriminación y la criminalización hacia las personas con VIH, Hepatitis Virales, Tuberculosis e ITS.

Además se comprenden los cuidados paliativos y la rehabilitación de estas patologías, incluyendo las asociadas, derivadas y concomitantes, así como los efectos adversos derivados de las mismas y/o de sus tratamientos.

Este proyecto contempla la cobertura universal y gratuita. Los agentes del servicio público de salud, las obras sociales y las entidades de medicina prepaga, están obligadas a brindar asistencia integral a las personas afectadas por el VIH, las Hepatitis Virales, la Tuberculosis y las ITS.

De manera clara, la Asociación Ciclo Positivo, destaca, entre otros puntos, a los siguientes:

– Prohibición del test de VIH, Hepatitis, TBC e ITS para ingresar a un puesto de trabajo, en los exámenes médicos preocupacionales.
– Pensiones no contributivas para aquellas personas con VIH y Hepatitis B o C que tengan necesidades insatisfechas. Provisión de tratamientos para quienes adquirieron el virus por transmisión vertical y para otras poblaciones clave como mujeres, personas trans, travestis y no binaries, etc.
– Creación de una Comisión Nacional de VIH, Hepatitis, TBC e ITS integrada por distintos ministerios, sociedades científicas y organizaciones de la sociedad civil que trabajen el tema.
– Extensión de la provisión de leche de fórmula hasta los 18 meses (antes llegaba sólo a los 6 meses) para bebés de madres positivas.
– Creación del Observatorio Nacional de Estigma y discriminación en la órbita del INADI, en la búsqueda de que no se pueda utilizar la infección por VIH, Hepatitits B o C, TBC o cualquier ITS para impedir el ejercicio de los derechos.

Hay expectativas en torno a esta tercera presentación, por el amplio apoyo que tiene el proyecto y por la difusión que se generó en las redes sociales en las últimas semanas, para impulsar su tratamiento en el Congrego.

Sobre este punto, el presidente de Ciclo Positivo, dijo que “con el revuelvo que se ha logrado en las redes sociales en los últimos días, el diputado Pablo Yedlin, presidente de la Comisión de Salud y Acción Social, nos dijo que ve con beneplácito la posibilidad de tener dictamen en las próximas semanas”.

Si bien, dicho paso se daría después de las elecciones primarias, hay que mantener el reclamo vigente. “Entendemos que tenemos un proyecto apoyado por todos los bloques, y por eso, consideramos que podemos lograr la media sanción este año”, concluyó Muñoz.

Colombia: Constitutional Court rules in favour of soldier living with HIV, reaffirming his constitutional rights

The battle an active soldier diagnosed with HIV won against the Army in Colombia

Translation via Deepl.com. For original article in Spanish, please scroll down.

To protect his fundamental rights to social security, the Sixth Chamber of the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of an active soldier diagnosed with HIV.

In 2015, an active soldier was evaluated by the Military Health Directorate of the National Army through a Medical Labor Board, there, he was evaluated for “the possible decrease of psychophysical aptitudes” after an HIV diagnosis, but he was not guaranteed treatment or follow-up by the institution.

That is to say, the soldier has had to comply with his treatment and all that it entails, in a private manner.

The 2015 report “was incomplete”, since it did not assign a percentage of loss of working capacity.

Nor did it establish criteria to determine the progress of his infection or the subsequent deterioration of his clinical conditions, the Constitutional Court explained.

In the tutela filed by the uniformed officer, three years later the Directorate denied him the possibility of repeating that evaluation “to determine the levels of his work reduction due to suffering from other illnesses that were aggravated as a result of HIV.”

Decision of the Court

Following the decision, the Sixth Chamber of Review, with Judge Gloria Stella Ortiz Delgado presiding, reaffirmed that persons with HIV are entitled to special constitutional protection.

In the specific case, the Constitutional Court argued: “The assessment carried out by the DISAN EJC in 2015 was incomplete, lacked motivation and did not analyze the medical history of the plaintiff in a comprehensive manner”.

Therefore, the Constitutional Court ordered the formation of a new Labor Medical Board.
It also recalled the obligation to respond in a timely manner to the requests made in this type of proceedings, especially in the case of members of the Army. Finally, the DISAN EJC was warned about the duty to provide the medicines required for the treatment of HIV.

Thus, the Chamber protected the rights to social security and administrative due process of the professional soldier on active duty.

He had been denied the procedures to monitor his disease and provide him with the necessary treatment.

This decision of the Court sets a precedent for members not only of the Army, but of the public force in the country.


Para proteger sus derechos fundamentales a la seguridad social, la Sala Sexta de la Corte Constitucional falló a favor de un soldado activo, diagnosticado con VIH.

Noticias Colombia.

En el 2015 un soldado activo fue evaluado por la Dirección de Sanidad Militar del Ejército Nacional a través de una Junta Médico Laboral, allí, se le evaluó por “la posible disminución de las aptitudes psicofísicas” tras un diagnóstico de VIH, pero no se le garantizó tratamiento ni seguimiento en la institución.

Es decir, el militar ha tenido que cumplir su tratamiento y todo lo que conlleva, de manera particular.

El dictamen del 2015 “resultó incompleto”, ya que no asignó un porcentaje de pérdida de capacidad laboral.

Tampoco estableció criterios para determinar el progreso de su infección o el posterior deterioro de sus condiciones clínicas, explicó la Corte Constitucional.

En la tutela que interpuso el uniformado, tres años después la Dirección le negó la posibilidad de repetir esa evaluación “para determinar los niveles de su disminución laboral por padecer otras enfermedades que se agravaron por consecuencia del VIH”.

Decisión de la Corte

Tras la decisión, la Sala Sexta de Revisión, con ponencia de la magistrada Gloria Stella Ortiz Delgado, reafirmó que las personas con VIH son titulares de una especial protección constitucional.

En el caso concreto, la Corte Constitucional argumentó: “La valoración efectuada por la DISAN EJC en 2015 resultó incompleta, incurrió en falta de motivación y no analizó la historia clínica del accionante de forma integral”.

Por lo tanto, la Corte Constitucional ordenó conformar una nueva Junta Médico Laboral.
También, se recordó la obligación de responder oportunamente las solicitudes elevadas en este tipo de trámites, especialmente cuando se trate de miembros del Ejército.
Finalmente, se advirtió a la DISAN EJC sobre el deber de suministrar los medicamentos que se requieran para el tratamiento del VIH.

Así la Sala protegió los derechos a la seguridad social y al debido proceso administrativo del soldado profesional en servicio activo.

Se le habían negado los procedimientos para hacerle seguimiento a su enfermedad y brindarle el tratamiento necesario.

Esta decisión de la Corte sienta un precedente para miembros no solo del Ejército, sino de la fuerza pública en el país.

Argentina: New HIV, STI and Hepatitis law under evaluation by Public Health Commission

There will be a new law on sexual diseases, HIV and viral hepatitis

Translation via Deepl.com. For original article in Spanish, please scroll down.

A new law is being evaluated to update the existing legislation to the scientific advances registered for sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and viral hepatitis.

For this purpose, the Senate Public Health Commission met with professionals from the HIV and STI Program of the Ministry of Public Health. A bill on Integral Assistance and Research on Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, Sexually Transmitted Infections and Viral Hepatitis was analyzed.

In this regard, the legislative initiative seeks to update the regulatory framework on the matter, taking into account that both the current provincial Law No. 6660 and the national Law No. 23.798 date back to 1992 and 1990 respectively, and that the treatments and scientific advances in the field of AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Infections have been greatly updated.

The bill declares of provincial interest the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, integral assistance, rehabilitation and research on Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS), Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) and Viral Hepatitis, including their derived pathologies, as well as the measures to avoid their propagation.

It also declares the prevention and early detection of HIV/AIDS, STIs and Viral Hepatitis in pregnant women to be of provincial interest and establishes the prevention of perinatal or vertical transmission as a priority.

The initiative promotes the quality of life, the inclusion, permanence and articulation of networks of people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, STIs and Viral Hepatitis as a mechanism to eliminate discriminatory and exclusionary practices and provides for the repeal of Law 6.660.

Infection rate

The meeting recognized an increase in the rate of infection in the trans and homosexual population, but also in other heterosexual groups of different age groups and referred to the need to increase testing -which is done without the need for a doctor’s order-, to disseminate the use of condoms and to advance in actions against discrimination.

AIDS cases

Dr. Laura Caporaletti and Dr. Marcela Monterichel, director and supervisor of the HIV, STI and Viral Hepatitis Program of the Ministry of Health, considered that it is necessary to provide the province with pioneering legislation that takes into account the medical advances that, for example, now consider HIV as a chronic disease.

They reported that the number of HIV cases in Salta is still striking despite a drop in 2020 due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, as well as the number of cases of congenital syphilis, emphasizing the control of pregnant women to avoid vertical transmission of infections during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. They suggested extending the delivery of milk until the baby is 18 months old and the management of a building for the use of patients from the interior of the country under treatment, under one of the NGOs.


Habrá nueva ley de enfermedades sexuales, VIH y hepatitis virales

Una nueva ley se evalúa para actualizar la legislación existente a los avances científicos registrados por enfermedades de transmisión sexual, VIH y hepatitis virales.
A esos efectos la Comisión de Salud Pública del Senado se reunió con profesionales del Programa de VIH e ITS del Ministerio de Salud Pública. Se analizó un proyecto de Ley de Asistencia Integral e Investigación sobre el Síndrome de Inmunodeficiencia Adquirida, las Infecciones de Transmisión Sexual y las Hepatitis Virales.

Al respecto la iniciativa legislativa busca actualizar el plexo normativo en la materia, teniendo en cuenta que tanto la actual Ley provincial N° 6660, como la Ley nacional N° 23.798, datan del año 1992 y 1990 respectivamente, habiéndose actualizado enormemente los tratamientos y avances científicos tanto en materia de SIDA como de otras infecciones de Transmisión Sexual.

El proyecto de Ley declara de interés provincial la prevención, diagnóstico, tratamiento, asistencia integral, rehabilitación e investigación sobre el Síndrome de Inmunodeficiencia Adquirida (VIH/SIDA), las Infecciones de Transmisión Sexual (ITS) y las Hepatitis Virales, incluyendo la de sus patologías derivadas, como así también, las medidas tendientes a evitar su propagación.

Asimismo, declara de interés provincial la prevención y detección temprana de VIH/SIDA, ITS y Hepatitis Virales en la mujer embarazada y establece el carácter prioritario de la prevención de la transmisión perinatal o vertical.

La iniciativa promueve la calidad de vida, la inclusión, permanencia y articulación de redes de personas que vivan o estén afectadas por VIH/SIDA, ITS y Hepatitis Virales como un mecanismo para eliminar las prácticas discriminatorias y de exclusión y dispone la derogación de la Ley 6.660.

Tasa de contagios

En el encuentro se reconoció un aumento en la tasa de contagio en la población trans y homosexual, pero también en otros grupos heterosexuales de distintas franjas etarias y se refirieron a la necesidad de incrementar testeos -que se hacen sin necesidad de pedido médico-, difundir el uso del preservativo y avanzar en acciones contra la discriminación.

Casos de SIDA

Las doctoras Laura Caporaletti y Marcela Monterichel, directora y supervisora del Programa de VIH, ITS y Hepatitis Virales del ministerio de Salud, consideraron que resulta necesario dotar a la provincia de una legislación pionera que contemple los avances médicos que por ejemplo hoy consideran al HIV como una enfermedad crónica.

Relataron que en Salta sigue siendo llamativo el número de casos de VIH pese a una baja en 2020 adjudicada a las restricciones que impuso la pandemia, del mismo modo que los casos de sífilis congénita, poniendo énfasis en el control de embarazadas para evitar la transmisión vertical de las infecciones tanto en la gestación, como en el parto o el período de lactancia. Sugirieron ampliar la entrega de leche hasta los 18 meses de vida del bebé y la gestión de un inmueble para uso de pacientes del interior en tratamiento, bajo alguna de las ONG.

Canada: The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) publishes a position paper proposing a feminist approach to law reform on HIV non-disclosure

The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) has written a position paper proposing a feminist approach to law reform on HIV non-disclosure.

LEAF supports the federal government’s recent prosecutorial directive intended to reduce the over-criminalization of those living with HIV/AIDS. Canadian law currently criminalizes HIV non-disclosure where a person who is HIV-positive exposes their sexual partner to a significant risk of serious bodily harm—which in law includes a realistic possibility of HIV transmission. Most cases are prosecuted as aggravated sexual assaults, which is punishable by a maximum life sentence. As of December 2018, the Attorney General of Canada will not prosecute charges of HIV non-disclosure if a person living with HIV has maintained a suppressed viral load, used condoms, or engaged only in oral sex.

Women’s rights are also engaged by this area of law. Women are often complainants in these cases—nearly 20% of women with HIV report having acquired the virus through sexually coercive experiences. And HIV non-disclosure prosecutions have led to an increase in women, particularly marginalized women, being convicted of aggravated sexual assault. Almost 80% of women living with HIV are Indigenous or racialized, and they already face serious over-criminalization.  Prosecuting HIV non-disclosure as a sexual offence has distorted concepts about sex and consent that are foundational to women’s equality – in an attempt to fit HIV non-disclosure into sexual assault law, courts have narrowed the scope of sexual activity that requires consent in law and risked introducing discriminatory myths and stereotypes into the criminal trial.

This is why LEAF is recommending further reforms that will ensure meaningful protections for women’s equality rights—especially for marginalized women. Most importantly, HIV non-disclosure should not be treated as a sexual offence. This would protect the equality-enhancing purpose of sexual assault law by affirming a concept of consent that is rooted in sexual autonomy. Where HIV non-disclosure results in actual transmission of the virus, prosecution may be appropriate under non-sexual Criminal Code offences. This would reduce the punitive over-criminalization of people living with HIV, while protecting women who contract HIV from partners who take no care to prevent transmission. There are no Canadian cases where an accused responsibly used a condom or had an undetectable viral load and the virus was nonetheless transmitted. Finally, prosecutorial guidelines should ensure that HIV positive women who are victims of violence, coercion or sexual assault are not prosecuted for their failure to disclose their HIV status when that failure is a result of the violence or threats of violence committed against them.

“In addition to raising significant concerns for the equality and dignity of those living with HIV, the law of HIV non-disclosure also impacts women’s equality rights,” says Karen Segal, LEAF Counsel. “LEAF seeks to ensure that women’s equality is specifically attended to in any future law reform initiatives, so that women are protected from sexual violence and from punitive over-criminalization, and so that the right to bodily and sexual autonomy remains the foundational concept in the law of sexual offences.”

  • Read LEAF’s position paper here

The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) works to advance the substantive equality rights of women and girls through litigation, law reform, and public education. Since 1985, we have intervened in landmark cases that have advanced equality in Canada—helping to prevent violence, eliminate discrimination in the workplace, provide better maternity benefits, ensure a right to pay equity, and allow access to reproductive freedoms. For more information, please visit www.leaf.ca.  

For media inquiries, please contact:

Karen Segal, Counsel             

Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund                                      

416.595.7170 x2003                                                                         

k.segal@leaf.ca

Samoa: HIV criminalisation is a threat to public health indicates the Ministry of Health in its 2017 National HIV Policy report

M.O.H. against criminalization of HIV

The criminalization of the transmission of HIV in Samoa is a threat to public health. This is one of the highlights by the Ministry of Health indicated in their 98 page National HIV, AIDS, and STI Policy 2017-2022 report that was obtained by the Samoa Observer.

According to the prevention segment of the report, it points to some countries where criminal law is being applied to those who transmit or expose others to HIV infection.

“The Ministry of Health does not recommend nor endorse legislative measures to criminalize the transmission of HIV that is unintentional and views such measures as threats to public health.

“There is no data indicating that the broad application of criminal law to HIV transmission will achieve either criminal justice or prevent HIV transmission.

“Rather, such application risks undermine public health and human rights.

“Because of these concerns, UNAIDS urges governments to limit criminalization to cases of intentional transmission i.e. where a person knows his or her HIV positive status, acts with the intention to transmit HIV, and does in fact transmit it.

“Willful spread of HIV has been so rarely documented worldwide that it is largely hypothetical,” the report says.

According to the MOH Policy, since there are no cases have been processed in Samoa or Australia and New Zealand Commonwealth case law, legally it is urban myth and no legislation exists regarding the legal handling of such a case.

“Presently Samoan legal priorities regarding HIV, AIDS, and STI’s are primarily concerned with protecting the individual rights and confidentiality of people as well as safeguarding public health.

“Prosecuting a case of willful spread of HIV would necessarily involve addressing legal criteria in Sections 120-121 of the Crimes Act 2013.

“Supplying evidentiary support for a claim would entail 1) proving a person knew their HIV status prior to exposing other individual(s), 2) the individual did not disclose their HIV status to exposed person(s), 3) and the exposure resulted in HIV infection.

“Any action taken against to quarantine and accuse a case of a wilful spread of HIV would fall under the authoritative powers of MoH within Part 4 Section 36 of the Health Ordinance 1959 “Isolation of persons likely to spread infectious diseases” as well as Section 37 , Offenses in regards to infectious diseases,” according to the report.

The M.O.H. Policy also emphasized that all rights of people living with AIDS, national and international, must not be violated in the investigation, prosecution and sentencing of individuals involved in such a potential case.

The report can be downloaded here

Global Commission on HIV and the Law and partners urge governments to promote progressive legislation based on science and human rights

Evidence- and rights- based laws and policies are key to ending AIDS

On the five-year anniversary of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law’s groundbreaking report, former members of the Commission and partners commend 88 countries for advancing the report’s recommendations and urge other countries to enact progressive legislation and protect human rights

NEW YORK – Five years ago, a landmark report published by the Global Commission on HIV and the Law urged governments to promote laws and policies grounded in evidence and human rights in order to turn the tide against AIDS. This week, members of the Commission and representatives of UN Member States, civil society, academia and international organizations came together to assess the progress made in advancing the report’s recommendations, look at the barriers that remain and discuss opportunities for further progress.

The Commission – comprised of former heads of state, human rights, public health and legal experts – released a report that has led a multi-year effort to ensure that national laws, policies and practices that impede the AIDS response are overturned.  Laws that stigmatize people living with and vulnerable to HIV perpetuate discrimination and block people from seeking health services and undermining public health goals.

“HIV is still one of the deadliest diseases in the world and it’s unforgivable that national governments have failed to address legislation that fuels the AIDS pandemic,” said former Commissioner Michael Kirby, a former Justice of the High Court of Australia. “Laws that criminalize HIV are anti-science, unjust and unconstructive.”

It’s not all bad news – the Commission also pointed out several success stories, noting that legislation based on science and human rights has helped advance the global commitment in the Sustainable Development Goals to end HIV for good and leave no one behind. Today, there’s still reason to be optimistic.

“It is time for countries to think proactively about designing laws and policies that will help end the HIV epidemic,” said former Commissioner Bience Gawanas, a lawyer and human rights expert. “We’ve seen that some countries, including Ghana and Mozambique, have been able to improve HIV responses by adopting more progressive policies. If we’re going to defeat HIV, other countries need to do the same.”

Since the release of the Commission’s report, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and its partners have helped advance the report’s recommendations in 88 countries. Several countries have conducted comprehensive assessments of laws, policies and practices affecting people with HIV and have changed legislation as a result. National conversations on the rights of people living with and vulnerable to HIV have led countries to reform discriminatory practices against people living with HIV. Judges, civil society organizations and partners have been instrumental in helping to overturn discriminatory legislation and counter HIV stigma.

The Commission’s recommendations contributed to several success stories over the last five years. These include:

  • After analyzing its laws and legal practices around HIV, health and human rights, Mozambique revised its laws on criminalizing unintentional HIV transmission.
  • In Pakistan, protections for people living with HIV were included in the Sindh Province HIV/AIDS Control Treatment and Protection Act.
  • Seychelles decriminalized consensual same-sex relationships.
  • A national dialogue in Peru highlighted the need for a gender identity law, which spurred the development of a draft Gender Identity Bill that was presented to the National Assembly in December 2016.
  • The High Court of Botswana ruled that foreign prisoners living with HIV are entitled to receive life-saving antiretroviral treatment.
  • In Ghana, partners developed a stigma   and discrimination reporting system that allows key populations, including people living with HIV, to file formal complaints about human rights abuses and seek redress.

“Equality, inclusion and non-discrimination are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” said Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator. “Laws and policies that protect rather than punish, combined with programmes that reduce stigma and discrimination, exist and need to be scaled up if we are to achieve our goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.”

By replacing legal practices rooted in stigma with legislation based on science, these countries are among the frontrunners taking steps to protect the human rights of people living with and affected by HIV.

“It’s incredible to see the progress that some countries have made over the past five years,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “They’ve taken important strides to protect the rights of women and people living with and vulnerable to HIV.”

These countries have shown us that laws and policies grounded in evidence and human rights, combined with programs that reduce stigma and discrimination, can help accelerate progress to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

About the Global Commission on HIV and the Law:

The Global Commission on HIV and the Law was launched in June 2010 by UNDP on behalf of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) to provide global leadership on HIV-related legal and human rights issues by analyzing what is known about the interactions between the legal environments, human rights and HIV; fostering evidence-informed public dialogue on the need for rights-based law and policy in the context of HIV; and identifying clear and actionable recommendations with a concrete plan for follow-up.  (www.hivlawcommission.org)

Contact informationSangita Khadka, Communications Specialist, UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, email: sangita.khadka@undp.org tel: +1 212 906 5043

[Update] India: Parliament passes landmark bill ensuring equal rights to people living with HIV and giving them the right not to disclose their status

Lok Sabha passes ‘historic’ bill ensuring equal rights to HIV-affected people

The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed a crucial bill that ensures equal rights to the people affected by HIV and AIDS in terms of getting treatment, jobs or admissions to educational institutions.

Moving the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2017 for passage, health minister JP Nadda said the government stood for free treatment to HIV patients.

The Rajya Sabha had passed the bill last month.

The “historic” and “people centric” legislation will strengthen rights of people infected with HIV, Nadda said.

Various clauses pertaining to prohibition of discrimination against HIV-positive patients have been enlisted in the bill. “Whosoever does not adhere to the provisions of the bill, will be penalised. Civil and criminal proceedings will be launched against such persons”, Nadda said, adding that action would also be taken against those who attempted to block the implementation of the bill.

The legislation, he added, has provisions to safeguard the property rights of HIV positive people.

“Every HIV infected or affected person below the age of 18 years has the right to reside in a shared household and enjoy the facilities of the household”, Nadda said.

Further, the bill prohibits any individual from publishing information or advocating feelings of hatred against HIV positive persons and those living with them.

Nadda said the government will also promote research to check the spread of HIV virus and come out with aggressive strategies, especially in high risk areas.

Opposition members had several suggestions and observations during the Bill’s passage, TMC member Ratna De Nag regretted that stigma related to HIV remains intense . P Ravindra Babu (TDP) emphasized that the stigma associated with the disease could not be eradicated by laws alone. Varaprasad Rao (YSR Congress) pitched for insurance cover for the affected people with the premium being paid by the government.

Heena Gavit (BJP) said couples affected with HIV should be given the right to adopt children.

 Text of the full bill is available here

 

——————————————————————

The new HIV and AIDS Bill will work to reduce stigma and discrimination

By JP Nadda

Two decades ago India was considered a hotspot and emerging centre of the world’s HIV epidemic. Since then, India has made tremendous progress in controlling HIV. Through its continuing efforts including targeted programmes and support of affected communities, India has demonstrated that the course of an epidemic can be reversed by public education, mass awareness and wide scale availability of testing and treatment.

Today, approximately 21 lakh people are living with HIV, as per government estimates. The adult prevalence is in the range of 0.3%, of which around 40% are women. Despite this enormous progress and the availability of testing and treatment, stigma and discrimination against HIV affected individuals in India remains widespread.

India made some efforts at stigma reduction in the early part of the epidemic. Yet social attitudes do not transform easily. The HIV AIDS bill approved by the Cabinet and pending approval in Parliament is an important step in ensuring that the progress made against HIV is not halted and discrimination against HIV affected individuals is reduced.

How is this being done? It’s important to reflect on the many progressive aspects of the bill. To start with, numerous provisions of this bill ensure government accountability and commitment into providing HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care to those at risk. Why is this necessary? Because every government irrespective of political affiliations must commit to fighting HIV. For the first time, the bill brings together a human-rights perspective to public health, and makes antiretroviral treatment a right of HIV/AIDS patients. The central and state governments are duty bound to provide for treatment and also arrange for the management of risk reduction of vulnerable populations. This will ensure that in the future no Indian has to struggle for diagnosis or treatment.

Considering widespread stigma and the need for privacy, the bill also mandates that no HIV test, medical treatment, or research can be conducted on a person without their informed consent. This ensures that those affected by HIV have the right to privacy and confidentiality. The bill also mandates that no person can be compelled to disclose their HIV status except with informed consent, and if required by a court order.

The bill also addresses discrimination in everyday life through numerous provisions especially at the workplace and within communities. It prohibits discrimination against HIV positive persons and those affected in numerous aspects. These include the denial, termination, discontinuation or unfair treatment with regard to employment and in educational establishments, health care services, residing or renting property, standing for public or private office, and provision of insurance (unless based on actuarial studies). The bill also prohibits the requirement for HIV testing as a pre-requisite for obtaining employment or accessing health care or education.

The intention is to ensure that no HIV infected individual is the subject of discrimination and there is legal accountability and recourse for them. The bill also mandates the appointment of an ombudsman in every state to inquire into complaints related to the violation of the Act and the provision of health care services. This ombudsman will submit reports every six months stating the number and nature of complaints received and the actions taken on them.

Populations who are most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS are female sex workers (FSWs), men who have sex with men (MSMs), transgenders and intravenous drug-users. The bill seeks to protect these high-risk groups from discrimination, both through administration of treatment for their infections as well as improving their access to welfare schemes and services.

The bill also mandates that cases relating to HIV positive persons shall be disposed off by the court on a priority basis. If an HIV infected or affected person is a party in any legal proceeding, it shall be conducted so as to supress the identity of the person, and restrain any person from publishing information that discloses the identity of the applicant. Also when passing any order with regard to a maintenance application filed by an HIV infected or affected person, the court shall take into account the medical expenses incurred by the applicant.

While social change will take time and stigma will not end immediately, this bill is a step in the right direction. It is a much needed and long awaited measure that will work to reduce stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV. It will also ensure enhanced access to and privacy for those seeking care.

The foundation of every significant legislation is that it must safeguard civil liberties. This is exactly what this bill intends to do. It intends to ensure that those living with HIV do so with dignity and respect enjoying all their rights as citizens.

In the long-term, our goal is an India where no new HIV infection occurs and where living with HIV is neither a matter of fear or of shame.

Originally published in Hindustan Times on 24 March 2017

India: HIV/AIDS (Prevention & Control) Bill strongly criticised for not guaranteeing universal access to HIV treatment

Delhi, Gaborone, New York – The International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) and its global coalition partners are outraged following a decision by the Indian Parliament to absolve itself from responsibility of providing treatment for people living with HIV in India. The HIV/AIDS (Prevention & Control) Bill was passed in the upper house of the Indian Parliament yesterday, 21 March 2017. The Bill states that the government will provide treatment for people living with HIV ‘as far as possible’ (see full text below) absolving the government from its responsibility to protect the right to life.

“This is a step backwards for human rights, and a tremendous blow for all people living with HIV in India,” said Gregg Gonsalves, Chair of ITPC-Global. “It is extremely concerning that the India government has given itself this loophole at a time when the government program is in disarray, with the worst period of antiretroviral drug stock outs.”

Networks of people living with HIV and other civil society organizations lobbied Members of Parliament to amend the draft Bill that was first tabled in February 2014. In response to civil society concerns, senior Members of Parliament urged the Union Minister JP Nadda to make the amendment. HIV treatment activists were stunned when these parliamentarians withdrew their amendment at the last minute, thus giving way to the Bill passing into legislation.

“As the biggest supplier of generic medicines to the developing world, India could be the leading light in HIV treatment, an example to the rest of the world,” said Solange Baptiste, ITPC-Global’s Executive Director. “Instead this new Bill fails to enshrine the rights of its own people. I fear it’s an omen of things to come. We, HIV treatment activists, will be watching and monitoring to make sure the Indian government upholds its responsibility to all its citizens living with HIV.”

“Nothing in the world is more important than securing treatment for me, and my community of people living with HIV,” said Loon Gangte Regional Coordinator ITPC-South Asia. “I earnestly appeal to the government to delete the loophole ‘as far as possible’ and assure our right to life”.

Editor’s Note:

HIV/AIDS Bill Final Text

The provision for HIV treatment in Section 14 of the HIV/AIDS Bill, reads as follows:

1. The measures to be taken by the Central Government or State Government under section 13 shall include the measure for providing, as far as possible, Anti-Retroviral and Opportunistic Infection Management to people living with HIV or AIDS.

2. The Central Government shall issue necessary guidelines in respect of protocols for HIV and AIDS relating to Anti-Retroviral Therapy and Opportunistic Infection Management which shall be applicable to all persons and shall ensure their wide dissemination.

About International Treatment Preparedness Coalition

International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) is a global coalition of HIV treatment activists formed in 2003 to respond to the needs of communities worldwide. The global network is driven by individual activists, peer support groups, grassroots networks, community-based organizations, and non-governmental organizations. Each of our partners share our values and vision and come together to address issues around access to treatment issues in their countries, regions and at the global level.

US: Bill before California Senate bill would modernise HIV criminalisation laws in line with the latest science

A bill before the California Senate would change laws that make it a felony to expose someone to HIV, recognizing advances in the science of HIV treatment and prevention. The proposed legislation received strong support at a recent hearing at the state Capitol.

Proponents say Senate Bill 239 would modernize existing laws in accordance with the latest research, promote public health, and reduce discrimination and stigma against people living with HIV.

“These felony laws were passed during the dark days of the epidemic, when people were talking about quarantining those living with HIV,” bill co-author Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) told the Bay Area Reporter. “The laws single out people with HIV for uniquely harsh criminal treatment for the simple act of having sex – even if there’s no risk of transmission. HIV is a health issue, not a criminal issue, and it’s time to repeal these discriminatory laws.”

Existing laws make it a felony punishable by up to eight years in prison for a person with HIV to expose another person through unprotected sex if the HIV-positive person knows they are infected, does not disclose their status, and acts with the intent to infect the other person – regardless of whether infection actually occurred. It is also a felony under certain circumstances for an HIV-positive individual to donate blood, organs, or semen to an HIV-negative person. Current laws treat HIV transmission more harshly than other serious communicable diseases.

A study from the UCLA School of Law found that around 800 people in California came in contact with the criminal justice system due to their HIV status between 1988 and 2014, in most cases related to sex work. Black and Latino people and women were disproportionately affected.

“Since [these laws] were originally written the realities of what it means to have HIV, as well as the possibility of transmitting it, have changed completely, with new medications when taken regularly normalizing life expectancy and eliminating the possibility of transmission,” Dr. Edward Machtinger, director of the UCSF Women’s HIV Program, said at the March 8 hearing. “This new reality requires a reassessment of the public health implications of HIV-related legislation.”

Bill would amend state codes

As the B.A.R. previously reported, Wiener and Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), both gay men, introduced SB 239 at a February 6 news conference at Strut, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s health and wellness center for gay, bi, and trans men.

The March 8 briefing, hosted by the Legislative LGBT Caucus, featured testimony from people living with HIV as well as LGBT, public health, and civil rights advocates.

“It’s time to really change from a fear-based approach to a science-based approach,” Gloria said at the hearing. “A couple of states have beaten us to taking this action, but I think if California can do it, certainly the rest of the country can take this step as well.”

Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and lesbian Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) co-authored the legislation. Co-sponsors include the American Civil Liberties Union of California, Black AIDS Institute, Equality California, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Positive Women’s Network-USA, all of which are part of the Californians for HIV Criminalization Reform Coalition.

SB 239 would amend sections of the state Health and Safety Code and Penal Code to make transmission of a communicable disease – not singling out HIV – a misdemeanor if a person knows they are infected, acts with the intent to transmit, engages in conduct that poses a substantial risk of transmission, and the other person does in fact become infected.

If passed, the proposal would overturn previous convictions under the old law, as well as expunge related criminal records and allow a person serving time to have their sentence dismissed. It would also repeal laws that require people convicted of prostitution to be tested for HIV and increase penalties if they test positive. A penalty enhancement for HIV-positive people convicted of sexual assault would not be changed.

Wiener’s communications director, Jeff Cretan, told the B.A.R. that the bill is scheduled for a hearing before the Public Safety Committee March 28, after which it would go before the Appropriations Committee and then to the full Senate for a vote.

Advocates support reform

Reform proponents say SB 239 would bring laws in line with current science, which shows that HIV-positive people who are on antiretroviral treatment with an undetectable viral load can live long and healthy lives and do not transmit the virus to others. In addition, the advent of PrEP, which reduces the risk of HIV infection by more than 90 percent if taken consistently, has changed the meaning of “unprotected” sex.

“We know that people with undetectable levels of virus are very, very unlikely to transmit [HIV],” San Francisco Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, a gay man and the first out HIV-positive person to sit on the board, told the B.A.R. “Many people at risk for contracting the virus are using PrEP to prevent getting infected. These laws, which should never have been passed in the first place, fail to acknowledge these new realities.”

Proponents contend that HIV criminalization laws do not promote public health, but rather discourage people from getting tested, seeking treatment, and disclosing their status to sex partners.

“HIV criminalization laws not only perpetuate discrimination against people living with HIV, they paradoxically discourage people from getting tested, since the laws create greater liability for those who know their status,” Eric Paul Leue, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, a trade group for the adult entertainment industry that is a member of the CHCR coalition, told the B.A.R.

Existing laws can also discourage vulnerable people with HIV from reporting sexual abuse and violence, according to Naina Khanna, executive director of Positive Women’s Network-USA.

“A myth has been perpetuated that women are somehow protected by these laws, [but] they don’t protect us in any way,” Khanna said at the hearing. “These laws deter people from disclosing their status, they deter access to testing, they may deter people from seeking treatment, and consequently they actually increase risk for everybody. Policing and criminalization targets people of color, targets those who are unstably housed, folks who are homeless and on the streets, and people who are trans and gender non-conforming.”

SB 239 is part of a national and global movement to reform laws that target people living with HIV.

“SB 239 will go a long way toward eliminating a bias in the law and bringing California to the forefront in the effort to combat HIV-related stigma, discrimination, and criminalization,” Sero Project executive director Sean Strub told the B.A.R. “We can prosecute HIV or we can prevent it, but we can’t do both.”

Published in the Bay Area Reporter on March 23rd, 2017