HJN’s Executive Director’s remarks at the UNAIDS Board Meeting on the sustainability of the HIV response

UNAIDS Programme Coordination Board (PCB) Thematic Meeting on the Sustainability of HIV Response

Round Table 1: The context and urgency of sustainability planning and response

Remarks from Edwin J Bernard, Executive Director, HIV Justice Network, Netherlands on community leadership to address human rights barriers

I am a gay man who acquired HIV 41 years ago in 1983. It was a significant year in other ways too:

  • HIV was first identified as the cause of AIDS
  • WHO held its first global AIDS meeting
  • Richard Berkowitz and Michael Callen published ‘how to have sex in an epidemic’ inventing condom-based safer sex
  • And a small group of people living with AIDS became the first community leaders in the HIV response, creating the Denver Principles, the blueprint for GIPA and MIPA principles now embedded in UNAIDS’ approach to community leadership to address human rights barriers.

Communities involve many different groups, working locally, nationally, regionally and globally. We are communities of women, men and youth living with HIV in all our diversities, as well as communities of gay men and other men who have sex with men, communities of sex workers, communities of transgender people, communities of people who use drugs. We are the key populations

And then there are communities of allies – human rights defenders who understand that public health is human rights and vice versa.

Despite member states committing to removing these human rights barriers in the 2021 Political Declaration – the 10-10-10 targets – we are far from getting anywhere close to achieving these targets because there are still far too many human rights barriers.

These are far too numerous to list, but they include gender inequality and gender-based violence; discrimination when receiving healthcare, in the workplace, in education, and in humanitarian settings; not being able to enter or migrate to a country of which you are not a citizen because of your HIV status; and the growing number of countries with so called ‘foreign agent’ laws that are closing civic space and stifling community leadership.

On top of these, every single member state criminalises one or more of the key populations, fully or partially, and 79 countries have HIV-specific criminal laws that unjustly criminalise HIV non-disclosure, exposure or unintentional transmission.

Ending HIV criminalisation is the focus of my organisation, the HIV Justice Network, and the global HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE coalition that we co-ordinate.

We can do this work thanks primarily to the Robert Carr Fund, which recognises the importance of community-led regional and global networks and our key role in addressing human rights barriers impacting the HIV response.

Dismantling discriminatory systems that have been built over decades and that oppress people living with and affected by HIV takes time and money – and needs community leadership.

So, if sustainability means a move to country-led integrated health systems, this will also mean that all the criminalised and marginalised people I’ve just mentioned will be even more left behind than they currently are.

But there’s a cheap and simple solution: decriminalisation!

A 2022 study from the Alliance for Public Health found that cost savings from decriminalisation of drug use could greatly reduce HIV transmission through increased coverage of opioid agonist therapy and antiretroviral therapy among people who use drugs in eastern Europe and central Asia.

Another 2022 study, from the Williams Institute, on the enforcement of HIV criminalisation laws in Tennessee of so called ‘aggravated prostitution’ – when a sex worker arrested for soliciting is found to be living with HIV – and criminal HIV ‘exposure’ – when a person living with HIV is prosecuted for allegedly not disclosing their HIV status before sex that may or may not risk transmission – estimated that the total cost of incarceration in prison for these unjust HIV-related crimes was $3.8 million.

And a 2021 study found that decriminalising sex work in Washington DC would generate over USD 5000 paid in income taxes by each sex worker – because sex work is work, after all! – plus more than USD20,000 in criminal legal system savings per sex worker a year.

If you decriminalise you not only save money you also ensure that every single person living with, or affected by HIV, gets the HIV services they need.

Following the science and basing laws and policies on public health and not morality or stigma saves money.

So, member states, if you just stop wasting money on ineffective, counterproductive criminalisation and invest in proven treatment and prevention programmes, sustainability of the HIV response is within sight.

To get to 2030, and beyond, to end AIDS as a public health threat, we need to ensure that we don’t forget the dignity and rights of people living with and affected by HIV  – easy to cut funding for, and hard to measure – and make sure that we include ending all of forms of HIV-related stigma, discrimination and criminalisation and strive for all forms of equality and empowerment.

In the drafting room on Tuesday, the NGO Delegation added criminalisation to the list that included stigma and discrimination, but the final draft you will vote on later today no longer includes mention of criminalisation as a barrier to testing. I implore you commit to ensure that my recommendation to decriminalise to sustain the HIV response is included in any and all decision points that will come out of this meeting.

Key messages summary

  • Human rights, gender justice and all the other10-10-10 societal enabler targets are essential, non-negotiable aspects of sustainability.
  • Community leadership is essential to reach 2030 and to sustain the HIV response beyond that date.
  • Don’t underestimate – or create more barriers for – communities. We are the experts in understanding what is needed to successfully achieve the end of AIDS.
  • Support communities by funding us, including replenishing the Robert Carr Fund.
  • The single most cost-effective intervention for every member state is to decriminalise, decriminalise, decriminalise!

Powerful and important new book, ‘Criminalized Lives’ published this week

This week sees the publication of a powerful and important new book, Criminalized Lives.

Based on 24 interviews conducted across Canada over two years with 16 people who were criminally accused of not disclosing their HIV-positive status, author Alexander McClelland, details the many complexities of disclosure, and the violence that results from being criminalised.

McClelland, who is living with HIV, works as a criminologist at Carleton University, in Ottawa, Canada. He is also a member of HJN’s Global Advisory Panel (GAP) and the Canadian Coalition to Reform HIV Criminalization.

Canada has long been a hot spot for HIV criminalisation where the act of not disclosing one’s HIV-positive status to sex partners has historically been regarded as a serious criminal offence. The book describes how this approach has disproportionately harmed Black and Indigenous people, women, gay men, and the poor.

While the book focuses on Canada, it presents lessons for those of us working around the world to end HIV criminalisation, especially in contexts where general criminal laws – like bodily harm, sexual assault and even attempted murder – are being applied to instances of alleged HIV non-disclosure.

Accompanied by a foreword by fellow HJN GAP member, US-based leading HIV criminalisation activist Robert Suttle, and portraits from queer comic artist Eric Kostiuk Williams, the book’s moving interviews illustrate that criminal legal systems are unprepared to handle the nuances and ethical dilemmas faced everyday by people living with HIV. 

By offering personal stories of people who have faced criminalisation first-hand, McClelland questions common assumptions about HIV, the role of punishment, and the violence that results from the criminal legal system’s legacy of categorising people as either victims or perpetrators, and the complicity of public health systems in processes of criminalisation.

The book is distributed internationally via Rutgers University Press where you can purchase paperback, hardback, and ebook versions.

Five things you can do to amplify Criminalized Lives:

  1. Ask your local library to carry the book.
  2. Host a conversation on the book in your community to help mobilise for change.
  3. Share your thoughts about the book on social media to generate conversations about the harms of HIV criminalisation.
  4. Review the book in a publication or online.
  5. Include the book in a course syllabus.

Civil society statement on the proposed re-criminalisation of HIV in Zimbabwe

Download this statement as a pdf

In 2022, the Government of Zimbabwe was celebrated nationally and internationally for repealing the country’s HIV-specific criminal law, Section 79 of the Criminal Code.

When announcing the repeal in Parliament, Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs noted: “…the global thinking now is that that law stigmatises people living with HIV and studies have shown that it does not produce the intended results. What the ministry is going to do is to repeal that section of the law and ensure that we keep up to speed with modern trends in the world.”

HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE is shocked, saddened and extremely disappointed that only two years later, the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs is now proposing to re-criminalise HIV by adding HIV to the list of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) currently criminalised in Section 78 of the Criminal Code.

That they are proposing to do so as part of the Criminal Laws Amendment (Protection of Children and Young Persons) Bill is both cynical and unwarranted. Amendments to the Criminal Code are meant to codify the Supreme Court decision on the age of consent to sex. Amending Section 78 of the Criminal Code to re-criminalise HIV is out-of-step with the 2021 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS agreed on by UN Member States, including Zimbabwe. Of note, Section 80 of the Criminal Code already provides for aggravated sentencing in cases of exposure to HIV during “sexual intercourse or performing an indecent act with a young person.”

Section 78, like the repealed Section 79, criminalises anyone who “does anything or causes or permits anything to be done with the intention or realising that there is a real risk or possibility of infecting any other person with” syphilis, gonorrhoea, herpes and “all other forms of sexually transmitted diseases”. It is overly broad and extremely vague. 

Adding HIV to this already problematic provision would be a retrograde and harmful step backwards for the following reasons:

  1. Criminalisation does not prevent HIV or STI transmission. Communicable diseases – including those that are sexually transmitted – are public health issues, not criminal issues and criminalisation is not an evidence-based response to public health issues. As UNAIDS noted in its 2022 press release congratulating Zimbabwe for repealing the HIV criminalisation law: “The criminalisation of HIV transmission is ineffective, discriminatory and undermines efforts to reduce new HIV infections. Such laws actively discourage people from getting tested for HIV and from being referred to the appropriate treatment and prevention services.”
  2. The criminalisation of HIV and other STIs can violate human rights. Such laws and prosecutions threaten the rights of people living with HIV, and other STIs, to equality, freedom from discrimination, privacy, human dignity, health, liberty, and the right to a fair trial, amongst others. Based on the HIV Justice Network’s monitoring of how people living with HIV were prosecuted previously under Section 79, we believe that the criminal justice system is not well equipped to understand the science of exposure and transmission of HIV or other STIs and would therefore be unable to uphold principles of legal and judicial fairness, including the key criminal law principles of legality, foreseeability, intent, causality, proportionality and proof. Overly broad criminalisation of HIV and STIs means people with HIV or STIs risk being prosecuted and sent to prison instead of receiving care for their medical condition.
  3. The criminalisation of HIV and other STIs can increase stigma and harm public health. This is particularly so because prosecutions are often accompanied by highly stigmatising and inaccurate media reporting. By increasing stigma and driving people away from testing and healthcare services, criminalisation may therefore also prevent or delay people from accessing testing and treatment. Effective HIV and/or STI treatment not only allows people living with HIV or other STIs to lead longer, healthier lives, but also prevents HIV and STI transmission. 
  4. Criminalisation harms women. In Zimbabwe, as in many African countries, HIV criminal laws have been disproportionately applied against women living with HIV. Women are usually the first to know of their HIV status, often due to accessing testing during antenatal care. Being the first to test positive, women may be vulnerable to being falsely blamed for bringing HIV into the relationship. Women living with HIV are also vulnerable to violence and abuse in intimate relationships and the threat of prosecution only increases that vulnerability.

Rather than adding HIV to Section 78, this provision should be repealed. This would contribute to enhancing Zimbabwe’s HIV and STI response in line with a human rights-affirming approach to health that is mandated by the Constitution and recommended by public health and human rights experts internationally and regionally.

The Health Law and Policy Consortium agrees with the HJWW coalition:

Reintroducing the punitive criminalisation of  HIV transmission is counterproductive as it undermines national health objectives and the global target of ending HIV and AIDS by 2030. It will be tantamount to reenacting state endorsed stigma that will inevitably flow from the criminalisation. This amendment not only jeopardises the progress made through the successful repeal of Section 79 of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act, it threatens current efforts underway to prevent the spread of HIV as it reintroduces a driver for new infections of HIV. The proposed amendment creates a formidable legal barrier that will severely undermine full access to essential healthcare services. It will deter individuals from seeking regular HIV testing, adhering to HIV treatment and medication, and disclosing their HIV status to enable their sexual partners to take preventive measures such as PrEP.

Sonke Gender Justice also agrees with the above and adds the following:

It is Sonke’s considered view that the reintroduction of the impugned provisions providing for the criminalisation of HIV in Zimbabwe will harm rights of women. The amendment of Section 78 of the Criminal Code on sexually transmitted diseases to include HIV will bring back the narrative of unjust arrests and prosecutions. Under this new provision, women tested as HIV-positive will face prosecution and eventual violence. Criminalisation of HIV reinforces gender barriers to accessing treatment, care and support for women who test HIV-positive, driving them underground, unable to disclose their status to the detriment of family health resulting in infant HIV acquisition, ART non-adherence for both the mother and infant. Criminalisation of HIV impairs public health goals that seek to promote health rights of women leading to poor health outcomes and HIV related health disparities.

HJWW, HLPC and Sonke conclude that re-criminalising HIV, as well the existing criminalisation of STIs, is a threat to Zimbabwe’s HIV and SRHR response and to the rights, security and dignity of people living with HIV, particularly women living with HIV.

Section 78 is vague and overly broad and risks being applied in a way that is unjust and discriminatory. It will not prevent HIV or STI transmission, instead perpetuating stigma and misinformation, risking driving people away from HIV and STI testing and treatment and filling prisons.


About the authors of this statement

HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE is a coalition of 16 global and regional civil society networks and human rights defenders working to end HIV criminalisation.

Health Law and Policy Consortium (HLPC) is a health policy advocacy organisation leveraging a network of experts across various disciplines. HLPC aims to facilitate rights-based policy formulation, implementation, and monitoring within Zimbabwe’s public health system.

Sonke Gender Justice is a South African-based non-profit organisation working throughout Africa. Sonke believes women and men, girls and boys can work together to resist patriarchy, advocate for gender justice and achieve gender transformation.

Download this statement as a pdf

Death penalty for unintentional HIV transmission via same-sex sex struck down by Uganda’s Constitutional Court

The recent (April 3rd) ruling by Uganda’s Constitutional Court declaring that the Anti Homosexuality Act of 2023 complies with the Constitution of Uganda – except in only four aspects – was quite rightly roundly condemned by Amnesty International, the Global Fund, Human Rights Watch, International AIDS Society, and UNAIDS, as well as the US Department of State, amongst many others.

Rather than strike down every section of this heinous, draconian anti-gay law, the Court was unanimous in ruling that most of its dangerous, overly broad, and problematic provisions remain in place. 

However, in its 200+ page ruling, the Court did find that Sections 3(2)(c), 9, 11(2d) and 14 did not “pass constitutional muster” and were struck down.

Sections 9 and 11(2d) refer to landlords allowing homosexuality to take place on their premises, and section 14 refers to a “duty to report acts of homosexuality” to the police.

But section 3(2)(c) was one of the most heinous of all of the Act’s horrendous provisions, proscribing the death penalty for someone living with HIV who engaged in same-sex sex and where HIV is allegedly passed on.

  1. Aggravated homosexuality (1) A person who commits the offence of homosexuality in any of the circumstances specified in subsection (2) commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality and is liable, on conviction, to suffer death. (2) (c) the person against whom the offence is committed contracts a terminal illness as a result of the sexual act.

Read the full text of the law here

Both the Court, several petitioners, and UNAIDS – who provided an amicus brief to the Court – correctly interpreted this section as criminalising unintentional HIV transmission when two people of the same sex had sex.

In paragraphs 510-512, the Court referred to several key documents – including the 2011 Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and UNAIDS 2013 Guidance Note, Ending overly broad criminalisation of HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission: Critical scientific, medical and legal considerations – and were persuaded that the section did not provide for “the element of criminal intent or mens rea, which is a vital component of the concept of crime.”

The Constitutional Court ruling went on to say:

“This indeed is the approach that was adopted in section 43 of the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act, 2015, which criminalizes the intentional transmission of HIV as follows: ‘a person who wilfully and intentionally transmits HIV to another person commits an offence.’

“Finding no justification for the criminalization of the unintentional transmission of HIV under section 3(2)(c) of the Anti-Homosexuality Act we take the view that it compounds the susceptibility of persons that are HIV+ to mental health issues and thus impedes their right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of mental health, with potential ramifications to their physical health as well. This is a violation of the right to health as envisaged under Article 12(1) of the ICESCR and is inconsistent with Articles 45 and 287 of the Uganda Constitution.”


However, people living with HIV are already over-criminalised in Uganda by various sections of the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act, as summarised in our Global HIV Criminalisation Database.

What is termed as “wilful and intentional” transmission of HIV is punishable by a fine and/or up to ten years’ imprisonment. Section 43 provides a defence if the accused’s partner was aware of, and accepted, the risk of transmission, or transmission occurred during sexual intercourse and protective measures were used. Attempted transmission is punishable by a fine and/or up to five years’ imprisonment. The scope of section 41 is undefined, but cases demonstrate that the law criminalises perceived HIV ‘exposure’ broadly.

Both Section 41 and 43 are known to have been used in a broad range of circumstances, including prosecution of a man for ‘defilement’ (2013), prosecution of a teacher for alleged transmission to his student (2013), the alleged injection of a toddler/needle stick injury (2014), alleged transmission by a woman to a number of young men (2014), alleged breastfeeding of an employer’s child (2018), the arrest, conviction and acquittal of a nurse wrongfully convicted of injecting a baby with HIV-infected blood (2018), and the alleged defilement of a boy by a woman (2019). An earlier prosecution from 2008 involved a man charged with alleged transmission. In the most recent case in 2023, a woman living with HIV pled guilty to charges under section 43 after injecting her 5-year-old son with her blood and was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. Cases have generally not used scientific evidence to prove allegations, with convictions at lower-level courts relying only on testimony.

Nevertheless, the recognition of key legal and rights-based arguments against punishing unintentional HIV transmission with the death penalty(!) as part of an otherwise anti-rights, morality-based ruling should be seen as a small but welcome victory. Although this might be seen as similar to the 2022 Lesotho High Court decision on the unconstitutionality of the death penalty in the context of HIV transmission following rape, the difference of course is that that rape is an act of violence that should be criminalised regardless of any other circumstances, whereas consensual sex between two men or two women should never, ever be a crime.

US: New report published on the enforcement of HIV criminalisation in Ohio

‘Antiquated’ and unscientific laws enforced against Ohioans living with HIV: Report

Across the country, a growing coalition of advocates is pushing to repeal or update state laws that criminalize people living with HIV or AIDS.

In Ohio, six laws on the books either criminalize certain acts – including sex – for people living with HIV or substantially increase sentences for them compared to people who do not have the virus.

Most of the laws were passed decades ago, fueled by fear, absent scientific understanding about how HIV is transmitted and before advancements in HIV-related treatment were widely introduced. Laws still remain in place in 34 states.

There are no national reporting requirements that track arrests or prosecutions under the laws. Until now, it was unclear how frequently Ohio prosecutors have charged people under the laws, which also apply to people living with hepatitis or tuberculosis.

A report released today by Equality Ohio and the Ohio Health Modernization Movement (OHMM), two groups pushing for legal reform, reveals that more than half of the prosecutions over a six-year period were for acts – such as spitting or throwing bodily fluids – that were unlikely to transmit HIV. It also found a disproportionate number of people charged were Black compared to Ohio’s overall population of Black residents.

“Ohio is unique in that these antiquated laws are actually being utilized and enforced against everyday Ohioans who are living with HIV,” Kate Mozynski, an attorney with Equality Ohio and one of the co-authors of the report told the Buckeye Flame.

In 2022, about 25,000 people in Ohio had an HIV diagnosis. The rate of Black residents diagnosed with HIV was more than six times the rate of white residents.

The groups spent three years gathering information from prosecutors and courts in all 88 Ohio counties and identified 214 cases charged under the six laws. Often, the records lacked or had conflicting information on race or ethnicity, and the gender captured in law enforcement records didn’t always reflect a person’s gender identity.

That prevents researchers from fully understanding the impact that these laws are having on some of the most vulnerable populations in Ohio, including LQBTQ+ people, people experiencing incarceration and people of color, according to the report. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that laws criminalizing HIV exposure are outdated and may discourage testing, increase stigma and exacerbate disparities in Black and Latino communities.

Cuyahoga County had the highest number of charges

 The report found that:

  • Prosecutions are concentrated in Ohio’s more populous counties, including Cuyahoga, Hamilton, Franklin and Lucas counties.
  • Cuyahoga County charged four times the number of people under the six laws than Franklin County, which has a higher population and more people living with HIV and AIDS. Cuyahoga County accounted for 26% of the cases identified.
  • The largest share of prosecutions involved Black men, based on recorded race and gender included in records.

A separate Marshall Project review of prosecutions under the six laws in Cuyahoga County from 2016 through 2022 examined 36 charges involving 35 defendants. That doesn’t didn’t include charges for solicitation, prostitution or loitering, which are generally misdemeanor crimes.

The cases involved 18 law enforcement agencies, including three hospital police departments and public transit police.

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office, which decides whether to prosecute felony cases under Ohio’s laws, said these charges are determined on a “case-by-case basis” after considering input from victims, according to Lexi Bauer, communications manager. Bauer noted that the majority of the “harassment by bodily fluid” charges in recent years were related to hepatitis and not HIV.

Ohio penalties among the harshest

Ohio’s laws remain among the harshest when it comes to HIV criminalization, not just based on the conduct that is criminalized but also the penalties, said Jada Hicks, staff attorney for The Center for HIV Law and Policy.

In Ohio, people living with HIV (or viral hepatitis or tuberculosis) can be charged whether or not they:

  • Engaged in sex practices or other acts that could transmit the virus.
  • Transmitted HIV.
  • Used protection, such as condoms and/or dental dams.
  • Had an undetectable level of virus in their blood and were unable to transmit HIV.

Most of the charges examined in the report fall under two Ohio laws.

One law makes it a crime for a person living with HIV (or hepatitis or tuberculosis) to “harass” someone with their bodily fluids. That would include spitting or throwing urine, feces or blood at another person.

Under the other law, a person can be charged with felonious assault if they have sex with another person without telling them that they are living with HIV.

The penalties for failing to disclose HIV status in Ohio are stiff regardless of whether the virus was actually transmitted or whether it was even possible for a person to transmit the virus. Possible sentences for individuals living with HIV can be anywhere from two to 29 times longer than those for Ohioans who are HIV-negative.

Ohio is also one of six states that require individuals convicted under one of these statutes to register as a sex offender.

“Ohio’s HIV laws don’t require actual transmission or even the intent to transmit,” said Nathan Cisneros, a researcher with the Williams Institute, which does legal and public policy research on sexual orientation and gender identity. “Conduct that couldn’t transmit HIV – like spitting and biting, loitering while having a conversation about sex work – can land you in prison.”

The Williams Institute also published a report today that looked at arrests under Ohio’s six laws over two decades and felony prosecutions in Cuyahoga County from 2009 to 2022. Researchers identified at least 530 separate allegations under the six laws since 2000. Having consensual sex without disclosing an HIV-positive status made up nearly half of the total cases. Incidents related to sex work and bodily fluid exposure each accounted for nearly one-fifth of the total.

Changing legal landscape

Thirteen states have either repealed or modernized their HIV laws, according to the Center for HIV Law and Policy, including Illinois in 2021 and New Jersey in 2022.

Ohio advocates have been at the forefront of efforts to challenge the laws as discriminatory. In 2022, the Center for HIV Law and Policy filed a complaint with the Department of Justice on behalf of people living with HIV in Ohio and Tennessee.

In December, the DOJ notified Tennessee it was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by enforcing the state law that increases penalties for people convicted of prostitution if they also have HIV. On Feb. 15, the Justice Department filed charges against the state in federal court..

Combing state records for HIV-related charges

OHMM researchers gathered information from county-level online court records and local county clerk and prosecutors’ offices in Ohio’s 88 counties for a six-year period ending in 2020. The project identified 214 cases prosecuted under the six laws.

Behind each one of the cases, there is a “real, everyday Ohioan who happens to have a medical condition,” Mozynski said.

Where in Ohio are people being charged?

The highest concentration of charges are in the state’s larger metropolitan areas.

  • 26% in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland)
  • 12% in Hamilton County (Cincinnati)
  • 7% in Lucas County (Toledo)
  • 7% in Franklin County (Columbus)
  • Montgomery (Dayton) and Warren (Lebanon) counties, about 5% each.

What charges are most common?

More than half of the cases identified were for the charge of “harassment with a bodily substance,” which carries with it a penalty of up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Cases with this charge are often related to acts against law enforcement or corrections officers or healthcare workers.

Charges don’t distinguish between bodily fluids that can transmit HIV, such as blood, and those that do not, such as saliva, urine or feces. People can also be charged if they are living with hepatitis, regardless of whether it is transmitted.

Prosecutors also don’t have to prove whether a person is capable of transmitting the virus or determine whether it is scientifically impossible to transmit the virusdue to prescription-drug treatments that have reduced the presence of the virus in a person’s blood – called a viral load – to undetectable levels.

A third of the cases were for “felonious assault,” which carries the most severe penalty of any HIV-related charge – up to eight years of incarceration and a $15,000 fine. Each sexual act can be charged separately. It also doesn’t require that the virus be transmitted.

OHMM found no cases where people were charged with “selling or donating contaminated blood.” The Williams Institute found six arrests over a 20 year period related to blood donation.

Read the OHMM (“Enforcement of HIV Criminalization in Ohio: Analysis of Court Cases from 2014 to 2020”) report here.

Read the Williams report (“Enforcement of HIV Criminalization in Ohio HIV-related criminal incidents from 2000 to 2022”) here.

HIV Is Not A Crime Awareness Day goes global!

Next Wednesday 28th February is HIV Is Not A Crime Awareness Day.

For the first time, HIV Is Not A Crime Awareness Day – which began two years ago in the United States – has gone global! This year’s theme is: “You care about ending HIV criminalisation – you just don’t know it yet!”

That’s why we’ll be producing a very special episode of our webshow, HIV Justice Live! on this important new date for global HIV decriminalisation activism, where I’ll be joined on my ‘virtual sofa’ by an inspiring group of community-based expert activists – Florence Riako Anam (GNP+); HIV and human rights consultant, Michaela Clayton; Mikhail Golichenko (HIV Legal Network); and Andy Tapia and Kerry Thomas (SERO Project) – to explain why HIV criminalisation impacts us all, and what you can do about it.

We’ll be streaming live to YouTube and Facebook, so you’ll be able to interact with us during our Q&A session. By March 1st, Zero Discrimination Day, the show will also be available on our YouTube channel where it will be subtitled in English, allowing for automatic translation into any language.

HIV Is Not A Crime Awareness Day was the brainchild of our long-time HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE partner, the SERO Project’s co-Executive Director, Kamaria Laffrey. HIV Is Not A Crime Awareness Day was launched two years ago in collaboration with the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, community activists and public policy organisations across the United States and grown in size and prominence ever since.

HIV Is Not A Crime Awareness Day takes place on 28th February for several reasons. It’s a date that bridges two major US awareness months – Black History Month in February and Women’s History Month in March. And it’s also a symbolic nod to the legacy of the late Hollywood icon and early AIDS activist, Elizabeth Taylor, who was born on 27th February.

HIV Is Not A Crime Awareness Day is an opportunity to amplify the voices of those who have been criminalised based on their HIV status; to remind people of the negative impacts of HIV criminalisation on health and rights; to celebrate the work of many individuals who are part of the growing global movement to end HIV criminalisation; and to recognise that there’s still much to do to achieve HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE.

You can find out what other events are taking place on and around HIV Is Not A Crime Awareness Day by visiting a dedicated Facebook page or by following the hashtag #HINACDay.

US: Report by the Williams Institute examines the enforcement of HIV criminalisation laws in Mississippi

HIV criminal laws lopsided impact on Black men in Mississippi

A new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that at least 43 people in Mississippi were arrested for HIV-related crimes between 2004 and 2021. Half of all arrests in the state happened between 2017 and 2021.

The HIV epidemic and Mississippi’s HIV-related criminal laws disproportionately impact men, and Black men in particular. Men make up 49% of Mississippi’s population, 71% of people living with HIV (PLWH), and 72% of HIV-related arrests. Black men comprise 18% of the state’s population and 50% of PLWH. However, they make up 47% of HIV-related arrests.

Researchers analyzed data obtained from the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. Findings show that the enforcement of HIV criminal laws is concentrated around the state’s capital and most populous city, Jackson, and near the Gulf Coast. Almost 20% of arrests occurred in three counties: Harrison (15%), Hinds (13%), and Lamar (11%).

HIV criminalization is a term used to describe laws that either criminalize otherwise legal conduct or increase the penalties for illegal conduct based on a person’s HIV-positive status. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. states and territories currently have laws that criminalize people living with HIV.

Mississippi has two HIV criminal laws. The knowing exposure law makes it a felony to knowingly expose another person to HIV, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C and is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. Mississippi’s endangerment by bodily substance law makes it a misdemeanor to attempt to expose or expose anyone at a correctional facility to bodily fluids. However, if someone knows their HIV or hepatitis status, the crime is upgraded to a felony punishable by 3 to 10 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

“Mississippi’s criminal laws do not require the actual transmission of HIV, the intent to transmit, or even conduct that can lead to the transmission of HIV,” said lead study author Nathan Cisneros, HIV Criminalization Project Director at the Williams Institute. “We now have medical treatments that wholly eliminate the risk of transmitting HIV through sex, yet these advances are not reflected in Mississippi’s laws.”

Mississippi’s 2021 Ending the HIV Epidemic Plan called for reform of the state’s HIV criminal laws to align with modern HIV medicine.

“HIV criminal laws perpetuate stigma and can discourage testing and treatment,” said co-author Brad Sears, Founding Executive Director at the Williams Institute. “That’s why many national and state organizations, including the American Medical Association, have called for a repeal of these laws.”

This report is part of a series of reports examining the ongoing impact of state HIV criminalization laws on people living with HIV.

Read the report

US: Updated CDC guidelines on Molecular HIV Surveillance do not go far enough, believe HIV advocates

CDC updates privacy guidelines for HIV sample tracking

Guidelines relating to a controversial practice used by American state and local health departments to curb HIV infections were updated last week by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention – but have not gone far enough, believe some experts.

The guidelines track the genetic signatures of viruses collected from people newly diagnosed with HIV, and the updated policy encourages health officials to be more transparent about the process, one of many changes sought by HIV advocacy organisations concerned about how so-called molecular surveillance could violate patients’ privacy and civil rights.

The New York Times reports that the agency stopped short of adopting more significant changes some had been pushing for, like allowing health agencies to opt out in states where people can be prosecuted for transmitting HIV.

“We’re in a period where health data are increasingly used in criminal prosecutions, as seen in prosecutions of people seeking abortion care or who might have miscarried,” said Carmel Shachar, a professor at Harvard Law School who specialises in healthcare. The revised policy did not go far enough, she said, to protect people with HIV.

Dr Alexandra Oster, who leads the CDC’s molecular surveillance team, said the benefits of the programme far exceed the risks. “We need to do it well,” she said. “But we need to keep doing it.”

HIV has a distinctive genetic signature in each person that helps doctors decide which drugs are likely to thwart it. But the information can also be used to track its spread through a population – including identifying clusters of people who carry closely-related viruses.

The CDC has, for decades, used molecular surveillance to track flu, salmonella and, more recently, Covid.
In 2018, it began requiring health departments that received federal funding for HIV programmes to share such data gleaned from people with the virus. Patients do not have to be informed that their viral samples are tracked.

Molecular surveillance has identified more than 500 HIV clusters in the country since 2016, the CDC said.

Health officials can then interview people in the clusters to identify their sexual or drug-use partners and connect them to testing, needle exchanges and medications that block transmission.

But many HIV activists have long argued that such tracking could violate people’s rights and discourage testing and treatment.

Before the information is reported to the CDC, health departments strip it of information that could readily identify the patient. But personal data are held by state and local health departments.

In some states, people have been prosecuted for transmitting HIV or for not telling their partners that they carry it. No criminal prosecution in the United States has been known to involve molecular surveillance data, but activists remain wary of the possibility.

They also fear that advances in technology might eventually be able to determine who infected a specific person.

In October, 110 HIV and human-rights groups sent a letter to the CDC expressing “serious concerns” that molecular surveillance was carried out without the informed consent of people with HIV.

The CDC said that it had a meeting with the activist coalitions’ representatives last year and incorporated their input in the revised policy.

A similar conflict arose in the late 1990s, when the CDC pushed for states to collect names of diagnosed people in state-run databases, which the agency said would help combat a disease that by then had killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. But many activists protested the policy, delaying its rollout for a decade.

Since 2008, all states have collected the names of people diagnosed with HIV.

The CDC said the information is secure, and that it knew of only one names-related data breach – in Florida in 1996. It said it knew of no such privacy violations related to molecular surveillance data.

The new policy did not allow waivers for opting out of molecular surveillance in places where such data could be used in criminal proceedings, a change that had been recommended by the National Alliance of State and Territorial Aids Directors, a non-profit representing public health officers.

Representatives from more than 40 state or county health departments that the federal government prioritises for HIV prevention told The New York Times that the molecular surveillance policy had been generally useful in their efforts to prevent transmission. None knew of any data breaches.

Tajikistan: The discrimination and legal difficulties of women living with HIV

Infecting your wife and then accusing her: The Tajik HIV-positive women confronting social exclusion

Translated from via Deepl.com. For the article in French and the Original article in Russian, please scroll down.

In Tajikistan, women living with HIV are denied help by their families. Many of them live in very precarious conditions, have no medical support and cannot find work.

HIV-positive women are one of the most discriminated against groups in Tajikistan. They are shunned by society as a whole, including their immediate families. Excluded, they can no longer work or have access to appropriate medical assistance. And yet, most of the time, these women pose no risk to the health of those around them.

To mark the “16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence” event and the International Day against HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), Asia-Plus takes a look at the discrimination faced by these women.

A number of laws and documents exist in Tajikistan to directly or indirectly prevent discrimination against people living with HIV, as set out in an article by the NGO Foreign Policy Centre. In 2023, this list was supplemented by a new law on equality and the elimination of all forms of discrimination. According to human rights activists, it introduces the concept of “indirect discrimination”, which vulnerable groups often face. However, HIV-positive women are not entirely reassured by this new legal reference, as they already face direct discrimination on a daily basis.

Discrimination extending from the family to the medical community

“Despite the fact that HIV is not transmitted in everyday life and that antiretroviral (ARV) treatment (a treatment that slows down the development of the virus and the disease, editor’s note) reduces the viral load to a minimum, HIV-positive women are discriminated against at every street corner. And above all within their families”, explains Tahmina Khaïdarova, Tajikistan spokesperson for the Eurasian Women’s AIDS Network.

“As soon as her diagnosis is known, her family restricts contact with her and avoids her. This attitude then follows her wherever her situation becomes known.

Also read about Novastan: HIV positive and unemployed

Strange as it may seem, HIV-positive women often report discrimination from healthcare workers. These include dentists, surgeons, midwives and gynaecologists. Some doctors refuse to help women with HIV, and they have to find friendlier doctors through acquaintances.

“Yet modern medicine has eliminated all risk. Today, HIV is a chronic disease like diabetes. With the right ARV treatment and medical follow-up, HIV-positive women can become mothers of healthy children, but even some health workers don’t have this information,” explains Tahmina Khaïdarova.

Discrimination trivialised in the media
Local journalists also discriminate against women with HIV. The content devoted to this subject often takes a pejorative angle. The media confirm stereotypes, stigmatisation and prejudice, without explaining to the public what HIV is today.

“Even today, local journalists still use phrases like ‘AIDS: the plague of the 21st century’, ‘the terror of HIV‘ and other statements that have nothing to do with reality”, says Tahmina Khaïdarova.

Journalists often use intimidating language to talk about criminal cases (article 125 of the Tajik penal code, editor’s note) brought against women with HIV who are accused of knowingly infecting their husbands.

Discrimination, a source of violence against women

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, to which Tajikistan has been a signatory for 30 years, states that gender inequality and discrimination are the primary reasons for violence against women.

In fact, any serodiscordant couple (where one partner is HIV-positive and the other is not, editor’s note) can fall foul of the first part of article 125 of the Tajik criminal code. This states: “knowingly placing another person at risk of HIV contamination”. It therefore refers not to factual contamination, but to the risk of infection. And all HIV-positive people who have a sexual partner are de facto exposing them to the risk of infection.

“But in reality, things don’t work like that. If a person is on ARV treatment, their viral load is reduced and even if they have unprotected sex, their partner will not catch HIV”, explains Tahmina Khaïdarova.

Women with HIV more discriminated against than men

The spokeswoman tells us that at the twelfth International Conference on HIV Research, held in Brisbane from 23 to 26 July, the World Health Organisation presented new scientific and methodological recommendations relating to HIV. Among them is the indication of the viral load thresholds required for HIV infection.

This means that HIV-positive people who achieve a viral load level below this threshold by adhering to ARV treatment will not transmit HIV to their sexual partners. They have only a low risk of transmitting the virus vertically to their children.

“Many of the criminal cases that have resounded in Tajikistan have been launched on the basis of the first part of Article 125. But in reality, none of the ‘victims’ have been infected with HIV”, reveals Tahmina Khaïdarova. According to her, although men with HIV are also discriminated against, women are discriminated against to a greater extent.

Legal difficulties

The fact is that society still considers that a woman with HIV has had many sexual partners. However, according to statistics, sex workers represent only 1.7% of HIV-positive women in Tajikistan in 2022. All the others are women leading ordinary lives, sometimes housewives, who contracted the virus from their husbands.

“Not long ago, we were contacted by an HIV-positive woman. She was married, had a child, and her husband beat her. He even beat her during her pregnancy, so that she lost her second child”, says Tahmina Khaïdarova. “Although it was her husband who gave her HIV, her family blamed her.

“She left with her child, rented a room and found a job. But her ex-husband has got the child back and is threatening to deprive her of her rights over him because she is HIV-positive, uneducated and on a modest salary on which she can’t look after her child.”

The courts also discriminate against women, even those without HIV. That’s why there’s no guarantee that if her husband does try to deprive her of her child, the judge will see the absurdity and injustice of the situation.

Translated from the Russian by Paulinon Vanackère and edited by Coraline Grondin

Contaminer son épouse puis l’accuser : ces femmes tadjikes séropositives face aux discriminations sociales

Au Tadjikistan, les femmes atteintes du VIH se voient refuser l’aide de leur famille. En grande précarité, beaucoup ne bénéficient pas d’accompagnement médical et ne trouvent pas de travail.

Les femmes séropositives sont un des groupes les plus discriminés au Tadjikistan. La société entière se détourne d’elles, y compris leur famille proche. Exclues, elles ne peuvent plus travailler ni avoir accès à une aide médicale adaptée. Pourtant, la plupart du temps, ces femmes ne représentent aucun risque pour la santé de leur entourage.

A l’occasion de l’événement « 16 jours d’action contre les violences de genre » et de la journée internationale de lutte contre le VIH (virus de l’immunodéficience humaine), Asia-Plus se penche sur les discriminations que ces femmes rencontrent.

Diverses lois et documents existent au Tadjikistan pour empêcher directement ou indirectement la discrimination des personnes atteintes du VIH, rassemblées dans un article de l’ONG Foreign Policy Centre. En 2023, cette liste a été complétée d’une nouvelle loi sur l’égalité et l’élimination de toutes les formes de discrimination. Selon les défenseurs des droits humains, elle fait apparaître le concept de « discriminations indirectes » auxquelles les groupes vulnérables sont souvent confrontés. Cependant, les femmes séropositives ne sont pas pleinement rassurées par cette nouvelle mention légale car elles font déjà face à des discriminations directes au quotidien.

Des discriminations s’étendant de la famille à la communauté médicale

« Malgré le fait que le VIH ne se transmet pas dans la vie quotidienne et que le traitement antirétroviral (ARV) (un traitement qui ralentit le développement du virus et la maladie, ndlr) atténue au minimum la charge virale, les femmes séropositives sont discriminées à chaque coin de rue. Et avant tout dans leur famille », explique Tahmina Khaïdarova, porte-parole pour le Tadjikistan du Réseau des femmes eurasiennes sur le SIDA.

« A peine son diagnostic est-il connu que sa famille restreint ses contacts avec elle et l’évite. Puis, cette attitude la suivra partout où sa situation est connue. »

Aussi étrange que cela puisse paraître, les femmes séropositives rapportent souvent des discriminations de la part des travailleurs de la santé. Parmi eux, dentistes, chirurgiens, sages-femmes ou gynécologues. Des médecins refusent de porter assistance aux femmes atteintes du VIH et elles doivent trouver des docteurs plus amicaux en passant par des connaissances.

« Pourtant, la médecine moderne a fait disparaître tout risque. Aujourd’hui, le VIH est une maladie chronique comme le diabète. Avec un traitement ARV adéquat et un suivi médical, les femmes séropositives deviennent mères d’enfants en bonne santé, mais même certains travailleurs de la santé n’ont pas ces informations », explique Tahmina Khaïdarova.

Les discriminations banalisées dans les médias

Les journalistes locaux discriminent également les femmes atteintes du VIH. Les contenus consacrés à ce thème prennent souvent un angle péjoratif. Les médias confirment des stéréotypes, des stigmatisations et des préjugés, sans expliquer au public ce que représente aujourd’hui le VIH.

« Encore aujourd’hui, on rencontre chez les journalistes locaux des formulations comme « le sida : la peste du XXIème siècle », « la terreur du VIH » et autres affirmations qui n’ont rien à voir avec la réalité », raconte Tahmina Khaïdarova.

Souvent, les journalistes utilisent des formules intimidantes pour parler de cas d’affaires pénales (article 125 du code pénal tadjik, ndlr) ouvertes contres des femmes atteintes du VIH et accusées d’avoir consciemment contaminé leur mari.

Les discriminations, sources de violences faites aux femmes

La Convention sur l’élimination de toutes les formes de discrimination à l’égard des femmes, dont le Tadjikistan est signataire depuis 30 ans, affirme que l’inégalité et la discrimination de genre sont les raisons premières des violences faites aux femmes.

En fait, tout couple sérodiscordant (dont un des partenaires est séropositif et l’autre non, ndlr) peut tomber sous le coup de la première partie de l’article 125 du code pénal tadjik. Celle-ci indique : « placer consciemment une autre personne en position de risque de contamination au VIH. » Ainsi, elle fait référence non pas à la contamination factuelle, mais au risque d’infection. Et tous les séropositifs qui ont un partenaire sexuel le placent de fait face au risque d’être contaminé.

« Mais en réalité, les choses ne fonctionnent pas ainsi. Si une personne est sous traitement ARV, la charge virale est diminuée et même en cas de relation sexuelle non protégée, son partenaire n’attrapera pas le VIH », explique Tahmina Khaïdarova.

Les femmes atteintes de VIH plus discriminées que les hommes

La porte-parole raconte qu’à la douzième conférence internationale pour la recherche contre le VIH, qui a eu lieu du 23 au 26 juillet dernier à Brisbane, l’Organisation mondiale de la santé a présenté de nouvelles recommandations scientifiques et méthodiques en relation avec le VIH. Parmi elles, l’indication des seuils de charge virale nécessaires à la contamination par le VIH.

Ainsi, les personnes séropositives qui atteignent un niveau de charge virale inférieur à ce seuil grâce à l’observance du traitement ARV ne transmettent pas le VIH à leurs partenaires sexuels. Elles n’ont qu’un risque faible de transmettre verticalement le virus à leurs enfants.

De nombreuses affaires pénales qui ont résonné au Tadjikistan ont été lancées en s’appuyant sur la première partie de l’article 125. Mais en réalité, aucune des « victimes » n’a été contaminée par le VIH », révèle Tahmina Khaïdarova. Selon elle, bien que les hommes atteints de VIH soient aussi soumis à la discrimination, les femmes le sont davantage.

Des difficultés face à la justice

Le fait est que la société considère toujours qu’une femme atteinte du VIH a eu beaucoup de partenaires sexuels. Cependant, selon les statistiques, les travailleuses du sexe représentent seulement 1,7 % des femmes séropositives au Tadjikistan en 2022. Toutes les autres sont des femmes menant une vie ordinaire, parfois femmes au foyer, qui ont contracté le virus par leur mari.

« Il y a peu, nous avons été contactées par une femme séropositive. Elle était mariée, a eu un enfant, et son mari la battait. Il l’a battue même pendant sa grossesse, si bien qu’elle a perdu son deuxième enfant », raconte Tahmina Khaïdarova. « Bien que ce soit son mari qui lui a donné le VIH, sa famille l’a accusée, elle. »

« Elle est partie avec son enfant, loue une chambre et a trouvé un travail. Mais son ex-mari a récupéré l’enfant et la menace de la priver de ses droits sur lui parce qu’elle est séropositive, sans éducation et avec un salaire modeste avec lequel elle ne peut pas s’occuper de son enfant. »

Les tribunaux aussi discriminent les femmes, mêmes non atteintes du VIH. C’est pourquoi rien ne garantit que si son mari tente effectivement de la priver de son enfant, le juge s’aperçoive de l’absurdité et de l’injustice de la situation.

La rédaction d’Asia-Plus
Traduit du russe par Paulinon Vanackère

Сам заразил, но жену обвинил. Женщины с ВИЧ подвергаются в Таджикистане дискриминации

Женщинам с диагнозом ВИЧ в Таджикистане отказывают в поддержке не только родственники, но помощь могут не оказать даже врачи.

Женщины с ВИЧ – одна из самых дискриминируемых групп в Таджикистане. От них отворачивается всё общество, включая самых близких родственников; они не могут найти работу или получить медицинское обслуживание. При этом чаще всего никаких рисков здоровью окружающих эти женщины не несут.

В честь международной акции «16 дней активных действий против гендерного насилия» и Всемирного дня борьбы против СПИДа «Азия-Плюс» рассказывает о дискриминации, с которой они сталкиваются.

В Таджикистане существует целый список самых разных законов и документов, которые прямо или косвенно защищают людей, живущих с ВИЧ от дискриминации.

В прошлом году этот список пополнился еще одним законом «О равенстве и ликвидации всех форм дискриминации». В нем, к удовлетворению правозащитников, появилось понятие «косвенной дискриминации», с которой чаще всего сталкиваются уязвимые группы в Таджикистане. Однако женщин, живущих с ВИЧ, это важное описание в законе, не успокаивает, потому что именно эта группа населения каждый день сталкивается с прямой дискриминацией.

«Несмотря на то, что ВИЧ не передается бытовым путем, а современная АВР-терапия (терапия, которая замедляет развитие вируса и заболевание, – ред.) до минимума снижает вирусную нагрузку, дискриминации женщина с ВИЧ подвергается на каждом шагу, – говорит Тахмина Хайдарова, руководительница Сети женщин, живущих с ВИЧ. – Прежде всего, внутри семьи.

Как только выясняется, что у нее положительный статус, родственники сокращают с ней контакты, избегают ее. Со временем такое отношение будет сопровождать ее везде, где узнают о ее статусе».

Как это ни странно, отмечает Тахмина, женщины, живущие с ВИЧ, часто жалуются на проявление дискриминации со стороны медицинских работников: стоматологов, хирургов, акушеров, гинекологов. Доктора отказываются оказывать помощь женщинам с ВИЧ и им приходится искать дружественных специалистов через знакомых.

«При этом современная медицина сняла все риски: ВИЧ сегодня это такое же хроническое заболевание, как сахарный диабет. При адекватной АВР-терапии и врачебном уходе, женщины с ВИЧ становятся матерями здоровых детей, но даже у медицинских работников нет актуальной информации на этот счет, – поясняет Тахмина Хайдарова.

Дискриминируют женщин с ВИЧ и местные журналисты. В контенте, посвященном женщинам с ВИЧ, часто присутствуют уничижительные обороты, медиа транслируют стереотипы, стигму и предрассудки, и не объясняют аудитории о том, что собой сегодня представляет ВИЧ.

«До сих пор в материалах местных журналистов встречаются такие обороты, как “ВИЧ/СПИД – чума 21 века”, “ВИЧ-террор” и прочие утверждения, не имеющие ничего общего с реальностью», – говорит Хайдарова.

Часто журналисты используют устрашающие обороты при освещении случаев возбуждения уголовных статей (125 ст. УК РТ, – ред.) в отношении женщин с ВИЧ, которые якобы осознанно заражают мужчин.

В Конвенции о ликвидации всех форм дискриминации в отношении женщин (КЛДЖ), подписанной Таджикистаном 30 лет тому назад, говорится, что гендерное неравенство и дискриминация являются первопричинами насилия в отношении женщин.

«По сути, под первую часть 125 статьи УК Таджикистана могут попасть и все дискордантные пары (в которых один партнер с положительным статусом ВИЧ, другой – с отрицательным, – ред.). В этой части прописано: “Заведомое поставление другого лица в опасность заражения ВИЧ‐инфекцией”, то есть это не фактическое заражение, а риск заражения. И все люди с положительным ВИЧ-статусом, у которых есть половой партнер, фактически, ставят его под угрозу риска заражения.

Но по факту это не так: если человек принимает АРВ-терапию, его вирусная нагрузка снижена, и даже в случае незащищенного секса, его партнер не заразится ВИЧ», – говорит руководительница Сети женщин, живущих с ВИЧ.

Женщинам с ВИЧ достается больше

Она рассказывает, что на двенадцатой международной конференции по научным исследованиям ВИЧ, которая проходила 23–26 июля в австралийском городе Брисбен, Всемирная организация здравоохранения представила новые научные и методические рекомендации в отношении ВИЧ.

В них были приведены ключевые пороговые значения вирусной нагрузки при ВИЧ.

Так, ВИЧ-положительные лица, у которых благодаря соблюдению режима антиретровирусной терапии достигнут неопределяемый уровень вирусной нагрузки, не передают ВИЧ своим сексуальным партнерам и подвергаются низкому риску «вертикальной» передачи вируса своим детям.

«Многие громкие уголовные дела в Таджикистане были возбуждены именно по первой части статьи 125 УК. Но на деле никто из “пострадавших” не заразился ВИЧ», – объясняет Тахмина Хайдарова.

По ее словам, несмотря на то, что мужчины с положительным статусом ВИЧ также подвергаются дискриминации, женщинам достается больше.

Дело в том, что до сих пор общество считает, что женщина с ВИЧ – это женщина, у которой было много сексуальных партнеров. Тогда как по статистике секс-работниц среди женщин с ВИЧ в Таджикистане на конец 2022 года всего 1,7 %. Все остальные – это, как правило, обычные женщины-домохозяйки, которые заразились от своих мужей.

«К нам недавно обратилась женщина, живущая с ВИЧ: она была замужем, родила ребенка, муж ее ужасно избивал. Избивал даже во время беременности так, что она потеряла второго ребенка, – рассказывает Тахмина. – Несмотря на то, что именно муж заразил ее ВИЧ, его семья во всем обвиняла саму женщину.

Она ушла от него с ребенком, сняла комнату, устроилась на работу. Но бывший муж забрал ребенка и теперь угрожает лишить ее родительских прав, потому что у нее положительный статус ВИЧ, нет образования и маленькая зарплата, на которую она не может содержать ребенка».

Учитывая тот факт, что таджикские женщины даже без ВИЧ подвергаются дискриминации в судебных органах, нет никакой гарантии, что в случае, если мужчина, о котором рассказывает Тахмина, действительно попытается лишить свою бывшую жену родительских прав, в суде увидят всю абсурдность и несправедливость ситуации.

Подробнее: https://asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/society/20231201/sam-zarazil-no-zhenu-obvinil-zhentshini-s-vich-podvergayutsya-v-tadzhikistane-diskriminatsii

An encouraging start to 2024

This year has begun with some really encouraging news: years of HIV criminalisation advocacy are really paying off.

First, we heard that the Congress of Mexico City completely repealed the crime of “danger of contagion” from the Penal Code. The repeal was approved with an overwhelming majority of 42 votes in favour and only two against. As per the decision, Articles 76 and 130 have been modified to eliminate the criminalisation of people with sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. This is a direct result of community activism led by the Mexican Network Against HIV Criminalisation. Congresswoman Ana Francis López noted that, with the adoption of this decision, Congress is fulfilling the demands of communities living with HIV that asked not to be discriminated against or punished.  Mexico City joins the states of Aguascalientes, Jalisco, Nayarit, San Luis Potosí and Tabasco, where their Penal Codes do not provide for a specific crime for exposure to HIV or STIs.

Then we heard that progress is being made towards HIV decriminalisation in Tajikistan. The recent Plenum of the Supreme Court marked the first step in this important process. One of the most significant changes was the recognition of the fact of placing people at risk of HIV was an unproven basis for criminal prosecution. With almost 200 known HIV criminalisation cases, this process now needs to speed up. Marginalised groups bear the brunt of the implementation of the HIV criminalisation law in Tajikistan; starting in 2014, authorities have regularly targeted sex workers and LGBT people, often under the guise of disease prevention. We remain hopeful that further progress will be made in the near future to ensure that people living with HIV are not unjustly criminalised in Tajikistan.

We also heard welcome news that another country with far too many unjust prosecutions, Singapore, is also moving towards law reform. The Singapore Ministry of Health is currently conducting a review of the law concerning HIV disclosure. This review will hopefully result in changes to current draconian practices and policies that has seen the law used to convict people – usually gay men – where condoms had been used and where the person living with HIV had an undetectable viral load.

And finally, with the support of our HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Francophone Network, led by the HIV Legal Network, civil society groups are urging authorities in Burkina Faso to reconsider the HIV criminalisation provisions contained within its HIV law, Law 030. The call for action reflects a broader effort to improve the health and wellbeing of people living with HIV/AIDS in Burkina Faso and across the continent.

These are but a few examples of the hard work and dedication of so many of us. The global movement to end HIV criminalisation is making significant progress. Let’s keep up the momentum.

Together, we can make HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE a reality.