What do our HIV Justice Academy graduates think of the HIV Criminalisation Online Course?

The HIV Criminalisation Online Course is the centrepiece of our free online learning hub, the HIV Justice Academy, which launched just over a year ago.

More than 500 HIV justice advocates from around the world have since enrolled in the HIV Criminalisation Online Course. Those who have completed the course – and told us their thoughts in the end-of-course survey – are extremely positive about the experience, finding it relevant, interesting, and engaging. They especially liked the video content and personal testimonies which they tell us brought the issues to life. And we heard from both beginners and experts alike that the course was pitched right for them – no mean feat!

“Although I have been working on HIV discrimination for years, it was spectacular to refresh the memory,” wrote one. “The course met my expectations fully…now I really feel strongly equipped to continue doing my community work,” said another. “The course took a holistic approach to explaining HIV criminalisation. It lends legal, scientific, and social perspective, it also went further to touching on how I could be an advocate,” said a third.


One recent Academy graduate is HIV advocate and HIV criminalisation survivor, Lashanda Salinas, from the US state of Tennessee. She told us that the HIV Criminalisation Online Course “helped me learn things that I didn’t know, including how people are criminalised in other countries.” She also tells us that she found the course’s comprehensive Glossary and the Academy’s Resource Library “amazing and helpful”.

Like all the advocacy tools and resources contained within the HIV Justice Academy, the HIV Criminalisation Online Course is free to all, and available in English, French, Russian and Spanish.

The course can be done at your own pace, and you will receive a certificate of completion once you have passed the end-of-course test. 

We’re delighted that Lashanda and all the other graduates of the HIV Justice Academy’s HIV Criminalisation Online Course have learned new information and gained new skills as we work together to achieve HIV justice.

Do you know someone who might benefit from the HIV Criminalisation Online Course, or the other resources in the HIV Justice Academy – our Action Toolkits and Resource Library? Why not share this link with them today: academy.hivjustice.net

The unseen consequences of HIV criminalisation and its impact on marginalized communities

How civil commitment can ensnare people prosecuted under HIV criminalization

Robert Suttle

TheBody recently published, “We Keep Ignoring HIV Criminalization,” an article that addressed the lack of attention given to HIV criminalization laws.

These laws criminalize people living with HIV for a range of actions―such as having sex without first disclosing their serostatus―often, even when they are virally suppressed and therefore incapable of transmitting the virus. As is always the case, ignorance of the law is no defense against it.

In some states, HIV criminalization laws punish people living with HIV for biting or spitting even though, once again, these acts cannot transmit the virus. But losing one’s freedom under these laws doesn’t stop at simple prosecution. In some states, people prosecuted under these laws are required to register on state sex-offender registries, even when no sexual assault has taken place.

It should be noted that prosecuting and equating people living with HIV with rapists and other violent sexual assailants does nothing to decrease HIV transmissions. Rather, as “We Keep Ignoring HIV Criminalization” notes, these harsh measures promulgate stigma, possibly discourage people from getting tested, and place targets on the foreheads of anyone living with the virus.

Beyond this, part of what makes HIV criminalization laws so insidious is that they have additional components to them that can destroy a person’s life in ways that few people are aware of—until they’ve been prosecuted and deemed a “sexually dangerous person” by the state. This is called civil commitment and can keep a person imprisoned indefinitely without the basis of a new offense.

To help shed light on this shadowy form of incarceration and what can happen to people who have been prosecuted for HIV criminalization, TheBody spoke with two members of the Center for HIV Law and Policy: staff attorney Kae Greenberg (pronouns he/him), and policy and advocacy manager Amir Sadeghi (pronouns he/him).

Robert Suttle: The Prison Policy Initiative recently published, “What Is Civil Commitment?” Can you speak about how it can be applied to HIV criminalization, especially when sex offense has been included in the prosecution?

Amir Sadeghi: I’m so glad we’re talking about this. People across the country have been wrestling with this because 20 states have these laws in place. Civil commitment is a system of civil laws that detain people convicted of certain sex offenses long after serving their criminal sentences. This kind of state custody and detention happens on top of somebody’s criminal sentence.

Suttle: So basically an added punishment after one has “repaid their debt to society.” Some people might look at this and celebrate. How do you talk about this with people who are opposed to eliminating these laws?

Sadeghi: I think about questions that people usually ask prison abolitionists: What are you going to do about sexual violence? What are you going to do about these really hard cases?

I think the most important thing I want to foreground in discussions about sex offense civil commitment is that I don’t downplay the harm of sexual violence. It’s a deeply personal and real thing that happens in our society.

However, it is unclear that detaining people with very little due process has any measurable or meaningful impact on reducing gender-based violence and sexual violence. And actually, there’s been a huge mobilization of survivor-led movements and organizations who have begun to condemn harsh responses that happen in their name. For instance: sex-offense civil commitment, sex-offense registries, detention, and state violence.

I think that the history of laws that punish people long after their criminal sentence via sex-offense civil commitment [comes from] highly publicized cases about sexual violence [and has] motivated politicians and the public to react very strongly against these cases. It has created a very draconian system of facilities that many advocates and people who’ve been in sex-offense civil commitment themselves call shadow prisons.

Kae Greenberg: I want to clarify something about people serving or being punished long after their crimes. People are incarcerated because they have been convicted or have pleaded guilty to a crime. But they are in civil commitment because they have been deemed a potential [risk] of reoffending in some way or incapable of controlling themselves. It’s essentially some dystopian RoboCop or Judge Dredd situation where they’re trying to predict whether or not you will potentially commit a future serious crime and, therefore, lock you away from society just in case.

When we talk about the minimal protections in the criminal justice system, like the standard of proof or reasonable doubt, we know that’s a very high standard, hypothetically. Something that would stop you or cause you to make an important life decision. Civil commitment is a much lower standard of proof; it’s just beyond 50%. We only know a little about what happens in these hearings because they are not open to the public.

What’s used is the speculation of mental health practitioners, and I’m not trying to disparage the mental health community. I’m a big proponent of mental health practitioners, but we’re talking about having someone confined indefinitely for something they “might do.” There is potentially no end to this. It’s until [the state] decides that you’re done.

Suttle: Let’s address the elephant in the room: Nushawn Williams. Where do things stand with his ongoing detainment related to the civil commitment in New York?

Sadeghi: Many people know that the Center for HIV Law and Policy (CHLP) has filed amicus briefs supporting Nushawn Williams in the past. We are a proud member of the Free Nushawn Coalition, which was founded by Brian C. Jones and Davina Connor, who I think a lot of HIV activists know warmly and lovingly.

The New York State Department of Health cooperated with prosecutors in the case to criminalize Nushawn Williams. Why did they do this? Because his HIV status and race were weaponized against him. Newspapers called Nushawn an AIDS monster, an AIDS predator. Then-Mayor [of New York City] Rudy Giuliani said he wanted Nushawn Williams tried for, quote, “attempted murder or worse.” There was a horrific stigmatizing frenzy to lock him up and throw away the key.

Nushawn pled guilty in 1999 to statutory rape and reckless endangerment and served his maximum criminal sentence relating to that plea agreement. But in 2010, his release from Wende Correctional Facility in upstate New York was blocked by then–Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who filed an Article 10 Mental Hygiene Law petition to have Nushawn civilly committed. I think the frenzy and racist spectacle that was made to paint Nushawn as a monster makes it clear that his HIV status and race are major factors in what the state decided to do.

Editor’s note: An example of this spectacle is that two corrections officers reported that Williams “stated that he intended to continue that behavior [sex without sharing his HIV status] upon his release, specifically referencing underage girls”―an absurd and unlikely contention when one considers that such a statement would expose him to undue scrutiny as well as the very punitive treatment he is currently experiencing. In its explanation for why Williams is still detained, the state lists his prior substance use, sexual offenses, prison record prior to 2006, and his “failure to complete sex offender treatment,” without detailing what completion entails. Taken as a whole, it is clear that the state unfairly views Williams as the person he was when he entered prison 24 years ago.

I would just like to let folks know that Nushawn is still in state custody today, well over a decade beyond his maximum criminal sentence. And there is no end in sight to his civil commitment. Many people, especially people living with HIV, were rightfully dismayed and disturbed by the prosecution and the decision to civilly commit him. That has brought, I think, a lot of energy and activism to addressing the systemic issue of sex-offense civil commitment. For instance, Black men in New York are nearly two times more likely to be civilly committed than white men.

Suttle: When you talk about detainment, this is in a civil commitment facility. How do they look? Are they different from prisons?

Sadeghi: They have iron-clanging doors. They are surrounded by barbed wire. You are heavily surveilled and subjected to constant searches. They look like prisons because they are prisons. And people are not being successfully or meaningfully treated. People are being detained and punished, often as political prisoners.

So, you don’t have a lot of the protections afforded by the safeguards of the criminal legal system because you are not in criminal custody anymore. You are a “patient” being “treated” in a “secured treatment facility.”

Suttle: The idea that this is being done against a person’s will is obviously troubling. But how do you respond to people who diminish treatment for a sexual offense as being “not so bad?”

Greenberg: The idea of sex-offender “treatment” is very complicated. If one meaningfully engages in some treatment and talks about anything that could potentially (A) allude to their being a risk to others or (B) shows they engaged in some other potentially criminal activity, they could find themself facing new charges or extended civil commitment―just because they were trying to engage in this treatment honestly.

Being engaged in this kind of sex-offender rehabilitation and treatment is kind of a sword of Damocles. One needs to engage in it enough socially. But, potentially, if one engages with full force, they might be putting themself at further risk of consequence. I join with Amir in saying I’m not trying to minimize sexual violence or what the victims of sexual violence have gone through. But it also scares me to live in a society where we lock up people for something they haven’t done.

If we want to talk about how this is tied to other systems―they’re trying to roll out all kinds of sentencing algorithms to determine what someone’s bail should be. What’s scary is it’s all about whether there’s a scientific way to decide who will recidivate and essentially plan to punish people for future crimes [they might not commit]. Ruha Benjamin has done a lot of writing about this, showing how racist and awful these algorithms and sentencing are. Civil commitment is tied to other larger systems throughout the criminal legal system.

Suttle: Would you say that’s why marginalized groups or people should be concerned about this?

Sadeghi: Yes. It’s a really important issue at the intersection of criminalizing sex identity, class, race, and beyond. Research by the Williams Institute on sex-offense civil commitment has shown that Black men are two times more likely than their white peers to be civilly committed after they’ve already served their criminal sentences.

If you think about sexual violence and you find yourself overwhelmed with a sense that people are irredeemable and need to be warehoused in a cage indefinitely, I’d like you to reflect on how that same mentality and rhetoric has often been used to justify HIV criminalization. HIV criminalization laws are often defended and justified by arguments that they prevent intimate partner violence and sexual violence.

But, in reality, we know that women living with HIV have higher rates of experiencing sexual violence. And that women living with HIV are overwhelmingly overrepresented in arrests and prosecutions of people targeted because of their health status as people living with HIV. So I think when we recognize the truth about HIV, health, and criminalization, we can start to understand the rationale that has gone into justifying detaining people. And then we can think about how the state has used these instruments to target and punish “undesirable people,” who are often also suffering in the middle of an axis of different kinds of marginalization.

Again, I think it’s important to note that networks of survivors of sexual violence think it’s ridiculous to confront unconsensual acts of violence with unconsensual treatment and state violence. And we have to take that seriously.

Suttle: Going back to Nushawn, is there anything that people can do to support him or get involved in the coalition to end civil commitment in New York?

Sadeghi: There is a burgeoning campaign of sexual survivor–led movements, people living with HIV, and racial justice advocates. If you’re feeling animated and ready to challenge these draconian systems that target and criminalize and incarcerate people, please reach out to us at CHLP. We’d love to work with you to challenge and end sex-offense civil commitment and other harsh policies that target, criminalize, and incarcerate folks who have been historically marginalized.

Suttle: What is your hope for the future of health and human rights for communities most affected by these issues?

Greenberg: To a certain extent, my hope combines two parts of the question. Health is seen as a human role and not limited by access. As awful as things are―following the Dobbs decision―we’ve also been presented with an opportunity to reframe some of these issues. So instead of dealing with individual access, individual rights to privacy, individual concerns, we can reframe them as public health concerns and about a right to health. We’ve been stripped down to the bare bones, but I’m holding on to that right now. In terms of hope, we can build up in a way that will reach and impact people who haven’t previously had access to meaningful health care and health.

Sadeghi: Over the years, I’ve observed that in the face of this kind of injustice and stigma, it is so important to build power from the bottom up and by cross-movement organizing. I think we, as HIV advocates and people working in the HIV anti-criminalization space, really need to deepen our relationships, partnerships, and accountability to sex worker–led groups, advocacy groups, sex work decriminalization groups, racial justice groups, and prison industrial complex (PIC) abolitionists.

To do that, we need to partner with and build power with these very communities and people who are most likely to be criminalized because of their health status. I’m excited about that new direction. I think I feel it in our movement that we are going there. And I’m looking forward to seeing what happens over the next few years.

Robert Suttle:  Robert Suttle is a New York City-based advocacy consultant and movement leader in the global HIV community with expertise in decriminalization, human rights, and the intersection between equity and social justice.

New report from Williams Institute finds that HIV criminalisation in Arkansas disproportionately impacts Black men

Enforcement of HIV Criminalization in Arkansas


The Williams Institute analyzed data from the state of Arkansas about individuals who came into contact with the state’s criminal system through allegations of HIV-related crimes. We analyzed both law enforcement arrest data and data from the state’s Department of Corrections and sex offender registries to understand the beginning and end stages of the criminalization cycle. In total, we estimate that at least 108 people have had contact with Arkansas’ criminal system because of allegations of HIV crimes.


  • There have been at least 119 charges at arrest for allegations of HIV-related crimes since 1990, including four charges for failure to disclose one’s HIV status to a medical professional.
  • Arrests continue to the present day, with the latest arrest in 2022—the latest year for which data were available.
  • Enforcement is highly concentrated by geography:
    • 18% of all arrests originated with Little Rock Police Department, followed by Fort Collins Police Department (10%).
    • Likewise, Pulaski County originated one-third of all HIV-related arrests, followed by Sebastian County with 12% of arrests, and Miller County with 5% of arrests. In contrast, most counties had one or no arrests.
  • The racial composition of people arrested for allegations of HIV-related crimes skews Black: Black people were 48% of all HIV-related arrests, but only 15% of the state’s population, and 43% of people living with HIV in the state:
      • Black men in particular were overrepresented—7% of the state’s population, 31% of people living with HIV, and 44% of HIV-related arrests.
  • Four in five arrests (80%) that proceeded to the prosecution phase resulted in a guilty outcome. Only one case resulted in a not guilty outcome, and the remaining cases had charges dropped or prosecutors declined to pursue the case.
  • The youngest person with an HIV-related conviction was 18 years old.
  • Fourteen people were currently on the sex offender registry for an HIV-related conviction in 2023.
    • Half of these people were Black men, although Black men made up only 22% of the overall sex offender registry.
  • Twenty-one people across two snapshots of people in Arkansas Department of Corrections (DOC) custody (in 2007 and 2023) had HIV-related convictions mandating a sentence:
    • The average sentence per count for the HIV-related conviction was 24 years.
    • Four people only had HIV-related convictions; they had no other current or prior convictions.
    • Black men were 57% of all people with an HIV-related DOC sentence, compared to 38% of all people in DOC custody.

Download the full report

Mexico: Greater collaboration needed between civil society, health authorities and legislators

HIV stigma: A social struggle that needs political reinforcement

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

For sociologist Axel Bautista, the fight against HIV-related stigma encompasses social awareness and a cry for help for legislators.

HIV stigma: A social struggle that needs legislative reinforcement, awareness and mass information in today’s Mexico. This is the opinion of Axel Bautista, one of the activists of this cause, who through an analysis of the origin, development and fight against this form of discrimination, finds a proposal to combat it that brings together the key social actors in the fight.
“Greater collaboration is needed between civil society, health authorities and, above all, communication between the health sector and legislators with an interest in the issue.

HIV stigma

Axel Bautista became the only Mexican and Latin American to represent the fight against HIV-related stigma at the HIV In View forum in London.

He observed a sexual health system with openness, access to vaccines, treatment and sensitivity on the part of doctors, health personnel and civil society, something that for the content creator can be replicated in Mexico with the help of constant and coordinated work between all social actors.

“More and better social communication campaigns are needed because they help to break down prejudices and myths on HIV issues (…) Mexico used to lead Latin America in terms of implementing public policies and treatment, and still does, but I feel that it has lost some leadership on how to do social communication on prevention issues, it has stagnated,” he said.

Fighting stigmas with legislation

For Axel, clear, unbiased and open information triggers an opening of social awareness that stops stigmas. But he stresses that the most important actor in this move is the politician.

“For example, in the CDMX there has been a rapprochement with Congressman Temístocles Villanueva, from Morena, to address issues of decriminalisation of the danger of contagion”.

The initiative seeks a reform in the penal code of the CDMX to repeal a law that is outdated by current medicine and that “serves to stigmatise people living with HIV,” he said. “It is more related to moral and good practices than to a public health approach,” he said.

However, this initiative has not caused an echo in Morena at the CDMX or Federal level. Deputies such as Salma Luévano and María Clemente García have dealt with it, but not in depth in their proposals.

The panorama for fighting HIV stigmas in Mexico is advancing in the medical and social field with content creators who demystify life with HIV. But the political reinforcements that serve as a push on a national scale are still dormant in this urgent social struggle.
“A person diagnosed with HIV is not alone, you can go on and your sentimental, sexual and working life will not stop. It’s okay to feel sad, but it’s not the end,” stresses Axel Bautiza.

Estigmas por VIH: Una lucha social que necesita refuerzos políticos

Para el sociólogo, Axel Bautista, la lucha contra los estigmas relacionados al VIH engloba la conciencia social y un grito de ayuda para legisladores

Estigmas por VIH: Una lucha social que necesita refuerzos legislativos, de conciencia e información masiva en el México actual. Así lo considera Axel Bautista, uno de los activistas de esta causa, quien a través de un análisis sobre el origen, desarrollo y combate a esta forma de discriminación; encuentra una propuesta de combate que reúne a los actores sociales clave en la lucha.
“Se necesita mayor colaboración entre sociedad civil, autoridades sanitarias y, principalmente, comunicación entre sector salud y legisladores con interés en el tema“.

Estigmas por VIH

Axel Bautista se convirtió en el único mexicano y latinoamericano en representar la lucha contra los estigmas relacionados al VIH en el foro HIV In View realizado en Londrés.

Observó un sistema de salud sexual con apertura, acceso a vacunas, tratamientos y sensibilidad por parte de médicos, personal de salud y sociedad civil, algo que para el creador de contenido es replicable en México con ayuda de trabajo constante y coordinado entre todos los actores sociales.

“Hacen falta más y mejores campañas de comunicación social porque ayudan a romper prejuicios y mitos en temas de VIH (…) México lideraba América latina en temas de implementación de políticas públicas, tratamiento; y todavía lo hace pero, siento que ha perdido cierto liderazgo sobre cómo hacer comunicación social en temas de prevención, se quedó estancado“, opinó.

Combatir estigmas con legislaciones

Para Axel, la información clara, sin prejuicios y abierta desencadena una apertura de conciencia social que frena estigmas. Pero destaca que el actor más importante en esta jugada es el político.

“Por ejemplo, en la CDMX ha habido un acercamiento con el diputado Temístocles Villanueva, de Morena, para abordar temas de despenalización del peligro de contagio.”

La iniciativa busca una reforma en el código penal de la CDMX para derogar una ley rebasada por la medicina actual y que “sirve para estigmatizar a las personas que vivimos con VIH“, comentó “Se relaciona más con practicas de buenas costumbres y moral que con enfoque de salud pública“, puntualizó.

Sin embargo, dicha iniciativa no ha causado eco entre Morena a nivel CDMX o a nivel Federal. Pues diputadas como Salma Luévano o María Clemente García han tratado pero no a profundidad en sus propuestas.

El panorama para combatir los estigmas de VIH en México avanza en terreno médico y social con creadores de contenidos que desmitifican la vida con VIH. Pero los refuerzos políticos que sirven de empuje a escala nacional aún siguen dormidos en esta urgente lucha social.
“Una persona con diagnóstico de VIH no esta sola, puede continuar y tu vida sentimental, sexual, laboral, no se va a detener. Se vale sentirse tristes, pero no es el fin“, destaca Axel Bautiza.

Austria: Care organisations refuse to provide home care for 81-year-old man living with HIV

Just like in the 80s: No 24-hour care for HIV-positive people.

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

A large care organisation terminated without notice a contract concluded shortly before, because of HIV infection. All others also refused because of HIV.

In this guest blog, lawyer Helmut Graupner describes how an HIV infection can still lead to discrimination in Austria, despite the fact that educational work has been going on for decades and effective HIV therapy is available that prevents the disease, leads to a normal life expectancy and even means that HIV-infected people cannot infect anyone.

In the spring of 2023, an 81-year-old gentleman, let’s call him RS, found that outpatient home care was no longer sufficient and 24-hour nursing care was becoming necessary. RS has been HIV positive for many years. Due to successful treatment, the infection has never caused him to become ill. The Red Cross had provided the previous outpatient home care in an exemplary manner, with commitment and without any reservations regarding the HIV infection.

In mid-April, a contract was concluded with one of the large Austrian nursing organisations for the placement of nursing staff. For this purpose, the regional manager of this organisation was on site at the flat. He had an insight into the care book and the care records that had previously been kept by the Red Cross. In the documentation folder of the Red Cross, the HIV infection was noted on the very first page. The regional officer also spoke for a long time on the phone with the head of the previous care provided by the Red Cross and discussed how to proceed. The HIV infection could also be seen in the findings and diagnoses that were consulted.

The nursing organisation found a nurse who immediately started her first rotation. A week later, the area manager visited the home. One of the things discussed was that RS has to be taken to hospital every three months for HIV status check. This lady also did not express any concerns about HIV infection.

Carers not asked at all

The surprise was all the greater when, four days after this meeting, a (different) representative of the care organisation called to say that the written termination of the contract was already in the mail. She explicitly mentioned the HIV infection as the reason. Pointing out that his status was below the detection limit, i.e. RS was not contagious at all, was of no use. This did not change the fact that no nursing staff would be willing to take over the care. The matter had been discussed internally and the nursing staff could not be told. They would not understand because they all came from Romania and Slovakia and all had this negative attitude. There was no mention of caregivers themselves refusing care.

So the care organisation did not even try to discuss the matter with a single one of the caregivers (who were allegedly so prejudiced) and win them over to care for RS. Even the nurse who was already placed and working at the time only knew that she would not be replaced by the originally intended colleague. She did not know any reason and assumed that she would return in four weeks. In any case, she (coming from Romania) had no problem with the HIV status.

One day after the phone call, the letter from the care organisation arrived. The placement contract was terminated without notice (without observing the period of notice!) at the end of the current caregiver’s rotation. The reason given was succinct: “The care cannot be transferred to the care workers for professional reasons. It is not possible to find new caregivers.

Austrian organisations all refused

Upon lawyer intervention, the care organisation insisted in a written statement on the termination without notice. Even the fact that the Romanian carer who had already been placed was willing to continue the care did not change anything. The care organisation could only guarantee quality assurance if it could cover each rotation with a carer who had a contractual relationship with it. If the Romanian carer who had already been placed wanted to stay and continue caring for RS, the organisation could “gladly accept that”. However, she would then have to leave the contractual relationship with the care organisation (“We do not keep the carer”).

Although the Aidshilfe Wien and the legal committee Lambda stood up for RS, the care organisation remained firm. That was not enough. RS and his relatives then tried to get 24-hour care from the other Austrian care organisations available in the region. All of them explained that this was not possible because the care workers came from countries where people had just such attitudes.

Slovakian agency had no problem

RS considered a complaint of discrimination, but died a few weeks later, now 82 years old. He died knowing that he was discriminated against because of his HIV infection and that nobody could do anything about it. And the discriminators got away with it just fine.

At least he was cared for at home in his last weeks, despite the closed refusal in Austria. An agency from Slovakia had no problem with the HIV status, just like the caregivers they placed. A disgrace for Austria in 2023

Wie in den 80ern: Keine 24-Stunden-Pflege für HIV-Positive

Eine große Pflegeorganisation kündigt den kurz zuvor geschlossenen Vertrag fristlos wegen einer HIV-Infektion. Auch alle anderen lehnen wegen HIV ab

Im Gastblog schildert Rechtsanwalt Helmut Graupner, wie eine HIV-Infektion in Österreich noch immer zu Diskriminierung führen kann, obwohl seit Jahrzehnten Aufklärungsarbeit betrieben wird und eine wirksame HIV-Therapie vorhanden ist, die die Erkrankung verhindert, zu einer üblichen Lebenserwartung führt und sogar bewirkt, dass HIV-Infizierte niemanden anstecken können.

Im Frühjahr 2023 ergibt sich bei einem 81-jährigen Herrn, nennen wir ihn RS, dass die ambulante Hauskrankenpflege nicht mehr ausreicht und eine 24-Stunden-Pflege notwendig wird. RS ist seit vielen Jahren HIV-positiv. Durch die erfolgreiche Behandlung hat die Infektion bei ihm nie eine Erkrankung hervorgerufen. Das Rote Kreuz hatte die bisherige ambulante Hauskrankenpflege vorbildlich, engagiert und ohne jegliche Vorbehalte hinsichtlich der HIV-Infektion erbracht.

Mitte April wurde mit einer der großen österreichischen Pflegeorganisationen ein Vertrag über die Vermittlung von Pflegekräften abgeschlossen. Dazu war der Regionsverantwortliche dieser Organisation vor Ort in der Wohnung. Er hatte Einblick in das Betreuungsbuch und in die Pflegeunterlagen, die bisher vom Roten Kreuz geführt wurden. In der Dokumentationsmappe des Roten Kreuzes war gleich auf der ersten Seite die HIV-Infektion vermerkt. Der Regionsverantwortliche hat überdies lange Zeit mit der Einsatzleiterin der bisherigen Pflege durch das Rote Kreuz telefoniert und dabei die weitere Vorgangsweise abgesprochen. Auch den eingesehenen Befunden und Diagnosen war die HIV-Infektion zu entnehmen.

Die Pflegeorganisation vermittelte eine Pflegerin, die ihren ersten Turnus sogleich angetreten hat. Eine Woche später suchte die Bereichsleiterin die Wohnung auf. Dabei wurde unter anderem besprochen, dass RS alle drei Monate zur Überprüfung des HIV-Status in ein Krankenhaus gebracht werden muss. Auch diese Dame äußerte keine Bedenken bezüglich der HIV-Infektion.

Pflegepersonen gar nicht gefragt

Umso größer war die Verwunderung als vier Tage nach dieser Besprechung eine (andere) Vertreterin der Pflegeorganisation anrief und mitteilte, dass die schriftliche Auflösung des Vertrages bereits mit der Post unterwegs sei. Als Begründung hat sie ausdrücklich die HIV-Infektion genannt. Der Hinweis darauf, dass sein Status unter der Nachweisgrenze liegt, RS also gar nicht ansteckend ist, nutzte nichts. Das ändere nichts daran, dass kein Pflegepersonal bereit wäre, die Pflege zu übernehmen. Die Sache sei intern beraten worden, und man könne das den Pflegekräften gar nicht sagen. Diese würden das nicht verstehen, denn sie kämen alle aus Rumänien und der Slowakei und hätten halt alle diese negative Einstellung. Es war nicht die Rede davon, dass Betreuerinnen oder Betreuer selbst die Pflege abgelehnt hätten.

Die Pflegeorganisation hat also mit keiner einzigen der (angeblich derart vorurteilsbehafteten) Pflegepersonen auch nur versucht, die Sache zu besprechen und sie für eine Pflege von RS zu gewinnen. Auch die damals bereits vermittelte und tätige Pflegerin wusste nur, dass sie nicht von der ursprünglich vorgesehenen Kollegin abgelöst wird. Grund wusste sie keinen und ging davon aus, dass sie in vier Wochen wiederkommt. Sie (aus Rumänien kommend) hatte jedenfalls kein Problem mit dem HIV-Status.

Einen Tag nach dem Telefonat langte das Schreiben der Pflegeorganisation ein. Der Vermittlungsvertrag wurde mit Ende des laufenden Turnus der aktuellen Pflegerin fristlos (ohne Einhaltung der Kündigungsfrist!) aufgelöst. Zur Begründung hieß es lapidar: “Die Betreuung kann aus fachlichen Gründen den Betreuungskräften nicht übertragen werden. Eine Vermittlung von neuen Personenbetreuer*innen ist nicht möglich.”

Österreichische Organisationen lehnten alle ab

Auf anwaltliche Intervention beharrte die Pflegeorganisation in einer schriftlichen Stellungnahme auf der fristlosen Auflösung. Auch der Umstand, dass die bereits vermittelte rumänische Pflegerin zur Fortführung der Pflege bereit war, änderte daran nichts. Die Pflegeorganisation könne die Qualitätssicherung nur gewährleisten, wenn sie jeden Turnus mit einer Pflegekraft abdecken könne, die mit ihr in einem Vertragsverhältnis steht. Wenn die bereits vermittelte rumänische Pflegerin bleiben und die Pflege von RS fortsetzen wolle, könne die Organisation “das gerne akzeptieren”. Sie müsse dann aber aus dem Vertragsverhältnis mit der Pflegeorganisation ausscheiden (“Wir halten die Betreuerin nicht fest”).

Obwohl sich die Aidshilfe Wien und das Rechtskomitee Lambda für RS einsetzten, blieb die Pflegeorganisation hart. Damit nicht genug. RS und seine Angehörigen versuchten dann bei den anderen in der Region verfügbaren österreichischen Pflegeorganisationen eine 24-Stunden-Pflege zu erhalten. Alle erklärten, dass dies nicht möglich sei, weil die Pflegekräfte aus Ländern kämen, in denen die Menschen eben solche Einstellungen hätten.

Slowakische Agentur hatte kein Problem

RS überlegte eine Klage wegen Diskriminierung, ist aber einige Wochen danach, mit mittlerweile 82 Jahren, verstorben. Er starb im Wissen, dass er wegen seiner HIV-Infektion diskriminiert wurde und niemand etwas dagegen tun konnte. Und die Diskriminierenden damit gut durchgekommen sind.

Zumindest wurde er in seinen letzten Wochen dann, trotz der geschlossenen Weigerung in Österreich, doch noch zu Hause gepflegt. Eine Agentur aus der Slowakei hatte, ebenso wie die von ihr vermittelten Pflegekräfte, kein Problem mit dem HIV-Status. Eine Schande für Österreich im Jahr 2023.

IAS 2023: Five-year impact of Expert Consensus Statement – poster published today

Today, 24th July, at the 12th IAS Conference on HIV Science on Brisbane, we presented our research findings on the five-year impact of the ‘Expert Consensus Statement on the Science of HIV in the Context of Criminal Law’.

Click on the image above to download the pdf of the poster

Tomorrow, 25th July, we will publish the full research report and discuss the findings on our live webshow, HIV Justice Live!

Hosted by HJN’s Executive Director, Edwin J Bernard, the show will include a discussion with the report’s lead author, HJN’s Senior Policy Analyst Alison Symington, as well as interviews with Malawian judge Zione Ntaba, Taiwan activist Fletcher Chui, and SALC lawyer Tambudzai Gonese-Manjonjo on the Statement’s impact.

We’ll also hear from some of the Expert Consensus Statement’s authors, including Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, Salim S Abdool Karim, Linda-Gail Bekker, Chris Beyrer, Adeeba Kamarulzaman, Benjamin Young, and Peter Godfrey-Faussett.

Ugandan lawyer and HJN Supervisory Board member Immaculate Owomugisha will also be joining us live from the IAS 2023 conference where she is serving as a rapporteur, to discuss the Statement’s relevance today.

HIV Justice Live! Episode 5: Bringing Science to Justice will be live on Facebook and YouTube on Tuesday 25th July at 3pm CEST (click here for your local time).

Coming soon:
HIV Justice Live! Episode 5: Bringing Science to Justice

Five years ago, twenty of the world’s leading HIV scientists published the ‘Expert Consensus Statement on the Science of HIV in the Context of Criminal Law’ to address the misuse of HIV science in punitive laws and prosecutions against people living with HIV for acts related to sexual activity, biting, or spitting.

More than 70 scientists from 46 countries endorsed the Expert Consensus Statement prior to its publication in the Journal of the International AIDS Society (JIAS). The Statement was launched on 25th July 2018 at AIDS 2018, with the press conference generating global media coverage.

Building upon our initial 2020 scoping report, we recently undertook further extensive research to examine the impact of the Expert Consensus Statement in the five years since its publication.

On 25th July 2023 – exactly five years to the day of the original launch – we will not only be presenting our findings at the 12th IAS Conference on HIV Science (IAS 2023), we will also be launching the five-year impact report during our live webshow, HIV Justice Live!

Hosted by HJN’s Executive Director, Edwin J Bernard, the show will include a discussion with the report’s lead author, HJN’s Senior Policy Analyst Alison Symington, as well as interviews with Malawian judge Zione Ntaba, Taiwan activist Fletcher Chui, and SALC lawyer Tambudzai Gonese-Manjonjo on the Statement’s impact.

We’ll also hear from some of the Expert Consensus Statement’s authors, including Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, Salim S Abdool Karim, Linda-Gail Bekker, Chris Beyrer, Adeeba Kamarulzaman, Benjamin Young, and Peter Godfrey-Faussett.

Ugandan lawyer and HJN Supervisory Board member Immaculate Owomugisha will also be joining us live from the IAS 2023 conference in Brisbane, Australia where she is serving as a rapporteur, to discuss the Statement’s legacy and relevance today.

There will be opportunities to let us know the impact the Expert Consensus Statement has had in your advocacy and to ask questions live, so please save the date and time.

HIV Justice Live! Episode 5: Bringing Science to Justice will be live on our Facebook and YouTube pages on Tuesday 25th July at 3pm CEST (click here for your local time).


New HIV Justice Academy content: Lessons from the Central African Republic’s HIV law reform success

In the mid-2000s, many countries across Africa adopted HIV laws. Many of these laws contained important protections covering discrimination, privacy, and access to medications. Unfortunately, they also included overly broad and ill-informed HIV criminalisation provisions.

The Central Africa Republic (CAR) adopted an HIV law in 2006 which not only criminalised HIV non-disclosure, exposure or transmission, it also required people living with HIV to undergo treatment as prescribed by a doctor and engage in protected sex and an obligation to disclose their HIV-positive status to sexual partners.

Given the significant problems with these aspects of the law, multiple law reform attempts were made but none were successful until a new law – Law 22-016 on HIV and AIDS in the Central African Republic – was finally enacted on 18 November 2022.

How did it happen? What changed? Why was the law finally reformed?

Christian Tshimbalanga is a lawyer from the Democratic Republic of Congo with many years’ experience working on human rights and HIV in Africa. Through his work with UNAIDS, Christian provided critical support to the law reform process following it through until Parliament voted on the law. Cécile Kazatchkine (Senior Policy Analyst at the HIV Legal Network) asked Christian to share lessons learned to help others working to reform problematic HIV laws.

Their 25 minute, French-language audio conversation is now available as an additional case study in Chapter 5 of the HIV Justice Academy’s free HIV Criminalisation Online Course: How to advocate against HIV criminalisation. A translated transcript of the conversation is also available in the English, Spanish and Russian version of the course.

Christian’s role was to accompany the process until the law was voted on in Parliament. Several elements of Christian’s account stood out for us:

  • In his role as an UNAIDS representative and technical partner, Christian was able to devote significant time to the law reform process, monitoring what was happening and pushing the bill through each stage of the process. Having a dedicated person on the ground to accompany the legislative process on a day-to-day basis was critical to the success.
  • Civil society was a key partner. The Central African Network of People Living with HIV (RECAPEV) and the Central African Network on Ethics and Rights (RCED) pushed hard for the law to be revised. UNAIDS provided them with a small amount of financial support which enabled them to increase their capacity to sustain this advocacy.
  • Local partners and international organisations were also partners in the law reform efforts, including the National AIDS Council (CNLS), the Ministry of Health and the Minister of Justice, as well as UNDP, UNAIDS, and the French Red Cross (the principal recipient of Global Fund funding in CAR).
  • A memorandum outlining the new bill was drafted by various stakeholders including civil society. It informed parliamentarians about the relevant public health and human rights issues and the scientific evidence related to HIV.
  • Following the example of a previous forum in Madagascar on a draft law on sexual and reproductive health, a forum was organised for (primarily male) parliamentarians and their (female) spouses. Because issues of this intimate nature are often discussed in the home, involving spouses was strategic. Several people living with HIV opened the forum by talking about their lived realities and the persistence of HIV-related stigma and discrimination in CAR.

While worthy of celebration, the new legislation is not a complete victory. It does not fully decriminalise HIV but it does provide a much narrower definition of the prohibited conduct. Under the 2006 law, a person living with HIV could be prosecuted simply for HIV ‘exposure’ without neither intent nor transmission. The 2022 Act criminalises “intentional transmission of the virus,” defined as, inter alia, the fact that a person who knows his or her status intentionally transmits the virus through unprotected sexual relations without disclosing his or her seropositivity. A list of circumstances where the criminal law should not be applied is also included (e.g., in the case of transmission of the virus from a mother to her child).

For more information on the 2022 Act, see the HIV Justice Network’s Global HIV Criminalisation Database.

To enrol in the HIV Criminalisation Online Course, visit the HIV Justice Academy and sign up.  It’s free!





Transgender Day of Visibility 2023

Honouring the courage of transgender people globally, especially transgender people living with HIV

Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility, held annually on 31st March to celebrate transgender people globally and honour their courage and visibility to live openly and authentically.

This year’s 14th annual celebration is a day to also raise awareness around the stigma, discrimination and criminalisation that transgender people face.

According to the Human Dignity Trust, 14 countries currently criminalise the gender identity and/or expression of transgender people, using so-called ‘cross-dressing’, ‘impersonation’ and ‘disguise’ laws. In many more countries transgender people are targeted by a range of laws that criminalise same-sex activity and vagrancy, hooliganism and public order offences.

Transgender people living with HIV can be further criminalised based on their HIV-positive status, although we know that there are still too many invisibilities around the impact of HIV criminalisation on transgender people.

Cecilia Chung, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives and Evaluation of the Transgender Law Center, who is also a member of our Global Advisory Panel told our 2020 Beyond Blame webinar that there are not enough data on the impact of HIV criminalisation laws on transgender people. She said such data are not “uniformly collected across the world… The numbers still remain invisible even though we know for sure there are [HIV criminalisation] cases.”

HJN honours the courage of transgender people – especially transgender people living with HIV – to live openly and authentically. We also call for more visibility for transgender people in data collection, as well as reforms of all criminal laws and their enforcement that disproportionately target transgender people.

New principles lay out human rights-based approach to criminal law

New legal principles launched on International Women’s Day to advance decriminalization efforts

The International Committee of Jurists (ICJ) along with UNAIDS and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) officially launched a new set of expert jurist legal principles to guide the application of international human rights law to criminal law.

The ‘8 March principles’ as they are called lay out a human rights-based approach to laws criminalising conduct in relation to sex, drug use, HIV, sexual and reproductive health, homelessness and poverty.

Ian Seiderman, Law and Policy Director at ICJ said, “Criminal law is among the harshest of tools at the disposal of the State to exert control over individuals…as such, it ought to be a measure of last resort however, globally, there has been a growing trend towards overcriminalization.”

“We must acknowledge that these laws not only violate human rights, but the fundamental principles of criminal law themselves,” he said.

For Edwin Cameron, former South Africa Justice of the Constitutional Court and current Inspecting Judge for the South African Correctional Services, the principles are of immediate pertinence and use for judges, legislators, policymakers, civil society and academics. “The 8 March principles provide a clear, accessible and practical legal framework based on international criminal law and international human rights law,” he said.

The principles are the outcome of a 2018 workshop organized by UNAIDS and OHCHR along with the ICJ to discuss the role of jurists in addressing the harmful human rights impact of criminal laws. The meeting resulted in a call for a set of jurists’ principles to assist the courts, legislatures, advocates and prosecutors to address the detrimental human rights impact of such laws.

The principles, developed over five years, are based on feedback and reviews from a range of experts and stakeholders. They were finalized in 2022. Initially, the principles focused on the impact of criminal laws proscribing sexual and reproductive health and rights, consensual sexual activity, gender identity, gender expression, HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission, drug use and the possession of drugs for personal use. Later, based on the inputs of civil society and other stakeholders, criminalization linked to homelessness and poverty were also included.

Continued overuse of criminal law by governments and in some cases arbitrary and discriminatory criminal laws have led to a number of human rights violations. They also perpetuate stigma, harmful gender stereotypes and discrimination based on such grounds as gender or sexual orientation.

In 2023, twenty countries criminalize or otherwise prosecute transgender people, 67 countries still criminalize same-sex sexual activity, 115 report criminalizing drug use, more than 130 criminalize HIV exposure, non-disclosure and transmission and over 150 countries criminalize some aspect of sex work.

In the world of HIV, the abuse and misuse of criminal laws not only affects the right to health, but a multitude of rights including: to be free from discrimination, to housing, security of the person, movement, family, privacy and bodily autonomy, and in extreme cases the very right to life. In countries where sex work is criminalized, for example, sex workers are seven times more likely to be living with HIV than where it is partially legalized. To be criminalized can also mean being deprived of the protection of the law and law enforcement. And yet, criminalized communities, particularly women, are often more likely to need the very protection they are denied.

UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director for the Policy, Advocacy and Knowledge Branch, Christine Stegling said, “I welcome the fact that these principles are being launched on International Women’s Day (IWD), in recognition of the detrimental effects criminal law can, and too often does have on women in all their diversity.”

“We will not end AIDS as a public health threat as long as these pernicious laws remain,” she added. “These principles will be of great use to us and our partners in our endeavors.”

Also remarking on the significance of IWD, Volker Türk, High Commissioner for Human Rights, said, “Today is an opportunity for all of us to think about power and male dominated systems.”

His remarks ended with, “I am glad that you have done this work, we need to use it and we need to use it also in a much more political context when it comes precisely to counter these power dynamics.”

“Frankly we need to ask these questions and make sure that they are part and parcel going forward as to what human rights means,” he said.

In conclusion, Phelister Abdalla, President of the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, based in Kenya noted: “When sex work is criminalized it sends the message that sex workers can be abused…We are human beings and sex workers are entitled to all human rights.”