HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE releases ‘HIV IS NOT A CRIME’ training academy video documentary

Today, HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE releases a 30-minute video to support advocates on how to effectively strategise on ending HIV criminalisation, filmed at the second-ever ‘HIV IS NOT A CRIME’ meeting, co-organised by Positive Women’s Network – USA and the Sero Project and held earlier this year at the University of Alabama, Huntsville.

This advocacy video distils the content of the three-day training academy into four overarching themes: survivors, victories, intersectionality and community.

Filmed, edited and directed by HIV Justice Network’s video advocacy consultant, Nicholas Feustel, of georgetown media, it features interviews conducted by Mark S King of MyFabulousDisease.com.

“The idea,” says HIV Justice Network’s Global Co-ordinator Edwin J Bernard, who wrote, narrated and produced the video, “is that it can be used as a starting point for discussions at HIV criminalisation strategy meetings around the world, to help advocates move forward with their own state or country plans to achieve HIV justice.”

The video was produced by the HIV Justice Network on behalf of HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE, and supported by a grant from the Robert Carr civil society Networks Fund provided to the HIV Justice Global Consortium.

You can share, embed or download the full-length video at: https://youtu.be/B433fMElc_c The video is also being hosted at http://www.hivisnotacrime.com.

HIV IS NOT A CRIME Training Academy (HINAC2)
Huntsville, Alabama

(33 min, HJN, USA, 2016)

HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE presents a video documentary on the second-ever ‘HIV IS NOT A CRIME’ training academy held in Huntsville, Alabama.

To support advocates on how to effectively strategise on ending HIV criminalisation, this 30-minute video distils the content of this unique, three-day training academy into four overarching themes: survivors, victories, intersectionality and community.

We hope this video can be used as a starting point to help advocates move forward in their own state or country plans to achieve HIV justice.

For more information about the training academy visit: http://www.hivisnotacrime.com/

Uganda: ABC Radio interviews HIV criminalisation survivor, Rosemary Namubiru, and UGANET’s Dora Kiconco Musinguzi

Listen to Natasha Mitchell compelling interview with HIV criminalisation survivor, Rosemary Namubiru, and UGANET’s Dora Kiconco Musinguzi on the challenge to the problematic HIV criminalisation statutes within Uganda’s HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Act.

This seven minute audio report from AIDS 2016 in Durban is excerpted from ABC Radio’s longer podcast, The brutal politics of a virus that won’t go away, by reporter Natasha Mitchell for Background Briefing. 

Listen to and/or download the full podcast and read the transcript on ABC Radio’s website.

The transcript of Natasha’s HIV criminalisation-related report is below.

Natasha Mitchell: In Uganda, around 7% of people are infected, and while the country is recognised for taking decisive action against HIV, the government’s harsh attitude and laws is dramatically undermining that progress.

Rosemary Namubiru is a 66-year-old nurse, mother and grandmother. She found out she had the virus just three years ago, and she thinks she got it from a patient.

Rosemary hadn’t yet disclosed her status at work, but when she was wrongly accused of intentionally infecting a patient, before she knew it the full force of the law was thrown at her.

Rosemary Namubiru: I saw the police coming, and they were holding me, ‘You are under arrest for murder.’ Then they called the media, so when I was in that room they called and told me, ‘Come out.’ I came out and I found a crowd of cameramen, media people.

Natasha Mitchell: Outside the police station?

Rosemary Namubiru: Yes.

Natasha Mitchell: Rosemary was charged with attempted murder after she accidentally pricked herself with a needle while treating a child. The mother watching on was worried and reported Rosemary. While the child wasn’t infected, thankfully, all hell broke loose when Rosemary’s HIV positive status was confirmed and made public. Rosemary was arrested and paraded in front of the media, who labelled her a ‘killer’ and a ‘murderer’.

Rosemary Namubiru: They were trying to manhandle me. They were taking photographs of me. They were calling me all sorts of names, ‘Murderer, killer. Look at this woman, a killer, a murderer.’ And it went all over the country in the national newspapers, in the English newspapers. ‘That murderer, the murderer. If we see her we shall beat her, we shall kill her.’ It was the talk of town. Even my village. Initially, they labelled it as ‘murder’. Then it was reduced, ‘attempted murder’, and then it was eventually changed into ‘negligence’.

Natasha Mitchell: Rosemary was publicly shamed, and sentenced to three years in prison for negligence.

Lawyer Dora Kiconco Musinguzi is the executive director of Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS or UGANET.

Dora Kiconco Musinguzi: Rosemary’s story sent so many chills across the country amongst people living with HIV. She was the headline of the news. ‘Killer nurse’. ‘Monster nurse’. She was treated so cruelly at the police, she was beaten, her hair was pulled, right, left, and centre, and that caused a lot of fear among people living with HIV. So we see discrimination written on walls, written in political statements, discrimination is still real, so that is where we are. That’s Uganda’s story currently.

Natasha Mitchell: Rosemary Namubiru was released at the end of 2014 after her case received international attention.

In the same year, Uganda introduced the HIV Prevention and Control Act. At face value it’s about controlling HIV, promoting testing and treatment, and preventing discrimination. Uganda’s not alone here, HIV specific criminal laws are on the increase worldwide, and also exist in America and Europe.

But Dora Kiconco Musinguzi and colleagues are leading a legal challenge in the Ugandan Constitutional Court against key parts of the law, including certain provisions that demand disclosure of your HIV status, and criminalise those who transmit the virus intentionally.

Dora Kiconco Musinguzi: The question is at what point do you establish intention. In a circumstance where we have so many people that have not yet tested, how do you know that a person infected another? So anybody could blame the other for infecting them, and what should be a human condition, a disease, then becomes a criminal object and lives break, and families break, and you know how the media picks on this, and totally takes it out of context. We believe it’s going to be really dangerous.

Natasha Mitchell: At least half of the Ugandan population still don’t know their HIV status. And Dora Kinconco Musinguzi believes the HIV Prevention and Control Act will exacerbate their reluctance to get tested and treated and so cause the virus to spread.

Dora Kiconco Musinguzi: So if people fear, relate HIV testing with obligation, with imprisonment, with undue power of the law, we believe this is going to create a bigger barrier to testing, and that fails the objective of prevention and control because then we shall have more people left out of the treatment area.

Natasha Mitchell: And because pregnant women have to be tested for HIV, they’re at greater risk under this law.

Dora Kiconco Musinguzi: They are going to be found to be HIV positive fast, and if they don’t disclose then they are in the ambit of attempting to transmit, so that makes the women criminals. So there’s lots of unanswered questions. And yet on the other side science has given us hope that people who test and take their medicines very well, they become less infectious, so they don’t transmit HIV. The law neglects this science. The law does not consider what public health specialists are saying, but the Ugandan government has not put this into consideration.

Natasha Mitchell: The experience of Rosemary Namubiru is a cautionary lesson about why laws that criminalise HIV positive people can be so bad for public health.

Dora Kiconco Musinguzi: You shouldn’t be criminalised. These cases could be handled in another way. We are really asking the Constitutional Court to find out whether this is the law that will present and control HIV, and still afford dignity and non-discrimination for living with HIV.

Natasha Mitchell: Based on your experience, Rosemary, what do you feel about the criminalisation law in Uganda against people with HIV?

Rosemary Namubiru: It hurts. Ignorance kills, but it hurts when people just carry on, and people keep on saying, ‘Oh, that one, that one.’ Me, I didn’t get it sexually. It was during the course of saving lives of human beings, so it is not something to laugh about. I wouldn’t wish anybody to go through what I went through.

Natasha Mitchell: Rosemary Namubiru. She’s now retired from nursing.

AIDS 2016: #BeyondBlame trended on Twitter during our HIV criminalisation pre-conference

Popular tweets for #BeyondBlame.
Sall Tamsir @SallTamsir1

RT @EbaPatrick: HIV criminalization preconference #beyondblame opens @aids2016 with full room #HIVrights @Lzloures @HIVJusticeNet https://t…

James Fry @thatfryboy

RT @HIVJusticeNet: There is some good news. Some #HIVcriminalisation laws are being opposed and defeated #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016 https://t.c…

Abe O C Ogolo @ovolovely

RT @HIVJusticeNet: “Criminalisation leads only to violations of human rights” — Dr Herminie #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016 https://t.co/gyuue8thvD

Alexander Pastoors @alexhvn

RT @HIVJusticeNet: “It’s a bit sad that after all these years we still have to have these meetings.” Johanna Kehler #BeyondBlame https://t.…

Paul Silva @PauloNYC

Women are disproportionately penalized under laws that criminalize HIV transmission or non-disclosure #ChallengeCrim #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016

HIV Justice Network @HIVJusticeNet

“I am making a direct call. @potus, have the courage to sign an executive order to end #HIVcriminalisation.” Pinkela #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016

Naomi Burke-Shyne @NaomiSBS

RT @HIVJusticeNet: Where HIV prosecutions have taken place: @edwinjbernard #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016 https://t.co/Jv0wg8n2qc

Paul Kidd @paulkidd

RT @HIVJusticeNet: A standing ovation for #HIVcriminalisation survivor Kerry Thomas, speaking from prison. #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016 https://t…

Benjamin Riley @bencriley

“No evidence was produced, no medical, no physical, nothing but an allegation.” Kenneth Pinkela on his prosecution #AIDS2016 #BeyondBlame

Sall Tamsir @SallTamsir1

RT @_ARASAcomms: “Durban is indeed where we broke the conspiracy of silence. It is…here that we must end the tragedy of HIV criminalisati…

ARASA @_ARASAcomms

“In technical terms, I’ve been erased” after incredible 26-yr career and 272 days in military prison based on allegation only #BeyondBlame

Nic Holas @nicheholas

@BarbCardell– laws were being used as a blunt force instrument to get women, youth and homeless to admit to lesser laws #BeyondBlame

Ben Young @benyoungmd

Horrifying cases of #HIV criminalization. HT and thx. Rosemary Namiburu: Uganda, Kenneth Pinkela, Kerry Thomas: USA #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016

ARASA @_ARASAcomms

3rd inspiring speaker, Lt. Col. Kenneth Pinkela, dismissed 4 weeks ago from US army as result of appellate process #BeyondBlame

ET_AIDS_FDN @ET_AIDS_FDN

“How can we reach 90-90-90 when we are unjustly criminalizing HIV?” @HIVJusticeNet @TheSeroProject #BeyondBlame at #AIDS2016

Nic Holas @nicheholas

.@BarbCardell shares incredible examples of intersectionality within fight to repeal HIV crim in Colorado. #BeyondBlame

Nic Holas @nicheholas

@BarbCardell– Not only are HIV criminalisation laws offensive, they are bad science. #BeyondBlame

ARASA @_ARASAcomms

Breakout session happening now at #BeyondBlame: HIV criminalisation and the intersection with other criminalised and marginalised groups

HIV Justice Network @HIVJusticeNet

“HIV treatment works! We just have to get the law to follow. Ben Young of @IAPAC #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016 https://t.co/FwrzUtovI0

nainadevi @nainadevi

“you have died of peer review” someone help this guy @trevorhoppe #AIDS2016 #BeyondBlame #Sociology https://t.co/Tc1i9NohmF

KELIN @KELINKenya

RT @Wanameme: @EbaPatrick of @UNAIDS says criminalisation undermines efforts to end HIV #BeyondBlame @KELINKenya @HIVJusticeNet

ARASA @_ARASAcomms

RT @Wanameme: Kerry Thomas says HIV is #BeyondBlame. He joined the preconference via phone from prison in Idaho, USA. @KELINKenya https://t…

Follow For Polls @follow_polls

#ChallengeCrim #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016 Should failure 2 disclose HIV status 2 partner lead 2 jail time? (Vote,Rt)

Benjamin Riley @bencriley

“Emotional support is just as important… how do you deal with stigma from other inmates on a day-to-day basis?” Kerry Thomas #BeyondBlame

Barb Cardell @BarbCardell

Question from audience at #beyondblame “Why do we allow these HIV Criminal cases to continue, it is not fair” @aids2016 what do we do?

Paul Kidd @paulkidd

RT @HIVJusticeNet: “The movement is growing, it is still led by people with HIV, but we have so many others on our side.” @edwinjbernard #B…

Aziza Ahmed @AzizaAhmed

RT @benyoungmd: Using tech to have Kerry Thomas address #BeyondBlame from prison for HIV exposure, despite condom/undetectable VL. https://…

Evgenia Maron @EvgeniaMaron

Как мы можем достигнуть цели 90-90-90, когда мы несправедливо криминализуем ВИЧ? @HIVJusticeNet @TheSeroProject #BeyondBlame at #AIDS2016

John Manwaring @eatatjohns

“Imagine 50,000 orgasms. That’s a lot of fluid.” Ben Young on the effectiveness of TasP. We’re all imagining… #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016

Barb Cardell @BarbCardell

RT @kenpinkela: Colorado shares success in #Durban #AIDS2016 #beyondblame @BarbCardell @PatSteadman @TheSeroProject @uspwn https://t.co/F1U…

HIV Justice Network @HIVJusticeNet

“I am now a burden on the very society that I chose to defend, and I did nothing wrong.” @kenpinkela #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016

KELIN @KELINKenya

RT @Wanameme: “Criminalization can never be a solution to any health problem” Dr Herminie (Seychelles) #BeyondBlame @KELINKenya https://t.c…

KELIN @KELINKenya

RT @Wanameme: @EbaPatrick of @UNAIDS says Criminalisation undermines efforts to end HIV #BeyondBlame @KELINKenya #AIDS2016 https://t.co/O3V…

KELIN @KELINKenya

RT @Wanameme: @EbaPatrick “Parliament shouldn’t be an unexpected ally but a critical one in efforts to end HIV criminalisation” #BeyondBlam…

KELIN @KELINKenya

RT @Wanameme: Dora (UGANET) shares a recent petition filed to challenge sections of HIV Law in Uganda #BeyondBlame @KELINKenya https://t.co…

CDN HIVAIDS LGL NTWK @AIDSLAW

#BeyondBlame hears live from Kerry Thomas from Idaho prison – 30 yr sentence for #HIV nondisclosure despite condom, undetectable viral load

CDN HIVAIDS LGL NTWK @AIDSLAW

Powerful stories of advocacy against unjust #HIV #criminalization from Colorado, Kenya, Uganda & Australia at #BeyondBlame

CDN HIVAIDS LGL NTWK @AIDSLAW

Ken Pinkela, US army soldier, tells of prosecution for #HIV non-disclosure based on mere allegation contradicted by evidence #BeyondBlame

FundersConcernedFCAA @FCAA

RT @bencriley: “As you hear our stories remember we have friends, co-workers, families, entire communities that are affected.” Kenneth Pink…

Ben Young @benyoungmd

Healthcare providers also face #HIV criminalization. Rosemary Namiburu, nurse (Uganda). #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016 @IAPAC

ARASA @_ARASAcomms

“I am now a burden on the very society I chose to defend.” #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016

Matthew Waites @MatthewWaites

RT @_ARASAcomms: Attendees from 36 different countries at #BeyondBlame, the largest HIV de-criminalisation pre-conference to date #AIDS2016

Hornet App @HornetApp

RT @EbaPatrick: Kerry Thomas speaks to #beyondblame at @aids2016 from Idaho prison – says “HIV is beyond blame” https://t.co/i5JEwBFp70

Barb Cardell @BarbCardell

RT @uspwn: #HIV Crim laws r blunt force instrument against sex workers youth, Trans, women- @BarbCardell #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016 https://t.c…

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AIDS 2016: UNAIDS reports on HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE's Beyond Blame pre-conference

On 17 July, some 200 people living with HIV, human rights activists and representatives of key populations gathered for a one-day meeting on challenging HIV criminalization under the title “Beyond blame: challenging HIV criminalization.” The event, a preconference meeting before the 21st International AIDS Conference, being held in Durban, South Africa, was organized by HIV Justice Worldwide, an international partnership of organizations, including the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the Global Network of People Living with HIV, the HIV Justice Network, the International Community of Women Living with HIV, the Positive Women’s Network USA and the Sero Project.

The event was an opportunity for people working to end unjust HIV criminalization in all regions of the world to share recent developments, successful approaches and challenges. It also mobilized participants on the urgency to address unjust HIV criminalization as a violation of human rights and serious barrier to efforts to scale up HIV prevention, treatment and care services.

The meeting heard individuals who have face HIV criminalization recount the far-reaching personal, social and legal impacts of unjust prosecution on their lives and that of their families. Lawyers and civil society activists who have led successful efforts against HIV criminalization, including in Australia, Canada, Kenya, Sweden and the United States of America, shared their experiences and approaches. HIV scientists and clinicians were called upon to become more involved in efforts to ensure that the application of the criminal law is consistent with best available evidence relating to risk, harm and proof in the context of HIV. Similarly, members of parliament and the judiciary were highlighted as key stakeholders whose understanding and engagement is central to efforts to end unjust HIV criminalization.

QUOTES

“HIV-RELATED PROSECUTIONS ARE BECOMING INCREASINGLY COMMONPLACE. THE EVIDENCE THAT CRIMINALIZATION AS A PUBLIC HEALTH STRATEGY DOES NOT WORK IS TOO PLAIN TO CONTEST. IT IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO END IT.”

PATRICK HERMINIE SPEAKER OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF SEYCHELLES

“HIV CRIMINALIZATION IS PROFOUNDLY BAD POLICY. IT IS BASED ON FEAR AND OUTDATED UNDERSTANDING OF HIV RISK AND HARM. CRIMINALIZATION MAGNIFIES STIGMA AND DISCRIMINATION TOWARDS PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV. PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV HAVE BEEN AT THE FOREFRONT OF EFFORTS TO END UNJUST CRIMINALIZATION AND SHOULD BE COMMENDED FOR THEIR COURAGE AND COMMITMENT TO JUSTICE.” 

JUSTICE EDWIN CAMERON JUDGE OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF SOUTH AFRICA

“MY LIFE WILL NOT BE THE SAME AFTER FACING HIV CRIMINALIZATION. MY 30 YEARS WORKING AS A NURSE AND DEDICATED TO SAVING LIVES HAVE BEEN ERASED. I HAVE SPENT ALMOST A YEAR IN PRISON. I HAVE BEEN BRANDED A CRIMINAL AND A KILLER EVEN THOUGH I HAVE HARMED NO ONE.”

ROSEMARY NAMUBIRU UGANDAN NURSE

Originally published by UNAIDS

AIDS 2016: Justice Edwin Cameron addresses delegates at Durban AIDS conference

I owe my life to you, says judge

By

“The fact that I am here today at all is a tribute to the activists, researchers, doctors and scientists in the audience,” Judge Edwin Cameron told delegates to the Durban Aids conference, delivering the Jonathan Mann memorial address. He asked sex workers and transgender people to join him on stage. His godson Andy Morobi also addressed the conference.

It is a great privilege and an honour to be here. At the start of a very busy conference, with many stresses and demands and anguishes, I want to start by asking us to pause quietly for just a few moments.

It has been 35 years since the Western world was alerted to Aids. The first cases of a baffling, new, terrifying, unknown syndrome were first reported in the northern summer of 1981. The reports were carried in the morbidity and mortality weekly reports of the CDC on 5 June 1981.1

These last 35 years, since then, have been long. For many of us, it has been an arduous and often dismaying journey.

Since this first report, 35 million people have died of Aids illnesses2 – in 2015 alone, 1.1 million people. 3

We have felt the burden of this terrible disease in our bodies, on our minds, on our friends and colleagues, on our loved ones and our communities.

Aids exposes us in all our terrible human vulnerability. It brings to the fore our fears and prejudices. It takes its toll on our bodily organs and our muscles and our flesh. It has exacted its terrible toll on our young people and parents and brothers and sisters and neighbours.

So let us pause, first, in remembrance of those who have died –

  • those for whom treatment didn’t come in time
  • those for whom treatment wasn’t available, or accessible
  • those denied treatment by our own failings as planners and thinkers and doers and leaders
  • those whom the internal nightmare of shame and stigma put beyond reach of intervention and help.
  • These years have demanded of us a long and anguished and grief-stricken journey.
  • But it has also been a journey of light – a journey of technological, scientific, organisational and activist triumph.

So we must pause, second, to celebrate the triumphs of medicine, science, activism, health care professional dedication and infrastructure that have brought ARVs to so many millions.

Indeed, the fact that I am here today at all is a tribute to the activists, researchers, doctors and scientists in the audience.

Many of you were responsible for the breakthroughs that led to the combination anti-retroviral treatment that I was privileged to start in 1997 – and which has kept me alive for the last 19 years.

I claim no credit and seek no praise for surviving. It felt like an unavoidable task.

All of us here today who are taking ARVs – let us raise our hearts and humble our heads in acknowledgement of our privilege – and often plain luck – in getting treatment on time. That treatment has given us life.

So let us pause, third, to honour the doctors – the scientists – the researchers – the wise physicians and strong counsellors who have saved lives and healed populations in this epidemic.

As important, fourth, let us pause to honour the activists, whose work made treatment available to those who would not otherwise have received it.

We pause to honour the part, in treatment availability and accessibility, of angry, principled and determined activists, in South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign and elsewhere. For millions of poor people, their anger brought the gift of life.

Without their courage, strategic skill and passion, medication would have remained unimaginably expensive, out of reach to most people with HIV. They led a successful campaign that saved millions of lives.

The fact that many millions of people across the world are, like me, receiving ARV treatment, is a credit to their work.

They taught us an important lesson. Solidarity and support are not enough. Knowledge and insight are not enough. To save lives, we need more. We need action – enraged, committed, principled, strategically ingenious action.

They refused to acquiesce in a howling moral outrage. This was the notion that life-saving treatment – treatment that was available, and that could be cheaply manufactured – would not given to poor people, most of them black, because of laws protecting intellectual property and patent-holders’ profits.

The Treatment Action Campaign and their world-wide allies frontally tackled this. They changed the way we think about healthcare and essential medicines access.

What is more, without the Treatment Action Campaign, President Mbeki’s nightmare flirtation with Aids denialism between 1999 and 2004 would never have been defeated.

Instead, the TAC took to the streets in protest. They demanded treatment for all. And when President Mbeki proved obdurate, they took to the courts.

Because of my country’s beautiful Constitution, they won an important victory. Government was ordered to start making ARV treatment publicly available.

Today my country has the world’s largest publicly provided anti-retroviral treatment program.4 More than 3.1 million people, like me, are receiving ARVs from the public sector.5

I am particularly proud that when someone with HIV registers for treatment in South Africa, they should not be asked to show an identity document or a passport or citizenship papers. That is as it should be. The imperatives and ethics of public health know no artificial boundaries.

In the sad history of this epidemic, the triumphs of Aids activists, on five continents, are a light-point of joy.

So there is much to celebrate. I celebrate the joy of life every day with the medication – which keeps a deadly virus effectively suppressed in my arteries and veins, enabling me to live a life of vigour and action and joy.

But we must not forget that Aids continues to inflict a staggering cost on this continent and on our world.

What is more important than my survival, and that of many millions of people in Africa and elsewhere on successful ARV treatment, is those who are not yet receiving it.

There still remains so much that should be done. More importantly, there still remains so much that can be done.

Too many people are still denied access to ARVs. In South Africa, despite our many successes, well over six million people are living with HIV. And, though about half of South Africans with HIV are still not on ARVs,6 from September this year ARVs will be provided to all with HIV, regardless of CD4 count.

Globally, of the 36.7 million people living with HIV at the end of 2015, fewer than half had access to ARVs.7

Worse, the pattern of ARV availability is one that reflects our own weaknesses and vices as humans – our prejudices and hatreds and fears, our selfish claiming for ourselves what we do not grant to others.

Most of those still in need of ARVs are poor, marginalised and stigmatised – stigmatised by poverty, sexual orientation, gender identity, by the work they do, by their drug-taking and by being in prison.

Dr Jonathan Mann, to whom this lecture is dedicated, did pioneer work in recognising the links between health and human rights. He stressed that to address Aids, “we must confront those particular forms of inequity and injustice – unfairness, discrimination – not in the abstract, but in its specific and concrete manifestations which fuel the spread of Aids.”8

He recognised that the perils of HIV are enormously increased by laws that specifically criminalise transmission of HIV and exposure of another to it. This was also confirmed by the wonderful and authoritative work the Global Commission on HIV and the Law has recently done.

​These laws are vicious, ill-considered, often over-broad and intolerably vague. By criminalising undefined “exposure”,9 they ignore the science of Aids, which shows how difficult HIV is to transmit.10 Apart from driving those at risk of HIV away from testing and treatment, they enormously increase the stigma that surrounds HIV and Aids.

Across this beautiful continent of Africa, men who have sex with men (MSMs) remain chronically under-served. They lack programs in awareness, education, outreach, condom provision and access to ARVs. As a recent study by Professor Chris Beyrer and others has shown, we have the means to end HIV infections and Aids deaths amongst men having sex with men. Yet “the world is still failing”.11

For this, there is one reason only – ignorance, prejudice, hatred and fear. Theworld has not yet accepted diversity in gender identity and sexual orientation asa natural and joyful fact of being human.

Seventy eight countries in the world continue to criminalise same-sex sexual conduct. Thirty four of them are on this wide and wonderful continent of Africa.

It is a shameful state of affairs. As a proudly gay man I have experienced the sting of ostracism, of ignorance and hatred. But I have also experienced the power of redeeming love and acceptance and inclusiveness.

We do not ask for tolerance, or even acceptance. We claim what is rightfully ours. That is our right to be ourselves, in dignity and equality with other humans.

Discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation or gender identity is a colossal and grievous waste of time and social energy.

As our beautiful Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said, when we face so many devastating problems – poverty, drought, disease, corruption, malgovernance, war and conflict – it is absurd that we waste so much time and energy on sexual orientation (“what I do in bed with whom”.)12

The sooner we accept the natural fact that gender and orientation diversity exists naturally between us, the quicker we can join together our powers of humanity to create better societies together.

The same applies to sex workers. Sex workers are perhaps the most reviled group in human history – indispensable to a portion of mostly heterosexual males in any society, but despised, marginalised, persecuted, beaten up and imprisoned.

Sex workers work.13 Their work is work with dignity.

Why do people do sex work? Well, ask a sex worker –

  • To buy groceries, and pay their rent, to study, to send their children to school, and to send money to their parents and extended family.
  • It is hard work. Perilous work. Sex workers have a tough, dangerous job. They deserve our love and respect and support – not our contempt and condemnation.

They deserve police protection, not exploitation and assault and humiliation.

More importantly, they deserve access to every bit of HIV knowledge and power that can protect them from infection and can help them to protect others from infection. 14

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) works for sex workers.15 It should be made available to them, as a matter of urgent priority, as part of all national Aids treatment programs.

In September 2015, the World Health Organization, recognizing PrEP’s efficacy, recommended that PreP be provided to all “people at a substantial risk of HIV,” including sex workers. 16

When we in South Africa launched our three-year National Sex Worker HIV Plan in March 2016, we proposed providing PrEP to sex workers. WHO recognized South Africa as the “first country in Africa to translate this recommendation into national policy.”17

Beginning last month (June 2016), the first programs began providing daily PrEP to sex workers in South Africa.18

Criminalising sex workers is a profound evil and a distraction from the important work of building a humane society.19

Especially vulnerable too are injecting drug users. Upon them are visited the vicious consequences of perhaps the most colossal public policy mistake of the last 80 years – the war on drugs.

The vulnerability of injecting drug users is evident in the high percentage of injecting drug users with HIV. Throughout the world, of about 13 million injecting drug users, 1.7 million (13%) are living with HIV. 20

They are denied elementary life-saving services. This is not on the supposedly “dark” continent of Africa – but in the United States of America. If you want an example of evidence-ignoring public policy, that causes loss of life and injury, and spread of HIV, do not look complacently to President Mbeki’s South Africa twelve years ago – look to the United States of America, now, and the federal government’s refusal to make needle substitution available to IDUs . While the US government’s decision to partially lift this ban on federal funding for needle exchange programs earlier this year is a welcome development, this decision was only spurred by an outbreak of new HIV cases among drug users in the United States, 21 and the delay has undoubtedly resulted in preventable HIV infections. 22

Injecting drug users living with HIV are further denied access to treatment. And the United States and Canada, healthcare providers are less likely to prescribe ARVs for injecting drug users, because they assume that IDUs are less likely to adhere to treatment and/or will not respond to it. This is in spite of research showing similar responses and survival rates for those who do have access to ARVs. 23

We know exactly what we have to do to tame this epidemic.

We have to empower young people and especially young girls, to make health seeking choices when thinking about sex and when engaging in it. 24

We have to redouble our prevention and education efforts.

Prevention remains a key necessity in all our strategies about Aids.

Second, we have to test, test, test, test, test, test and test. We cannot promote consensual testing enough. Testing is the gateway to knowledge, power, understanding and action.

Without testing there can be no access to treatment. The more we test, the more we know and the more we can do.

Testing must always be with the consent of the person tested. But we have to be careful that we do not impose unnecessarily burdensome requirements for HIV testing.

HIV is now a fully medically manageable disease. Consent to testing should be capable of being implied and inferred. We must remove barriers to self-testing.

I speak of this with passion – because, by making it more difficult for health care workers to test, we increase the stigma and the fear surrounding HIV.

We must make it easier to test, not harder. Gone are the terrible days when testing was a gateway only to discrimination, loss of benefits and ostracism.

In all this, we must be attentive to the big understated, underexplored, under-researched issue in the epidemic. That is the effect of the internalisation of stigma within the minds of those who have HIV and who are at risk of it.

Internalised stigma has its source in outside ignorance, hatred, prejudice and fear.

But these very qualities are imported into the mind of many of us with HIV and at risk of it.

Located deeply within the self, self-blame, self-stigma and self-paralysing fear are all too often deadly. 25

We must recognise internalised stigma. I experienced its frightening, deadening effects in my own life. Millions still experience it. We must talk about it. And we must find practical ways to reduce its colossally harmful effects.

And, most of all, we must fix our societies. As my friend and comrade, Mark Heywood, has recently written, we have medically tamed Aids. But we have not tamed the social and political determinants of HIV, particularly the overlapping inequalities on which it thrives – gender, education, access to health care, access to justice. That is why prevention strategies are not succeeding.

A better response to HIV, Mark rightly says, needs a better world. Governments must deliver on their human rights obligations. Activists and scientists must join struggles for meaningful democracy, gender equality and social justice. Activists must insist on equal quality education, health and social services; investment in girls and plans backed by money to stem chronic hunger and malnutrition.26

But, to end, I want to return to the light points in our struggle against the effects of this disease over the last 30 years.

I want to end with a thrilling fact – this is that, unexpectedly, joyously, beyond our wildest dreams, perinatal and paediatric ARVs have proved spectacularly and brilliantly successful.

First, let us rejoice that perinatal transmission of HIV can be completely eliminated. It was about this that the Treatment Action Campaign fought President Mbeki’s government all the way to the Constitutional Court, the Court in which I am now privileged to sit.

Now we know how effectively we can protect babies at birth and before birth from infection with HIV.

In South Africa, the rate of mother-to-child transmission of HIV is now reduced to 4%.27 Worldwide, in 2015, 77% of all pregnant women received treatment to prevent perinatal transmission of HIV.28

Last year, Cuba became the first country to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV entirely. 29 In 2016, Thailand, Belarus, and Armenia have also reached this milestone. 30

More even, fifteen years ago we didn’t know how well babies and toddlers would tolerate ARVs.

We didn’t know just a decade ago how young children born with HIV would thrive on ARVs.

And would they take their ARVS? Would they grow to normalcy?

Instead of this uncertainty, we now know, triumphantly, that ARVs work wonderfully for children born with HIV.

I want to rejoice in the beauty and vigour of my godson Andy Morobi. Andy and I became family twelve years ago, at the end of 2004.

He is young, energetic, ambitious and enormously talented. He was born with HIV. He has been on ARVs for the last eight years. Like me, he owes his life to the medical and social miracle of anti-retroviral treatment.

I want to end on another light point. I want to honour the treatment activists from Africa, Europe, North America, South America, Australasia and Asia, who fought for justice in this epidemic.

I want to honour them, like Dr Jonathan Mann, to whom this lecture is dedicated. Like my mentor, Justice Michael Kirby of Australia, for their energy and courage and determination and sheer resourceful and resilience in fighting for justice in this epidemic.31

And I want to end by celebrating the fact that we have sex workers here this morning. They are wearing the T-shirts in the slide a few minutes ago. The T-shirts say: “THIS IS WHAT A SEX WORKER LOOKS LIKE”.

And, most of all, as a gay white man who has lived a life privileged by my race and my profession and my maleness, I ask that we celebrate the astonishing courage of transgender activists, of lesbians and gay men across the continent of Africa and in the Caribbean.

They are claiming their true selves. They do so often at the daily risk of violence, attack, arrest and imprisonment.

They have the right to be their beautiful selves. They are claiming a right to be full citizens of Africa, the Islands and the world. They have done so at extraordinary risk.

They know that they cannot live otherwise.

It is to these brave people that this conference should be dedicated: to the sex workers, injecting drug users, migrants, lesbian, gays and transgendered people, the children, the activists, those in prison, the poor and the vulnerable.

It lies within our means to do everything that will ensure whole lives and whole bodies for everyone with HIV and at risk of it.

All it requires is a passion and a commitment and a courage starting within ourselves. Starting within each of ourselves. Starting now.

Thank you very much.

For footnotes please see original articles in GroundUp

Justice Edwin Cameron: Keynote Speech to Beyond Blame @ AIDS 2016

Justice Edwin Cameron’s closing keynote speech to Beyond Blame: Challenging HIV Criminalisation, a pre-conference to AIDS 2016, held on Sunday 17th July 2016 in Durban, South Africa, convened by HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE.

BEYOND BLAME
Challenging HIV Criminalisation @ AIDS 2016, Durban

(29 min, HJN, South Africa, 2016)

On 17 July 2016, approximately 150 advocates, activists, researchers, and community leaders met in Durban, South Africa, for Beyond Blame: Challenging HIV Criminalisation – a full-day pre-conference meeting preceding the 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016) to discuss progress on the global effort to combat the unjust use of the criminal law against people living with HIV.

Attendees at the convening hailed from at least 36 countries on six continents (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, and South America).

Beyond Blame was convened by HIV Justice Worldwide, an initiative made up of global, regional, and national civil society organisations – most of them led by people living with HIV – who are working together to build a worldwide movement to end HIV criminalisation.

The meeting was opened by the Honourable Dr Patrick Herminie, Speaker of Parliament of the Seychelles, and closed by Justice Edwin Cameron, both of whom gave powerful, inspiring speeches. In between the two addresses, moderated panels and more intimate, focused breakout sessions catalysed passionate and illuminating conversations amongst dedicated, knowledgeable advocates

Canada: Activist Christian Hui on why HIV criminalisation harms us all

Advocates fighting to end HIV criminalisation reach a global TV/web audience on The Stream

Last night, HIV criminalisation advocacy reached a global audience on both TV and the internet with The Stream, on Al Jazeera English.

During the 30 minute programme, HIV criminalisation survivor, and Sero advisory board member, Ken Pinkela appeared with co-hosts Malika Bilal and Omar Baddar in the Washington DC studio to discuss his case and the role HIV stigma played in his unjust prosecution and wrongful conviction.

He was joined via Skype by ARASA’s Executive Director, Michaela Clayton, who discussed the impact of HIV criminalisation on women in southern and eastern Africa.

Anand Grover, Senior Advocate at Supreme Court of India, founder of India’s Lawyers Collective, and a former UN Special Rappporteur on the Right to Health highlighted the many human rights concerns with a punitive approach to HIV prevention.

I was also on programme, highlighting the work of the HIV Justice Network and citing data from our recent report, Advancing HIV Justice 2.

Contributions were also seen from US HIV advocates Shawn Decker and Nina Martinez, and Colorado Senator Pat Steadman who worked with the Colorado Mod Squad to recently completely overhaul HIV criminalisation in Colorado.

Watch the entire programme below or on the The Stream’s website.