Mexico: “Danger of contagion”, an offence under article 159 of the Penal Code of Mexico Federal District, declared unconstitutional

Judge grants protection to person accused of HIV infection

Automatic translation – For original text in Spanish, please scroll down.

Judge declares the crime indicated in the penal code of Mexico City as unconstitutional for violating funda­mental rights.

The firm Ramírez, Penilla, Rubio, Cuadra, Abogados, S.C. reported that on October 4 they were notified of the sentence issued by the titular Judge of the Sixteenth District Court of Amparo in Criminal Matters of Mexico City in the protection trial filed in favor of Juan N, who was linked to the process in June this year for the crime of danger of contagion.

They indicated that the sentence establishes, among other things, the unconstitutionality of the crime of danger of contagion established in article 159 of the Penal Code for the Federal District because the con­tested norm does not approve the constitutional and conventional standards of suitability and propor­tionality as it violates of the first article of the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States and of the 26 of the American Convention of Human Rights.

“We congratulate ourselves for the issuance of this jurisdictional decision that reflects the recognition of human rights in the broadest spectrum and we urge that this important prece­dent be translated into the elimination of all forms of discrimination and criminalization of the health condition of women. people, “they celebrated.

Finally, the lawyer Olivia Rubio ratified the commitment of her signature in obtaining justice, especially for those who belong to priority attention groups.


Jueza concede amparo a persona acusada de contagio de VIH

Declara inconstitucional delito señalado en el código penal de la ciudad de México por contra­venir dere­chos fundamentales.

El despacho Ramírez, Penilla, Rubio, Cuadra, Abogados, S.C. informó que el 4 de octubre fueron notifica­dos de la sentencia emitida por la Jueza titular del Juzgado Decimosexto de Distrito de Amparo en Materia Penal de la Ciudad de México en el juicio de amparo interpuesto a favor de Juan N, quien fue vinculado a proceso en junio de este año por el delito de peligro de contagio.

Señalaron que la sentencia establece, entre otras cosas, la inconstitucionalidad del delito de pe­ligro de contagio establecido en el artículo 159 del Código Penal para el Distrito Federal debido a que la norma combatida no aprueba los estándares constitucionales y convencionales de ido­neidad y proporcionalidad al ser violatoria del artículo primero de la Constitución Política de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos y del 26 de la Convención Americana de los Derechos Humanos.

“Nos congratulamos por la emisión de esta decisión jurisdiccional que es reflejo del reconoci­miento de los derechos humanos en el espectro más amplio e instamos para que este impor­tante precedente se traduzca en la eliminación de toda forma de discriminación y criminaliza­ción de la condición de salud de las personas”, celebraron.

Finalmente, la abogada Olivia Rubio ratificó el compromiso de su firma en la obtención de justi­cia, espe­cialmente para quienes pertenecen a grupos de atención prioritaria.

Report: End HIV criminalisation to address LGBT+ inequities

A new report published by the Global Equality Caucus examines what elected officials can do to ensure LGBT+ people receive equitable access to HIV healthcare.

The report titled Breaking barriers in HIV: Action for legislators to address LGBT+ inequities, includes ten recommendations for legislators and others to take forward, including repealing or modernising outdated HIV criminalisation laws, and doing more to safeguard health data privacy.

The report notes that HIV criminalisation laws are “out of step with modern scientific understanding and perpetuate outdated HIV stigmas.” Removing such laws would help to tackle prejudice and refocus HIV as a public health crisis.

Also relevant to our ongoing work on molecular HIV surveillance, the report further recommends that where data is collected, anonymity should always be assured, and “this applies to HIV testing, immigration status, or whatever other circumstances that may place LGBT+ people in danger should their health data be shared with other government authorities.”

Parliamentarians have a responsibility to ensure government departments respect the privacy of citizens and that health data is not being shared with agencies that could present additional barriers to the lives of LGBT+ people, such as immigration authorities or justice departments.

US: New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General issues science-informed prosecutorial guidance for application of HIV criminalisation law

New Guidance on Prosecuting HIV Crimes in New Jersey

In stressing U=U, New Jersey’s acting attorney general wants to ensure that no one living with HIV is charged unjustly.

New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck issued new guidance regarding enforcement of a 24-year-old law that criminalizes certain activities by people living with HIV, according to a press release from Bruck’s office.

Specifically, the guidance directs prosecutors to take into account three factors when deciding whether to charge someone under the state’s HIV crime law. The guidance is based on modern scientific knowledge about how HIV is and isn’t contracted—notably that people who maintain an undetectable viral load do no transmit HIV via sex, a fact known as Undetectable Equals Untransmittable, or U=U. What’s more, the guidance follows the lead of several professional organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

The state law in question is NJSA 2C:34-5(b). Enacted in 1997, the law “made it a third-degree crime for an individual living with HIV to engage in an ‘act of sexual penetration’ without the informed consent of their partner,” according to the two-page guidance, which adds that the disease was then thought to be a death sentence.

Thanks to modern treatment, HIV mortality and transmission risk have been greatly reduced. However, the guidance continues, stigma remains a public health challenge and crime laws discourage people from getting tested and accessing treatment.

The guidance then states:

Of course, NJSA 2C:34-5(b) remains on the books, and it is the responsibility of the legislature—not prosecutors—to decide whether and how the law should be modified. And while relatively few individuals are charged with violating NJSA 2C:34-5(b), it is helpful to provide statewide guidance to ensure that its enforcement does not undermine current public-health strategies.

As always, prosecutors retain significant discretion in deciding whether and under what circumstances to charge individuals with certain criminal offenses. In deciding whether to charge a violation of NJSA 2C:34-5(b), prosecutors should consider the following factors:

• Whether the individual forced or coerced their partner to engage in sexual activity;

• Whether the individual engaged in sexual activity for the purpose of transmitting HIV to their partner; and/or

• Whether the individual was adhering to a medically appropriate HIV treatment plan at the time of the sexual activity.

It is virtually impossible to imagine a scenario where it would be appropriate for a prosecutor to charge an individual with NJSA 2C:34-5(b) when that person’s HIV viral load was undetectable at the time of the sexual activity and no aggravating factors existed. Prosecutors who are considering criminal charges in such circumstances must consult with the Director of the Division of Criminal Justice before proceeding.

“This guidance is designed to ensure that people are not prosecuted unjustly and that we do not undermine public health strategies aimed at encouraging testing, treatment and prevention,” the acting attorney general said in the press release.

“The guidance that we are providing to prosecutors makes clear that this state law should be enforced only when specific aggravating factors are present,” added director Lyndsay Ruotolo of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Our goal is to ensure that if anyone living with HIV is criminally charged under this statute, it is done justly and consistently.”

“We recognize that 40 years after the first…reported AIDS case in this country, medical advancements have dramatically changed outcomes for individuals living with HIV. However, outdated laws such as this have remained on the books and are highly discriminatory, have not proven to reduce HIV transmission and discourage individuals from learning their HIV status,” said Hudson County prosecutor Esther Suarez, president of the County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey. “Acting Attorney General Bruck’s guidance issued today will ensure that individuals living with HIV in New Jersey are not unjustly stigmatized or prosecuted and will reinforce public health protocols that are critical to sustaining the progress made in treatment of this disease.”

 

US: Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee hears testimonies against HIV criminalisation laws

‘HIV is not a crime’: Pennsylvania House panel tackles outdated laws targeting those living with the virus

By: Frank Pizzoli

‘HIV is not a crime but there are outdated laws that make it a crime in Pennsylvania. We cannot have people losing lives and livelihoods because of this,’ Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta said.

About 20 people gathered Wednesday in the East Wing of the State Capitol to unveil the “Living a Positive Life” mural commissioned by the Family Health Council as part of its Take Control of HIV campaign.

“We are here today to broadcast loud and clear that HIV is no longer a death sentence,” Patricia Fonzi, the CEO of the Family Health Council of Central Pennsylvania said.

The mural is full of colorful graphics and messaging regarding the importance of open communication about HIV. On display at the capitol for the month of October, the goal of the mural is to empowers individuals to thrive no matter their HIV status.

The mural was created by well-known Harrisburg-based artist Stephen Michael Haas, a multi-disciplined artist inspired by the likes of late 90s cartoons and Super Mario’s squirrels.

In 2018, there were 36,144 people living with HIV in Pennsylvania. In 2018, 1,023 people were newly diagnosed with HIV, according to aidsvu.org.

“Whether infected long-term or a more recently, there is hope like never before,” Fonzi told the Capital-Star. Current medications can control HIV to the point where the virus is ‘undetectable’ on a lab test.

Furthering the push by HIV service organizations is the scientifically researched concept of Undetectable = Untransmittable or U=U for shorthand. More than 750 organizations worldwide, according to aidsmap.com, and including the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Centers of Disease Control, and the World Health Organization “agree that people with HIV whose viral load is stably suppressed cannot sexually transmit the virus.”

In non-professional terms, U=U means “if a person with HIV is on HIV meds (antiretroviral therapy, or ART) with a consistently undetectable HIV viral load, the virus cannot be transmitted to a sex partner,” according to the US Dept. of Veteran’s Affairs.

Change outdated laws? 

Although not coordinated with the mural’s unveiling, transmitting HIV to a sexual partner formed the basis of a hearing held the same morning before the House Democratic Policy Committee under the direction of Philadelphia Democratic Reps. Mary Isaacson and Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta.

“Pennsylvania has laws on the books that criminalize or control behaviors through HIV-specific statues and regulations.” Kenyatta said in a statement.“HIV is not a crime but there are outdated laws that make it a crime in Pennsylvania. We cannot have people losing lives and livelihoods because of this.”

The policy committee heard from Cumberland County resident Julie Graham, who described the impact of these laws on her life after she was charged with four crimes, including two felonies, based on allegations by a man she had dated who claimed she didn’t disclose her HIV status. Due to these allegations, she faced personal and professional consequences that forever impacted the trajectory of her life.

“I support and applaud your courage and advocacy to testify here today,” Rep. Isaacson expressed to Graham. “Being HIV positive is not a crime and we must do better in supporting those in Pennsylvania who are living with HIV.”

House Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie, was also in attendance adding, “HIV decriminalization is important to the entire Democratic Caucus and I am grateful to the testifiers who came today to speak on this important topic.”

Other testifiers during the hearing include Adrian Shanker, executive director, Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, Steven Bryson, SERO Legal Fellow, AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, and Michelle Troxell, Pennsylvania Co-Chair, Positive Women’s Network USA. They each shared data that show the impact of these laws on the lives of Pennsylvanians and support changes to the laws.

Michelle Troxell, representing the Positive Women’s Network and a nurse, told the committee she has lived with HIV for 32 years. Her testimony noted that “while I have seen many advances in the way we medically treat people living with HIV, I have barely seen any advances in the way we treat people living with HIV.” See meant the laws that govern how HIV is handled within the legal system.

“HIV criminalization fuels stigma. Stigma, fear, criminalization, and discrimination based on my HIV status impacts many decisions in my life, such as starting a new job, changing employers, getting health insurance, trying to get life insurance, starting a relationship, or ending a relationship.” She pointed out that “HIV criminalization is the criminalization of behaviors that would not be a criminal act for anyone not living with HIV – HIV criminalization laws reduce people, like me, to our viral status. It is dehumanizing and disempowering.”

Also testifying was Steven R. Bryson, a Sero Project Fellow and staff attorney with the AIDS Law Project of PA. He explained what is confusing to many people about the state’s HIV laws.

“Pennsylvania does not have HIV-specific criminal laws mandating disclosure of one’s HIV positive status prior to engaging in sexual contact. Nor does it specifically outlaw the perceived, potential or actual HIV exposure or transmission,” Bryson’s submitted testimony noted. Instead, his testimony clarifies, “Pennsylvania uses generally applicable criminal laws to prosecute people with HIV even when the act in question has little or no risk of transmitting HIV.”

The hearing was closed with comments from Rep. Kenyatta who said: “Here in Pennsylvania, we can and should do better than this. So many other states have updated their laws and we must work to get these laws off our books.”

Testimony is available at www.pahouse.com/policy.

Mural campaign statewide 

The statewide Take Control of HIV campaign is a collaboration of five organizations: AIDSNET (Mideast), Family Health Council of Central (South Central), North Central District AIDS Coalition (North Central), Northwest Alliance-Clarion University (Northwest), and United Way of Wyoming Valley (North East). Collectively, the sponsoring entities provide a range of vital services and care for thousands of women and children and adolescents each year, which include HIV-AIDS support services.

The mural is full of colorful graphics and messaging regarding the importance of open communication about HIV. On display at the capitol for the month of October, the goal of the mural is to empowers individuals to thrive no matter their HIV status. The mural was created by well-known Harrisburg-based artist Stephen Michael Haas, a multi-disciplined artist inspired by the likes of late 90s cartoons and Super Mario’s squirrels.

Lead organizer Family Health Council of Central PA, Inc. works within a 24-county region with hospitals, federally funded community health centers, freestanding clinics, direct service agencies, WIC centers, HIV/AIDS service organizations, another community-based organizations to provide services to thousands who might otherwise go without needed care.

To learn more, visit www.TakecontrolHIV.com

US: Supreme Court agrees that sex offender law struck down by Louisiana Supreme Court is unconstitutional

Supreme Court Declines To Hear Louisiana’s Defense of a Law That Stamped ‘SEX OFFENDER’ on Driver’s Licenses

The policy imposed an additional form of ritual humiliation on a reviled category of people without any plausible public-safety justification.

The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear Louisiana’s appeal of a decision against its 2006 law requiring that people on the state’s sex offender registry carry IDs or driver’s licenses that say “SEX OFFENDER” in orange capital letters. A year ago, the Louisiana Supreme Court concluded that the requirement amounted to compelled speech and could not be justified by the state’s legitimate interest in protecting public safety. In addition to raising First Amendment issues, Louisiana’s now-moribund law illustrates the longstanding tendency to impose additional punishment on people convicted of sex offenses in the guise of regulation.

The registries themselves, which require sex offenders to regularly report their addresses to local law enforcement agencies so that information can be made publicly available in online databases that also include their names, photographs, and physical descriptions, are primarily punitive, exposing registrants to ostracism, harassment, and violence while impeding their rehabilitation by making it difficult to find employment and housing. There is little evidence that the sort of public notification practiced by every state delivers benefits that outweigh those costs. Louisiana’s experiment in ritual humiliation, which branded registrants with orange letters they had to display in every transaction that required producing a government-issued ID, compounded those costs without offering any plausible benefits.

One problem with sex offender registries is that they cover a wide range of crimes, including many that do not involve violence, force, or physical contact. While people tend to imagine rapists or child molesters when they hear the term sex offender, the reality can be quite different, in ways that are important in assessing the danger that a person might pose to the general public or to people in particular age groups.

In Louisiana, for example, mandatory registration applies not only to crimes like rape and sexual assault but also to nonviolent offenses, such as voyeurism, possession of child pornography, consensual sex between adults who are closely related, sex between high school teachers and students (even when the student has reached the age of consent), and employment of a minor in “any practice, exhibition, or place, dangerous or injurious to the life, limbs, health, or morals of the minor.” Robert Suttle, who posted the picture of his driver’s license shown above, was forced to register because he was convicted of intentionally exposing someone to HIV, which resulted in a six-month prison sentence. After a bad breakup, he says, his former partner told the police he had not been informed of Suttle’s HIV status.

The second line of each record in the state’s registry shows the offender’s “tier,” which corresponds to various crimes classified by severity, ranging from Tier 1 (least serious, requiring registration for 15 years) to Tier 3 (most serious, requiring lifetime registration). Further down in the record, you can see the statute under which the registrant was convicted (e.g., “carnal knowledge of a juvenile”), which still omits potentially important details.

The driver’s license warning required by Louisiana’s law did not provide even that much information, meaning that anyone who saw it was invited to assume the worst. Tazin Hill, the man who challenged the law, completed his prison sentence in 2013. He was convicted of having sex with a 14-year-old when he was 32, which placed him in Tier 1. But anyone who saw his license had no way of knowing the nature or severity of his offense. Rebelling at this government-imposed badge of shame, Hill excised the “SEX OFFENDER” label from his license and covered the gap with clear tape, which resulted in the criminal charges that gave rise to this case.

Another problem with sex offender registries is the mistaken assumption that people who fall into this broad category are more likely to commit additional crimes than, say, robbers, burglars, or arsonists. When it upheld mandatory “treatment” of sex offenders in prison, for example, the Supreme Court relied on a highly dubious recidivism estimate that was repudiated by its original source but has nevertheless been cited repeatedly by lower courts. The “SEX OFFENDER” stamp on Louisiana driver’s licenses, even more than the registry, promoted such erroneous fears by implying that the bearer posed an ongoing threat, no matter the details of his crime, how long ago it occurred, or how he had behaved since he completed his sentence.

The empirically unjustified belief that sex offenders are highly prone to recidivism is especially inaccurate and damaging when applied to people convicted as minors, who are included in Louisiana’s registry and therefore had to carry “SEX OFFENDER” IDs or driver’s licenses. Judy Mantin, who this year testified before a state legislative committee that was considering revisions to Louisiana’s law in light of the state Supreme Court’s ruling, said her son “made a mistake” when he was 14 but today is “a very productive citizen.” She argued that “our children deserve a second chance in life.”

Legislators ostensibly have made the same judgment regarding adults convicted of sex offenses, who have notionally paid their debt to society once they complete their criminal sentences. Yet legislators imply otherwise by imposing additional burdens on those people for decades after their official punishment. In this case, any interaction involving a driver’s license—e.g., with cashiers, hotel clerks, bank tellers, employers, landlords, election officials, or airport security screeners—became a new invitation to close-range fear and loathing.

What was the justification for this requirement, which added to the burdens imposed by registration, public notification, and residence restrictions? The state argued that the “SEX OFFENDER” label facilitated law enforcement by alerting police officers to a person’s status. But police already could readily check that by consulting the state’s database. And as the Louisiana Supreme Court noted, the state could have eliminated even that slight inconvenience with a more discreet label: “A symbol, code, or a letter designation would inform law enforcement that they are dealing with a sex offender and thereby reduce the unnecessary disclosure to others during everyday tasks.”

Such a solution would not be adequate, the state argued in its petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, because “the Louisiana Legislature concluded that the public, and not merely law enforcement, needs to know of a sex offender’s status under limited circumstances.” Such as?

“A property manager needs to know a sex offender’s status when leasing an apartment—or the manager might incur liability if a tenant is raped on the premises,” the petition said. “A church or Red Cross facility may need to know a person’s status as a sex offender when providing shelter from a storm. People trick or-treating on Halloween may need a quick way to verify that their children are safe from predators.”

During a lower-court hearing, one of the state’s lawyers offered another example:

If I’m deciding who I want to be my babysitter and I know that I don’t want a sex offender to babysit my children, I say, “OK. I’d like to see your ID before I allow you to babysit my children.” And, “Oh, it says ‘sex offender.’ I’m not going to hire you.”

The Halloween scenario suggests the state’s desperation, not only because this particular hazard is an urban legend but also because it is difficult to imagine a situation in which parents would demand to see the driver’s licenses of neighbors handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. Even when the concerns are more reasonable, the public registry, for better or worse, already allowed anyone to look up an individual and see if he was listed; that was supposedly the whole purpose of creating a publicly accessible database in the first place.

“Louisiana’s branded-identification regime was an outlier in singling registrants out for public opprobrium,” Hill’s lawyers noted in their brief urging the Supreme Court not to consider the state’s appeal. “Just two other States require identification cards to display phrases like ‘SEX OFFENDER,’ while only six States have laws that require identification cards to include other types of sexual offense disclosure—typically a symbol or statute number recognizable only to law enforcement.”

Even as an outlier, Louisiana’s law suggests how ready politicians are to support practically any burden on sex offenders, whether or not it makes sense as a tool to promote public safety. Policies like these serve no useful purpose, but they do make life harder for a reviled category of people whose punishment never ends.

[Feature] It Takes More Than A Village to End HIV Criminalisation

The proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child”. But what if a mother in the village is living with HIV, and some of the villagers stigmatise her? What if that stigma creates a situation where the mother living with HIV is unjustly criminalised because of her HIV status? Then it takes more than a village to get justice for that woman. It takes a global movement to end HIV criminalisation to sensitise and train lawyers and expert witnesses.  It takes national communities of women living with HIV to support that woman following her release, and to educate the community in which she lives about HIV.

Introduction

In 2016, a Malawi court convicted a woman living with HIV of “negligently and recklessly doing an act likely to spread the infection of any disease which is dangerous to life” under section 192 of the Malawi Penal Code. She had attended a village meeting with her baby which she breastfed as usual before passing the child to her grandmother. Another woman then asked her to hold her baby. It was alleged that this child began breastfeeding briefly before the woman realised what was happening. The child’s mother then reported the incident to the police. The woman was arrested and without legal advice or representation, pleaded guilty, was convicted, and sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment with hard labour.

The circumstances of the case are all the more shocking because women living with HIV are encouraged to breastfeed in Malawi (and in other countries with high HIV prevalence and settings in which diarrhoea, pneumonia and undernutrition are common causes of infant and child deaths) and because HIV-related prosecutions involving breastfeeding are exceedingly rare. Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in the number of such cases since 2016. HJN is working to address this in a number of ways because we believe there should never be prosecutions of women living with HIV for breastfeeding.

In addition, the accused woman was taking antiretroviral therapy. The chances of HIV transmission through even long-term breastfeeding are very low (which is why WHO guidelines recommend it when access to infant formula and clean water are limited) and the chances of transmission during the brief period the baby allegedly fed were infinitesimally small. In fact, the accused woman’s own child, who was routinely breastfed, has not acquired HIV, calling into question any suggestion that she intended to cause harm to the other woman’s child. Perversely, for a system that unjustly condemned her for risking harm to the other woman’s child, her own baby was imprisoned with her, without any arrangements for appropriate feeding and care, negating any notion that the legal system’s purpose was to protect children.

Following media reports of her initial conviction, numerous individuals and organisations – including HJN and our HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE partners, ARASA and SALC – became involved in the case, ultimately changing the outcome for the woman and her family, and laying the groundwork for further anti-HIV stigma advocacy and education in the region. Her story demonstrates the vital role that education, training, strong networks, and community play in the pursuit of HIV justice.

Living with HIV-related stigma

When interviewed at her home in 2019, the woman referred to as “EL” talked about her life:[1]

[1] The initials EL are used instead of her full name following a court order of anonymity to protect her privacy. The interview took place in 2019, during the village visit described later in this article.

“As kids, there were the two of us — me and my brother. My parents faced challenges raising us. Finding the basic necessities like soap and food was a tall order, let alone talking about going to school. It was difficult to get learning materials as well as proper clothes to wear at school. I worked hard in class but couldn’t get past Standard 5 at primary school. Eventually I dropped out, and my brother did the same, … My daily life was taken up doing house chores just like any other girl in the village, as well as helping my parents with farming. At 16, I got married.”

EL further described how she was diagnosed HIV-positive in 2015 after a de facto compulsory HIV test at an antenatal visit. She already had two children and was pregnant with her third. She had heard about HIV but did not know much about it. EL said that the healthcare workers provided a lot of assistance, giving her accurate information about HIV, including the importance of adhering to her antiretroviral treatment (ARVs).

EL and two of her children. Photo: Amos Gumulira/UNDP Malawi

EL said that she generally enjoyed life in her village, although at times she was subject to stigma and discrimination:

“When I went to fetch water at the community borehole, people would laugh at me, and whenever I wanted to participate in community work, you would find pockets of community members talking ill about me. Some people used to insult me, calling me names. But I persevered because my relatives, including the Village Headman himself, gave me support and always stood by my side.”

Members of EL’s family also faced discrimination. “Due to lack of information, a lot of people thought HIV was hereditary and because I was diagnosed HIV-positive, this meant that all my family members had HIV, and they were discriminated against,” EL said.

EL wonders if more could have been done to help her fight stigma. In particular, EL gained a lot of knowledge about HIV from the counselling she got when diagnosed, but perhaps she could have been better equipped with information to share with people in her community:

“A lot of people don’t know that if you adhere to ARVs, you reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others. This information needs to be passed on to many people. There are also other issues to do with ARVs. A lot of people don’t have adequate information on the effects of ARVs and at the end of the day, they start pointing fingers at each other, giving people room to start speculating about issues to do with witchcraft.”

EL’s prosecution had repercussions for her whole village. One woman from the community explained:

“I was there and very close to where EL was sitting. Yes, she was carrying another woman’s child. This other woman had given the child to EL for safe keeping while she went to stand in a queue, but honestly speaking, I didn’t see EL breastfeed the child. I just heard some people who were sitting a distance from where we were sitting, as they started pointing accusing fingers at her.”

She said that things moved so fast that before they could think of anything to stop what she called “the rumour.” It had gotten out of hand and people started saying that EL had intentionally breastfed the child to transmit HIV.

After receiving a summons, EL voluntarily turned herself in at the police station. She was accompanied by the Village Headman (her grandfather) who wanted first-hand information about what crime she was alleged to have committed. That same day, police transferred EL to a larger town, where she was remanded for three days. At the age of 29, this was the first time that EL had ever left her village.

Days later, she appeared in court and the charge sheet was read out. EL recounted that she had not understood what was happening and could not make arguments because she had no legal representation. EL agreed with the summary of events as they were described, so she was found guilty and was imprisoned together with her youngest child.

She described life in prison as “hell”:

“After a week, my brother showed up to give me my ARVs. All this talk about a woman with HIV breastfeeding. I breastfed but I also found it tough to feed my baby while in prison because there was no provision of special food for babies. We were eating nandolo (pigeon peas) almost every day with Msima ya Mgaiwa (maize meal). And there was only one toilet for a cell of more than 50 people.”

After some time, relatives and other members of her community started visiting, giving her money she could use to buy soap and food for her baby. “When we heard from our Village Headman that she had been arrested, we were so devastated”, a woman from EL’s village explained. “We raised funds for some members to go and give her support only to learn that she had been transferred to one town, then another, but some of us did manage on several occasions to visit her and offer our support when she was in prison.”

Then, out of the blue, EL received a message that some people had come looking for her. She went to meet them: a lawyer, Wesley Mwafulirwa, and his paralegal. They explained why they were there and asked if she would like them to appeal on her behalf. She accepted enthusiastically. “I was excited but at the same time I was confused because I could not believe that I could be so lucky to have these people come to help me.”

Fighting the charges

Solicitor Wesley Mwafulirwa had volunteered to attend training to address legal barriers to prison health and human rights presented by the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC). He travelled from Malawi to South Africa to attend the training which addressed useful regional and international mechanisms, and presented insights about legal practice and strategic litigation to support prison health and human rights, particularly for those facing heightened vulnerability to HIV and TB.

Wesley Mwafulirwa Photo: Amos Gumulira/UNDP Malawi

At the training, two lawyers spoke about their pro bono work. Wesley remembers one of them, Allan Maleche (Executive Director of KELIN), saying that each participant should take at least one case when they go back to their country. It was a turning point in Wesley’s career.

He had not been home long when he saw an article in the newspaper about an HIV-positive person convicted for trying to spread HIV. That person was EL.

Wesley, who lives in a small town in northern Malawi, drove for more than ten hours to get to the jail where EL was incarcerated. He explained his determination, saying “I was so fired up! I’d just come from SALC’s training … and I said, ‘I want to take up this case’.”

Wesley interviewed EL and offered to take her case pro bono. Wesley contacted SALC, who offered technical support. Their first step was to get an order for anonymity to protect EL’s identity and gain greater control over media reporting. Next, they faced an ethical question. They wanted to challenge the constitutionality of the law but that would take a long time. Because EL was in prison, they decided to undertake a criminal appeal instead. They applied for EL to be let out of custody on bail pending appeal. This is usually a difficult application to win, but they were successful and EL was released from prison.

In the appeal, the court was asked to consider whether the conviction could be justified, whether the penal provision was constitutional (arguing it was overly broad and vague), and whether the sentence was manifestly unjust. Wesley used his learnings from the SALC training to raise international principles and instruments relating to sentencing, which the court referenced and upheld. Michaela Clayton, then Executive Director of the AIDS and Rights Alliance for southern Africa (ARASA), and now a member of HJN’s Supervisory Board, provided expert testimony. Another expert witness, Dr Ruth Brand, identified through HJN’s global network, gave expert scientific evidence to show the risk of HIV transmission had been “infinitesimally small.”

The case was heard by Honourable Justice Zione Ntaba, who held that the proceedings in the trial court were irregular and “blatantly bias” against EL, compromising her right to a fair trial. Justice Ntaba found the charge sheet had been defective and therefore EL’s plea should not have been recorded as guilty. She noted the law must be sensitive to the accused’s knowledge or belief (or lack of) that HIV would be transmitted. Justice Ntaba decided the conviction could not be justified, acknowledging human rights principles against the overly broad criminalisation of HIV non-disclosure, exposure, or transmission. EL’s sentence was set aside. (The Constitutional challenge was referred to a full-member panel of the Constitutional Court although the case was not pursued.)

Notably, Justice Ntaba was a member of the African Regional Judges Forum to discuss HIV, TB and Human Rights (a process which is owned and planned by the judges and run with support from UNDP and funding from the Global Fund).

Fighting the stigma

Shortly after EL’s arrest, the Coalition of Women and Girls Living with HIV and AIDS in Malawi (COWLHA) and the Malawi branch of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW-Malawi) discussed the case at a roundtable meeting. At first, everyone was surprised and even laughed, questioning how she could have breastfed someone else’s child. They had never heard of a criminal case involving infant feeding and did not understand what they were dealing with.

During their discussions, COWLHA and ICW-Malawi agreed that the prosecution of EL was a manifestation of stigma and misinformation about HIV in the community. They learned more about the unjust measures that EL had experienced, like being imprisoned without being given a chance to be heard and not being given the chance to prepare and take her medication and things she needed to care for her child. COWLHA and ICW decided to get involved.

Representatives from COWLHA and ICW meet with members of EL’s village. Photo: COWLHA/ICW

Concerned that EL could face social and community hostility after her release, COWHLA and ICW planned a visit to the village to provide psychosocial support to EL and to work with traditional community leaders to provide community sensitisation on HIV, addressing issues of stigma and discrimination. Their efforts helped change some community members’ ideas about HIV.

The community formed two support groups— one for youth and another for adults (notably both were predominantly female groups). They have conducted numerous activities, including home visits, supporting children to go to school, helping the elderly with house chores, and they have a garden where they grow vegetables and rice. They hoped to access loans to become self-reliant. They also had a list of issues they wanted to learn more about, including preventing mother-to-child transmission, sexual and reproductive health, positive living, stigma and discrimination, and treatment literacy.

Visiting EL at home

In September 2019, a three-member team comprising Edna Tembo (Executive Director of COWLHA), Charity Mkona (ICW Board Chair), and Peter Gwazayani (media consultant), set out for EL’s village.

The team was welcomed by the Group Village Headman, who took them to EL’s house. EL recognised Edna from the work COWLHA and ICW-Malawi had done in the community previously. EL welcomed the team with a big smile.

EL and her husband looked cheerful as they laid a mat on the veranda of their house for the visitors. Her mother later joined the discussion.

EL was interested to learn that HJN wanted to write about her case and the type of interventions that had been helpful, to share the story with advocates for HIV justice around the world.

EL recounted that when she returned to the village, “most members of my community received me with happiness, particularly my relatives. The day I arrived, they were jubilant. They celebrated with songs that we normally sing during special occasions in the village.”

COWLHA ED Edna Tembo and Charity Mkona of ICW chat with EL, her husband and her mother (at far distance). Photo: COWLHA/ICW

EL lives with her husband, five children and her mother in a compound made up of three grass thatched houses. She introduced her children:

“The oldest is 13 and she goes to school, as do the second and third. The fourth, a little girl, is the child I was with in prison. She has not yet started school. And then there is this one, who I am breastfeeding. She is the fifth one. She has been tested for HIV on two occasions and will be going for the last test soon. The other two tests have come back HIV-negative.”

EL’s accuser and her family still lives in the same village which has presented some difficulties. EL said that on several occasions she had tried to greet them when they passed each other, but she had been ignored. “They don’t talk to me but from deep down in my heart, I have no grudges against them,” EL said.  “I am just living my normal life,” EL says, although now she says that she would never agree to carry anybody else’s child, for any reason.

Moving beyond criminalisation

With respect to the community-level interventions, lawyer Annabel Raw, who worked at SALC during the time they supported the EL case said:

“As lawyers, we would never have thought to consider such an intervention had ICW-Malawi and COWLHA not shared their insights and been willing to support the client and her community. Their work has been so important to ensuring that meaningful justice was done to combat the actual root cause of the prosecution — stigma and discrimination — and to reconcile EL with her community.”

Engaging with the community also influenced ICW-Malawi and COWLHA’s thinking about HIV criminalisation. COWLHA’s Edna Tembo noted that:

Supporting people who have been prosecuted, particularly women, gives them power, … However, it is very important to stress that psychological support is absolutely vital for those who have been prosecuted. That includes family support, and a supportive community environment enabling acceptance of an individual accused.”

Tembo was also quick to emphasise that there is more work to be done. That work includes awareness raising and ongoing support to the community, especially to identify and train volunteers, empowering them to provide services at community level and to link them to health facilities and district offices for continued support and mentorship.

EL carries her youngest child home. Photo: Amos Gumulira/UNDP Malawi

EL described her dreams for the future:

“My wish now is to see my children progress in school so that they become productive citizens in this community and help it grow. That’s my dream. If they get educated, they will be able to stand on their own and support others. My husband is not employed and it is a challenge to get money for school fees for our children. We would love to get a loan or training to have greater knowledge of economic empowerment because we want to be self-reliant. We would then love to lease some land to grow rice to sell to pay back the loan.

“It’s also my wish to see the lives of all people in the community uplifted. We farm but on a small-scale. If we were to be supported with funds, I’d love to see the community establish big rice farms, working in groups, harvesting for consumption and for sale. In so doing, we would be able to uplift our lives for the better.”

Further Information

Learn more about Wesley’s experiences in EL’s case here and here.

Learn more about the African Regional Judges Forum here.

The full High Court judgement is available here, with a summary included here.

Read more about the successful HIV and AIDS Management Act community advocacy here.


This article is based on information provided by ICW-Malawi and COWLHA following their visits to EL’s village, and an interview with Wesley Mwafulirwa published by UNDP. HJN provided financial and logistical support for the village visits thanks to a grant provided to the HIV Justice Global Consortium from the Robert Carr Fund for civil society networks.     

Russia: Over the past five years, Russian courts have acquitted only one defendant under Article 122 of the Criminal Code

Going to prison for the virus: No acquittals for HIV infection in Russia in three years

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator, please scroll down for original article in Russian.

Human rights activists, the WHO and the UN all oppose this provision in the Russian Criminal Code.

No chance of acquittal

In one of the most controversial articles of the Russian Criminal Code, the chances of an acquittal are 0 per cent. Cases are heard behind closed doors and verdicts are almost never published. The practice has been opposed by respected global organisations, and even the Russian government has proposed amendments. But for now, the case stands still and the defendants are sent to penal colonies. Where they will not receive proper treatment. We are talking about Article 122 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (HIV infection).

According to the Judicial Department, it is virtually impossible to obtain acquittal for crimes related to HIV transmission. Over the past five years, Russian courts have acquitted only one defendant under Article 122 of the Criminal Code. And from 2018 to 2020, the statistics are quite depressing – all the defendants in such cases have only heard guilty verdicts. Even in cases of treason and espionage, courts acquit more often, Supreme Court documents show (in 3 years, courts have released as many as 5 defendants accused of crimes against state security).

Word and deed

In the winter of 2011, Samara resident Evgeny Kovalev (hereafter the names are changed – ed.) ended up in a drug treatment clinic. The young man had been addicted to illegal substances shortly before, but decided to get rid of his addiction and got registered at the clinic. During the process, they started taking various tests for Yevgeniy, including HIV tests. One of them showed that Kovalev’s organism had antibodies to the infection (they are present at any stage of the disease including asymptomatic stage). He had no symptoms of HIV but was diagnosed with HIV.

At that time Kovalev was dating a girl and was periodically having intimate relations with her. As he will later prove in court, the doctors did not tell him about the positive diagnosis. He only found out about it when he and his girlfriend visited the social centre where they were tested. Although the results of the tests were negative, the couple broke up after the unpleasant news and maintained their friendship. A few months later, however, the girl felt ill and went to the health centre, where the doctor gave her a number of referrals. This is how she found out that she was also infected.

The victim went to the police and Kovalev was detained. He was charged with intentional transmission of HIV (part 2 of article 122 of the Criminal Code). During the hearing, Evgeniy put forward the version that his ex-girlfriend could have been infected by another person, as they always used protection during sex. But the court sided with the victim, who claimed that she had never slept with anyone else. No other evidence was cited in the verdict.

In August 2011, the Kuibyshev District Court of Samara sentenced Kovalev to a real sentence (not specified in the text of the sentence) in a penal colony. Despite having a wife and an underage child, as well as a serious illness, the young man was taken into custody right in the courtroom. He was also charged with moral damages.

In September 2017, a resident of Feodosia (Crimea) reported her mobile phone missing to the police. Her acquaintance Oleg Osipov was suspected. He was summoned to the police station. During the interrogation, there was a conflict between him and an operative named Chudak. After a verbal altercation Oleg suddenly grabbed a decanter from the policeman’s desk, smashed it on a safe and started cutting his hands with broken shards (before that Osipov had not been found guilty of any offence: he had no criminal record, was not registered at a drug treatment facility or a psychiatric clinic). The operative tried to take away the glass, but was struck in the thigh during the scuffle.

After a few minutes, Osipov was restrained and taken to his cell. The man cleaned the wound, the cleaner was scrubbing the blood off the floor. They never found evidence that it was Oleg who had stolen the ill-fated smartphone.

But he was charged with other crimes. For assaulting a police officer in the line of duty (part 2 of article 318 of the Criminal Code). And of knowingly putting another person at risk of HIV infection (part 1 of article 122 of the Criminal Code). It turned out that in December 2012, Osipov learned about his disease and the dispensary took a receipt from him saying that he was warned about the need to comply with sanitary and hygiene standards to avoid infecting other people. This fact was considered by the Investigative Committee to be sufficient for the prosecution.

At trial, Oleg pleaded guilty and repented of what he had done. But the court decided that his correction is possible only in isolation from society and sentenced the man to two years and two months in a penal colony.

Osipov’s appointed lawyer, Oksana Pasichenko, told Sobesednik that she does not know the fate of her former client, but he is “most likely already at large”.

Incidentally, sometimes law enforcers themselves are prosecuted for deliberate HIV infection. In 2015, a police officer was detained in Kaliningrad who had infected nine women.

Despite Osipov’s unfortunate experience, often those accused under Article 122 of the Criminal Code who plead guilty still avoid real sentences. This happened, for example, to Alexey Lozhkin, a resident of Udmurtia who infected his girlfriend with HIV back in 2008. He repented in court and received a one-year suspended sentence.

Fear of confession

The first case of HIV in the USSR was registered in 1987. Lawmakers almost immediately criminalised intentional transmission of HIV; article 115.2 was added to the Criminal Code of the USSR, which later became article 122 of the Russian Criminal Code.

Russian law still does not clearly describe the circumstances under which criminal liability for HIV-positive individuals arises.

The law puts HIV-positive people before other citizens, says Mariya Godlevskaya, peer counselor of the E.V.A. association (she herself found out about her infection in 1999).

– That`s why many HIV-positive people are afraid to tell their environment about their status”, Godlevskaya says. – Article 122 of the Criminal Code puts people in a corner, criminalising anyone who has HIV. The sole responsibility for his or her health shifts to the individual. And yet there are cases when HIV-positive people are simply blackmailed by their former partners. Although it is known that a person on antiretrovirals cannot infect another person, the judicial practice simply does not take this into account.

WHO and the UN have long called for the decriminalisation of HIV infection. And in a number of countries the situation, albeit slowly, is beginning to change. For example, this year, the state of Illinois (USA) decriminalised HIV transmission. A similar proposal back in 2017 was put forward by the Russian government, but it was never approved.

“Contagious” Article

Article 122 of the Russian Criminal Code punishes both HIV infection itself and “knowingly putting another person at risk of infection”. It can be punishable by imprisonment for up to one year. If the defendant knew he or she had the disease, he or she could be sent to prison for five years. If the victim is a minor or two or more people, the perpetrator faces up to 8 years in prison.

In the statistics of the Supreme Court, cases under Art. 122 are combined with cases under Art. 121 (infection with a sexually transmitted disease), so it is impossible to draw an exact conclusion about what kind of punishment the courts are choosing. It is known that in 2020, the number of actual and suspended sentences were about the same – 28 people went to prison and 29 remained free. Ten received restriction of liberty (unable to travel abroad) and one received compulsory labour.

Human rights activists believe that such measures do not work, although they are used in many countries around the world. The list of such measures does not include those countries which are considered to be developed.

Myths

Society is still full of myths about HIV and its terminal stage, AIDS. One of the main ones is the supposedly high mortality rate of the disease.

In reality, HIV-positive people live as long as the average person. As long as they take antiretroviral medication. In this case the person is not contagious. However, the Russian code makes no distinction between those who take medication and those who refuse treatment.


В тюрьму за вирус: В России за три года нет ни одного оправдательного приговора по статье о заражении ВИЧ

Против этой нормы в УК РФ выступают и правозащитники, и ВОЗ, и ООН.

Без шанса на оправдание

0% – таковы шансы, что обвиняемого оправдают по одной из самых спорных статей Уголовного кодекса России. Дела по ней рассматриваются в закрытом режиме, тексты приговоров практически никогда не публикуются. Против этой практики выступают авторитетные всемирные организации, свои поправки предлагало даже российское правительство. Но пока дело стоит на месте, а подсудимых отправляют в колонии. Где они не смогут получить надлежащего лечения. Речь идет о ст. 122 УК РФ (заражение ВИЧ-инфекцией).

Согласно данным судебного департамента, за преступления, связанные с передачей ВИЧ-инфекции, практически невозможно добиться оправдательного приговора. За последние 5 лет российские суды освободили всего одного обвиняемого по ст. 122 УК РФ. А с 2018-го по 2020-ый статистика совсем удручающая – все фигуранты подобных дел слышали лишь обвинительные вердикты. Даже по делам о госизмене и шпионаже суды оправдывают чаще, следует из документов Верховного суда (за 3 года суды освободили целых 5 обвиняемых в преступлениях против безопасности государства).

Слова и дело

Зимой 2011-го житель Самары Евгений Ковалев (здесь и далее имена изменены – ред.) оказался в наркологическом диспансере. Молодой человек незадолго до этого пристрастился к запрещенным веществам, но решил избавиться от пагубной зависимости и встал на динамический учет. В процессе у Евгения стали брать различные анализы, в том числе и на ВИЧ. Один из них показал: в организме Ковалева есть антитела к инфекции (они присутствуют на любой стадии заболевания, в т.ч. и на бессимптомной). Никаких симптомов ВИЧ у пациента не было, но по результатам анализа ему поставили диагноз – ВИЧ (Z-21).

В то время Ковалев встречался с девушкой и периодически вступал с ней в интимные отношения. Как впоследствии будет доказывать молодой человек суду, врачи не рассказали ему о положительном диагнозе. Он узнал об этом только во время совместного с подругой визита в социальный центр, где они сдали анализы. И хотя результаты анализа девушки были отрицательными, после неприятного известия пара рассталась, сохранив дружеские отношения. Впрочем, через несколько месяцев девушке стало плохо, она пришла в поликлинику, где врач ей выписал ряд направлений. Так она узнала, что тоже заражена.

Потерпевшая обратилась в полицию и Ковалева задержали. Ему предъявили обвинение в умышленном заражении ВИЧ-инфекцией (ч.2 ст.122 УК). В ходе слушаний Евгений выдвинул версию, что его бывшая девушка могла быть заражена другим человеком, поскольку они всегда предохранялись во время секса. Но суд встал на сторону потерпевшей, которая утверждала, что больше ни с кем не спала. Других доказательств в приговоре не приводится.

В августе 2011-года Куйбышевский районный суд Самары приговорил Ковалева к реальному сроку (в тексте приговора он не указан) в колонии. Несмотря на наличие жены и несовершеннолетнего ребенка, а также тяжелого заболевания, молодого человека взяли под стражу прямо в зале суда. Кроме того, с него взыскали моральный ущерб.

Срок за графин

В сентябре 2017-го жительница Феодосии (Крым) сообщила в полицию о пропаже мобильного телефона. Подозрение пало на ее знакомого Олега Осипова. Его вызвали в отдел полиции. В ходе допроса между ним и опером по фамилии Чудак произошел конфликт. После словесной перебранки Олег внезапно схватил со стола полицейского графин, разбил его о сейф и осколками начал резать себе руки (до того Осипов не был замечен ни в каких правонарушениях: судимостей не имел, на учете в нарко- и психдиспансере не состоял). Чудак попытался отнять стекло, но во время потасовки получил удар в бедро.

Через несколько минут Осипова удалось скрутить и отвести в камеру. Чудак зализывал рану, уборщица отмывала кровь с пола. Доказательств того, что именно Олег украл тот злосчастный смартфон, так и на нашли.

Но его обвинили в других преступлениях. В нападении на полицейского при исполнении (ч.2 ст.318 УК). И в заведомом поставлении другого лица в опасность заражения ВИЧ-инфекцией (ч.1 ст.122 УК). Выяснилось, что в декабре 2012-го Осипов узнал о своем заболевании и в диспансере у него взяли расписку о том, что он предупрежден о необходимости соблюдения санитарно-гигиенических норм для избежания заражения других людей. Этого факта СК посчитал достаточным для обвинения.

На суде Олег признал свою вину и раскаялся в содеянном. Но суд решил, что его исправление возможно лишь в условиях изоляции от общества и приговорил мужчину к 2 годам 2 месяцам колонии общего режима.

Адвокат Осипова по назначению Оксана Пасиченко сказала «Собеседнику», что не знает о судьбе своего бывшего подзащитного, но он, “скорее всего, уже на свободе”.

Кстати, иногда за умышленное заражение ВИЧ судят и самих стражей порядка. В 2015-м в Калининграде задержали полицейского, который заразил девятерых женщин.

Несмотря на печальный опыт Осипова, зачастую обвиняемые по 122 ст. УК, которые идут на признание вины, все же избегают реальных сроков. Так случилось, например, с жителем Удмуртии Алексеем Ложкиным, который еще в 2008-м заразил ВИЧ свою девушку. Он раскаялся в суде и получил 1 год условно.

Боязнь признаться

Первый случай заболевания ВИЧ в СССР был зарегистрирован в 1987-м. Законодатели практически сразу криминализировали его умышленную передачу – так в УК РСФСР появилась ст. 115.2, позже превратившаяся в 122 ст. УК РФ.

В российском законодательстве до сих пор нет четкого описания обстоятельств, при которых наступает уголовная ответственность для ВИЧ-положительных.

Законодательство ставит ВИЧ-положительного человека ниже остальных граждан, считает равный консультант ассоциации «Е.В.А» Мария Годлевская (сама она узнала о том, что заражена, в 1999-м).

– Поэтому многие ВИЧ-положительные боятся рассказать окружению о своем статусе, – уверяет Годлевская. – Ст. 122 УК загоняет человека в угол, криминализируя любого, у которого есть ВИЧ-инфекция. Вся ответственность за здоровье ложится исключительно на него. А ведь есть случаи, когда ВИЧ-положительных просто начинают шантажировать их бывшие партнеры. И хотя известно, что находящийся на антиретровирусных препаратах не способен заразить другого, судебная практика данный момент попросту не учитывает.

ВОЗ и ООН давно требуют декриминализации заражения ВИЧ-инфекцией. И в ряде стран ситуация, хотя медленно, но начинает меняться. Так, в этом году штат Иллинойс (США) отменил уголовную ответственность за передачу ВИЧ. Аналогичное предложение еще в 2017-м выдвигало и правительстве России, но оно так и не было одобрено.

«Заразная» статья

Ст. 122 УК РФ карает как за само заражение ВИЧ-инфекцией, так и за «заведомое поставление другого лица в опасность заражения». Может наказываться лишением свободы на срок до одного года. Если обвиняемый знал о наличии у него заболевания, его могут отправить в колонию на 5 лет. Если потерпевшим является несовершеннолетний, либо два и более лица, виновнику грозит до 8 лет лишения свободы.

В статистике ВС дела по 122 ст. объединены с делами по ст. 121 (заражение венерическим заболеванием), поэтому нельзя сделать точный вывод о том, какие наказания избирают суды. Известно, что в 2020-м число реальных и условных сроков было примерно одинаковым – 28 человек отправились в колонию, 29 остались на свободе. 10 получили ограничение свободы (не смогут выезжать за границу), один – обязательные работы.

Правозащитники же считают, что такие меры не работают, хотя применяются во многих странах мира. В том числе и тех, кого принято считать развитыми.

Мифы

В обществе до сих пор есть много мифов вокруг ВИЧ и его терминальной стадии – СПИД. Один из главных – в якобы высокой смертности от этого заболевания.

На деле ВИЧ-положительные люди живут столько же, сколько в среднем обычный человек. При условии приема антиретровирусных препаратов. В этом случае человек не является заразным. Однако российский УК не делает разницы между теми, кто принимает препараты, и теми, кто отказался от лечения.

 

 

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

They demand that the HIV and STI bill be dealt with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Infection rate

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

AIDS cases

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

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


Habrá nueva ley de enfermedades sexuales, VIH y hepatitis virales

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

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

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

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

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

Tasa de contagios

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

Casos de SIDA

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

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

Uganda to re-consider problematic HIV law provisions

After five years of waiting, the Constitutional Court of Uganda has finally begun to hear a landmark case challenging the overly broad and draconian provisions of the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 2014.

Constitutional Court Judge Christopher Izama Madrama has instructed the Attorney General of the Government of Uganda to submit a formal reply to the HIV Constitutional Petition No. 4 of 2016, after it came up for mention in the Court on August 12th, 2021.

The petition, by a coalition of HIV, human rights, and LGBTQ organisations, seeks for the removal of three problematic clauses in the HIV Prevention and Control Act which was passed on May 13, 2014 by the Ugandan Parliament.

The Act allows for stringent punishments for the vague ‘crimes’ of attempted and intentional HIV transmission. The other problematic provisions in the Act are mandatory HIV testing for pregnant women and their partners and allowing medical providers to disclose a patient’s HIV status to others without consent.

The Act’s problematic provisions have been known to have been used in a broad range of circumstances, including the arrest, conviction, and acquittal of a nurse wrongfully convicted of injecting a baby with HIV-infected blood and the charging of two different women for exposing an infant to HIV via breastfeeding.

This is the one of three pieces of good news from Uganda this week.

Earlier this year, HJN joined other civil society and human rights organisations in condemning the passage of Uganda’s Sexual Offences Bill which would have negatively impacted sex workers, the LGBTQ communities, and people living with HIV.

The Bill defined rape as ‘misrepresentation’, running the very real risk of being interpreted by the criminal legal system as HIV status non-disclosure. If the accused was found to be living with HIV, this would have resulted in the death penalty.

However, last week it was reported that President Museveni declined to sign the Bill into law, saying many provisions are redundant and already provided for in other laws.

In addition, last week Uganda’s Constitutional Court scrapped a controversial anti-pornography law whose provisions included a ban on women wearing miniskirts in public saying the law was “inconsistent with or in contravention of the constitution of the Republic of Uganda.”