In the last year alone, the governments of the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Ecuador issued new laws or reformed existing ones that criminalise HIV transmission. A statement issued by Alliance Linking Organisations and partners in Latin America and the Caribbean outlines how such laws hinder HIV responses:
“We know that these laws interfere with efforts to prevent HIV, encourage free, confidential HIV testing and counselling, and provide access to health services and the timely treatment of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Criminalisation violates the human rights of people living with HIV and the most vulnerable populations.”
There is a considerable body of evidence – including guidance from UNAIDS - on the negative and damaging effects of such laws. The report by the Global Commission on HIV and the Law: HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights & Health (July 2012) states: “Fundamentally unjust, morally harmful, and virtually impossible to enforce with any semblance of fairness, such laws impose punishments on people living with HIV which affect not only their sexual and reproductive health and rights, but also their attempts to earn a living.”
The Alliance statement concludes:
“We, the undersigned, reject the policies and laws that criminalise the transmission of HIV and the non-disclosure of serological status. We urge communities, civil society, agencies and governments to be watchful of this emerging trend and to actively participate providing information and evidence to ensure that new codes, laws, norms and any changes to existing laws lead to inclusive and positive legal frameworks that can contribute to reduce stigmatisation and discrimination."
“We urge public decision makers to redouble their efforts in the prevention of the transmission of HIV and STIs, with particular emphasis on high risk populations such as transgender people, female sex workers, gay men, men who have sex with men, and people who use drugs.”