Christine Stegling, Alliance Senior Adviser on Human Rights said: 'This decision reaffirms fundamental human rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and above all the right to non-discrimination.'
Discrimination impacts HIV prevention
The ruling overturns the previous assertion by the UK Home Office that it would be acceptable to deport gay men back to their home country if they would be able to hide their sexuality and live discreetly. This is deeply problematic not only from a human rights point of view but also when considering the implications for the work of HIV programmes.
Men who have sex with men (MSM) or gay men who hide their sexuality become unreachable for health care practitioners. The result is inadequate access to prevention information and an inability to openly discuss their health needs. This leaves them vulnerable to HIV infection and to disease progression if they have been infected with HIV.
MSM face stigma and violence
In a recent internal survey, a majority of Alliance global partners identified MSM as the people most often facing stigma and discrimination at national level, many times leading to violence and social and political exclusion.
Such discrimination is often state sanctioned by upholding (or in some cases introducing) legislation that criminalises homosexuality. In the 53 countries that form the Commonwealth, for example, all but six still classify same-sex sexual conduct as illegal, making it difficult for HIV programmes to directly address the needs of MSM.
Unacceptable HIV rates
While it is difficult to establish the
extent of HIV infections among MSM because data is not collected at a
national level in many countries, especially in those where same sex
sexual activity is criminalised and/or stigmatised, there is some
evidence that highlights the disproportionate impact that HIV has on
In Kenya, for example, the HIV prevalence rate among MSM is reported to be 43% as compared to a national prevalence of 6%, while in Jamaica it is between 25 and 30% as compared to a national HIV prevalence of 1.5%. In Thailand it was reported at 24% as compared to a national prevalence rate of 1.4%, according to a report by amFAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research.
Address the human rights of MSM
Christine Stegling, who is also co-chair of the track committee on Human Rights of the International AIDS Conference, said: 'The UK Supreme Court ruling is a step in the right direction to protect the lives and dignity of MSM but it also points towards the need for urgent action at the global level to address the human rights of MSM.
'With this year’s International AIDS Conference under the theme of ‘Human Rights –right here, right now’, the global community has another opportunity to give clear guidance to policy makers to urgently review laws at national level to do exactly that.
'The theme of the conference recognises the importance of addressing fundamental human rights at the core of HIV programmes to ensure that all people have equal access to information, treatment and care.
The Alliance is fully committed to ensuring human rights protections are at the heart of all our programmes to enable people to protect themselves from HIV infection and people living with HIV to live healthy and fulfilling lives.'
It's a step in the right direction but also points to the urgent need for global action