Punitive laws and human rights abuses are costing lives, wasting money and stifling the global AIDS response, according to a new report – HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights and Health – by the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, an independent body of global leaders and experts.

The commission, supported by the United Nations Development Programme on behalf of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, found that punitive laws and discriminatory practices in many countries are undermining progress against HIV.

The report cites the fact that 78 countries criminalise same-sex sexual activity, that Iran and Yemen impose the death penalty for sexual acts between men and that Jamaica and Malaysia punish homosexual acts with lengthy imprisonment. These laws make it difficult to prevent HIV amongst those most vulnerable to infection, says the commission.

A host of other laws that hinder the battle against HIV/Aids are slammed in the report. These include banning the provision of clean needles to injecting drug users, criminalising the transmission of HIV and outlawing sex work.

Laws and customs that disempower women and girls, undermining their ability to negotiate safe sex and to protect themselves from HIV infection, are also highlighted.

Excessive intellectual property protections that hinder the production of low-cost medicines, especially second-generation treatments, are further criticised in the report.

“Governments across the world have a responsibility to take bold action and repeal laws that stem from ignorance and intolerance,” said Maurice Tomlinson, a Jamaican lawyer and legal advisor for AIDS-Free World.

“In Jamaica, where HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men is among the highest in the world, anti-sodomy law breeds fear and violence and drives these men away from the care and treatment they need,” he said.

The report notes that laws based on public health evidence and human rights instead of outdated prejudices can transform the global HIV response.

“Too many countries waste vital resources by enforcing archaic laws that ignore science and perpetuate stigma,” said former President of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who chairs the commission.

“Now, more than ever, we have a chance to free future generations from the threat of HIV. We cannot allow injustice and intolerance to undercut this progress, especially in these tough economic times,” added Cardoso.

Get the Mamba Newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend