Launch of the Expert Consensus Statement on the Science of HIV in the Context of Criminal Law
With the potential for changing the global paradigm of how HIV criminalisation is challenged in courts, the “Expert consensus statement on the science of HIV in the context of criminal law” was published in last month’s Journal of the International AIDS Society and launched at the 22nd International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam (AIDS 2018).
The Statement provides the first globally-relevant expert opinion regarding individual HIV transmission dynamics (i.e., the ‘possibility’ of transmission), long-term impact of chronic HIV infection (i.e., the ‘harm’ of HIV), and the application of phylogenetic analysis (i.e., whether or not this can be used as definitive ‘proof’ of who infected whom). Based on a detailed analysis of scientific and medical research, it describes the possibility of HIV transmission related to a specific act during sexual activity, biting or spitting as ranging from low to no possibility. It also clearly states that HIV is a chronic, manageable health condition in the context of access to treatment, and that while phylogenetic results can exonerate a defendant when the results exclude them as the source of a complainant’s HIV infection, they cannot conclusively prove that one person infected another.
HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE has advocated for this document for many years, and supported its development alongside UNAIDS, IAPAC and IAS. Read more about the evidence in the statement in a short summary and a Frequently Asked Questions document, both available here.
HIV criminalisation high on the agenda at AIDS 2018
For the first time since Edwin Cameron’s call to action at AIDS 2008 in Mexico City, HIV criminalisation was featured in a main plenary session at an International AIDS Conference.
HIV criminalisation survivor, Sero Project Assistant Director, Robert Suttle, and KELIN’s Executive Director, Allan Maleche, spoke about the issue from personal and professional perspectives during ‘Breaking barriers of inequity in the HIV response’ held on the first morning of conference, on the same plenary as Charlize Theron, Elton John and the Duke of Sussex.
In fact, a wide range of pre-conferences, abstract-driven sessions, posters and global village events ensured that AIDS 2018 was the ‘HIV criminalisation’ conference. Many of these sessions can be found summarised in this 2-page pdf.
Beyond Blame: Challenging HIV Criminalisation at AIDS 2018
HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE’s one-day symposium, Beyond Blame 2018: Challenging HIV Criminalisation took place at historic De Balie in Amsterdam just prior to AIDS 2018. Around 170 activists, advocates, judges (including Justice Edwin Cameron), lawyers, scientists (including Dr Chris Beyrer), healthcare professionals, researchers and others working to end HIV criminalisation participated in rich, nuanced discussions.
The programme, which can be downloaded here, included interactive panels, presentations and parallel sessions/workshops focusing on critical issues in the fight against HIV criminalisation around the world. The entire day was webcast live, and can now be viewed on You Tube.
The meeting was opened by Elizabeth Taylor’s grandchilden, Laela and Naomi Wilding. Laela noted that attending the previous Beyond Beyond in Durban, prior to AIDS 2016, was “a turning point” for herself personally, that their grandmother would have been “outraged” by this, and that the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation now makes HIV criminalisation “the focus of our advocacy efforts”.
Focus on Eastern Europe and Central Asia ahead of AIDS 2018
HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE’s EECA hub, the Eurasian Women’s Network on AIDS (EWNA), part of the GNP+ family, having produced a ground breaking report on HIV-related laws and prosecutions in the EECA region, found that between January 2015 and June 2017, 128 criminal cases had been prosecuted in Belarus under Article 157, the country’s overly broad HIV-specific criminal law.
The highest number of cases in the country were reported in the Gomel region where between 2012 and 2016, 38 cases were reported. However, in the first half of 2017 alone, at least 50 cases had been filed before the courts.
People PLUS, a public association representing people living with HIV in Belarus, have been building the case against criminalisation on the ground, including arranging a meeting with the Chairman of the Gomel Regional Court, in order to reduce the number of ongoing cases and to get support to further changes in legislation.
Parliamentary hearings on proposals to improve the law are expected to take place in Autumn 2018.
Third US 'HIV is Not a Crime' Training Academy includes participants from Belize, Canada, Colombia and Mexico
The third US ‘HIV Is Not a Crime’ Training Academy co-organised by two HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Steering Committee members, the SERO Project and Positive Women’s Network – USA, took place between June 3-6 at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis.
Anchored by six plenary sessions, where expert panels of people living with HIV, advocates, lawyers and parliamentarians delved into rich discussions, including the experiences of survivors of HIV criminalisation; the intersection of race and gender in criminalisation; and what legislative champions do behind the scenes to move bills. Participants also had 20 breakout sessions to choose from throughout the three days.
The Training Academy also included participation from advocates and legal experts from Belize, Canada, Colombia and Mexico, and for the first time included a plenary session on HIV criminalisation the Latin American region.
In addition, the opening, closing and plenary sessions were all streamed live on Facebook (archived here), allowing real-time international participation.
Both of these latter initiatives were supported by HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE.
Mexico Supreme Court finds Veracruz law criminalising ‘wilful transmission’ of HIV and STIs to be unconstitutional
Following a Constitutional challenge initiated in February 2016 by the Multisectoral Group on HIV / AIDS and STIs of Veracruz and the National Commission on Human Rights, and supported by HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE, Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice ruled that the amendment to Article 158 of the Penal Code of the State of Veracruz was invalid as it violates a number of fundamental rights: equality before the law; personal freedom; and non-discrimination.
New Francophone Network meets at AFRAVIH
In April 2018, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network organised a meeting of the new Francophone network of HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE at the AFRAVIH conference in Bordeaux (France).
Just a few hours before, Professor Alexandra Calmy delivered a powerful presentation on the upcoming international Expert Consensus Statement on the Science of HIV in the Context of Criminal Law at a satellite session organized by UNAIDS, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE.
Third HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Strategy Meeting takes place in Brighton
At our third HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE strategy meeting, our growing number of partners and supporters spent three days discussing ways to work closer together to further enhance the capacity of advocates to challenge and influence law-, policy- and decision-makers to prevent or stop unjust use of criminal laws against people living with HIV.
This time, due to increasing regional participation, we used streaming technology to bring partners from around the world into our seafront meeting room Brighton, and vice versa.
An asterisk* denotes HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Steering Committee member.
(L-R): Raoul Fransen (Supervisory Board, HIV Justice Network) Lisa Power (Supervisory Board, HIV Justice Network), Seth Earn (AIDS Free World*); Mianko Ramaroson (UNAIDS); Ferenc Bagyinszky (AIDS Action Europe*), Sylvie Beaumont (Research/Outreach Co-ordinator, HIV Justice Network); Kene Esom (UNDP); Nicholas Feustel (Video Advocacy Consultant, HIV Justice Network); Omar Syarif (GNP+); Sally Cameron (Senior Policy Analyst, HIV Justice Network*); Alexandra Volgina (GNP+*); Annabel Raw (SALC*); Oratile Moseki (International HIV/AIDS Alliance); Richard Elliott (Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network*); Sean Strub (Sero Project*); Cecile Kazatchkine (Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network*); Lynette Mabote (ARASA*); Michaela Clayton (ARASA*); and Edwin J Bernard (Global Co-ordinator, HIV Justice Network*).
Other participants at the meeting, but not pictured here, were: Stéphanie Claivaz-Lorager (independent consultant); Naina Khanna (Positive Women Network-USA*); Paul Kidd (Supervisory Board, HIV Justice Network), Rebecca Matheson-Omondi (International Community of Women Living with HIV*); and Svitlana Moroz (Eurasian Women’s Network on AIDS).
New Toolkit Supports Advocates in Using Media to Fight for HIV Justice
In March 2018, HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE released the latest addition to the HIV JUSTICE Toolkit, “Making Media Work for HIV Justice: An introduction to media engagement for advocates opposing HIV criminalisation.”
Produced by Positive Women’s Network-USA on behalf of HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE, the toolkit helps advocates understand the importance of engagement with media to change narratives around this unjust practice.
It also includes reporting tips for journalists, designed to educate writers and media makers around the nuances of HIV criminalisation, and the harms of inaccurate and stigmatising coverage.
In April, a 90 minute webinar hosted by PWN-USA introduced attendees to some of the concepts and practices highlighted in the toolkit, and featured formidable activists, journalists, communications professionals, and human rights defenders working at the intersection of media and HIV criminalisation.
Equipping lawyers and activists across Africa with the skills to counter HIV and TB criminalisation
Over 80 lawyers and activists from 27 African countries gathered from 20 to 23 February 2018 for a four-day training workshop aimed at equipping lawyers and activists with skills and knowledge on HIV and TB criminalisation.
The training was hosted by HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Steering Committee members, the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) and HIV Justice Network, along with Kenya Legal & Ethical Issues Network on HIV and AIDS (KELIN), Stop TB Partnership and UNAIDS, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the Africa Regional Grant on HIV: Removing Legal Barriers.
An important new resource for lawyers defending clients and working on strategic litigation, the HIV Criminalisation Defence Case Compendium was published by SALC to accompany the training.
Read more on the UNDP Africa website.
New Steering Committee Members Join HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE
“The criminalization of HIV is an insidious attack on human rights and one that dangerously undermines global efforts to combat the epidemic. We are thrilled to join the Steering Committee of HIV JUSTICE WORLWIDE and contribute to its important work combatting HIV criminalisation around the world.” Paula Donovan and Stephen Lewis, Co-Directors, AIDS-Free World
“Despite recent developments in some countries of Europe and the scientific evidence, many of our countries still have and apply HIV-specific criminalization, which needs joint advocacy efforts to address and change. That is why AIDS Action Europe is delighted and honoured to join the Steering Committee of HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE and work together via our European HIV Legal Forum project to end the unjust and harmful criminalization of our communities.” Ferenc Bagyinszky, Project Manager, AIDS Action Europe / European HIV Legal Forum
“In the last year, southern Africa has seen efforts to introduce new, overly-broad laws criminalising HIV transmission and exposure in Malawi, unjust prosecutions for HIV exposure in Zimbabwe and Malawi, and undertakings by the Zambian government to coerce HIV testing and treatment. Collective and coordinated resistance to these trends and action to ensure justice and human rights are at the forefront of the HIV response is critical. We have seen the success in our own advocacy and litigation on the rights of people living with HIV and key populations of working with strong networks of local, regional and international partners. We are honoured to join HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE as Steering Committee members to contribute to this important movement.” Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, Executive Director, Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC)
HIV criminalisation in francophone Africa highlighted at ICASA
As a side event to the ICASA conference in Côte d’Ivoire in early December, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network organised a unique meeting on HIV criminalisation in Francophone Africa on behalf of HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE.
Bringing together people living with HIV, activists, lawyers and a judge, as well as organizations representing or working with the LGBTI communities, drug users and sex workers in North, West and Central Africa, this meeting helped lay the foundations for a Francophone network against HIV criminalisation.
At the meeting, HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE also released the first-ever Regional HIV Criminalisation Report for Francophone Africa, produced by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, which found that of the 18 countries in the region, 16 HIV-specific laws criminalise HIV transmission or exposure with only the HIV-specific laws of Comoros and Mauritius containing no criminal provisions in this respect.
It also found case reports (including cases that have been discontinued or settled outside of the courts) in 11 countries – Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Togo and Tunisia.
The report, in French, also includes an English-language summary, and can be downloaded here.
An important, but modest, advance in improving the legal environment for people living with HIV in Canada
Following years of advocacy from HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE founding partner, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and their allies in the Canadian Coalition to Reform HIV Criminalisation, it was announced by Federal and Provincial ministers on World AIDS Day that the latest science relating to the prevention benefit of HIV treatment should be taken into consideration when prosecuting alleged HIV non-disclosure: an important, but modest advance.
There is a now a call for both a moratorium on all HIV-related prosecutions and a review of existing convictions and for a more radical overhaul of Canada’s framing of HIV non-disclosure as aggravated sexual assault.
Celebrating the adoption of Malawi's amended HIV Law that removes rights-infringing provisions
On Tuesday, 28 November, Malawi Members of Parliament voted to reject coercive and criminalising provisions that threatened human rights in a long-deliberated HIV (Prevention and Management) Bill.
Support from a number of HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Steering Committee members resulted in the galvanising of women activists in Malawi, who protested before Parliament against a number of rights-infringing provisions in the HIV Bill, including mandatory HIV testing and treatment for select populations on a discriminatory basis, and provisions that would have criminalised negligent, reckless and intentional HIV exposure and transmission.
You can read the press release from HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE partners (ARASA, GNP+ and SALC) celebrating this important achievement.
Mexico's first ‘HIV is Not A Crime’ meeting leads to new Network and impressive early results
In October 2017 the first Spanish-language ‘HIV Is Not A Crime’ meeting took place in Mexico City, supported by the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE coalition.
The two-day meeting brought together people living with HIV, activists, lawyers, human rights defenders, and academics from across Mexico – alongside HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE partners CNET+ (Belize), Sero Project (USA), and the HIV Justice Network – to discuss the current state of HIV criminalisation nationally, regionally and globally.
As a result of the meeting, the Mexican Network of organisations against the criminalisation of HIV was formed, bringing together 29 organizations from all over the country. During, and immediately following the meeting, the Network drafted an 11-point Declaration addressed to various governmental agencies in charge of responding to the epidemic, as well as to society in general.
With two weeks of the meeting, Network representatives met with Congresswoman Laura Beristain, who had proposed the new unjust, overly broad HIV criminal law in Quintana Roo. She listened to their arguments, read the Declaration, and immediately gave a firm commitment to repeal Quintana Roo’s problematic provisions in Article 113.
Launch of the (English-language) online HIV JUSTICE Toolkit
In October 2017, we launched the HIV Justice Toolkit, which aims to support advocates to oppose HIV criminalisation at all levels – from educating communities and lawmakers to defending individual cases.
The Toolkit is a comprehensive compendium of almost 300 documents and videos, organised under twelve main headings, each of which is broken down into further subsections. The entire Toolkit is also searchable by keyword.
Although the Toolkit is currently only available in English, where documents already exist in other languages, these are included, and a French version is due in 2018.
First-ever European Legal Environments Training Academy takes place in Berlin
In September 2017, the first European HIV Academy for Enabling Legal Environments brought together 35 advocates from 20 countries working on HIV-related law and policy reform across the WHO Europe region.
This European Legal Environments Training Academy (#ELETA) was a joint collaboration of three HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Steering Committee members AIDS Action Europe, Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP+) and HIV Justice Network plus the European AIDS Treatment Group.
Presenting our work to philanthropic funders in Washington DC at the Funders Concerned About AIDS Summit
In September, three HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE founding members – Laurel Sprague, Executive Director of the Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP+), Lynette Mabote, Regional Programmes Lead at ARASA and HIV Justice Network’s Global Co-ordinator, Edwin Bernard – presented at the Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA) Philanthropy Summit in Washington DC on the worldwide movement to end HIV criminalisation, alongside our key partner, Luisa Cabal, Special Adviser on Human Rights and Gender at UNAIDS. The session was chaired by Sergey Votyagov, Executive Director of the Robert Carr civil society Networks Fund, which funds the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE coalition.
HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE opens to new members
In June 2017, we invited organisations from around the world who share our values and principles to join the movement. As of March 2018, more than 70 organisations have joined the seven founding partners to become part of our vibrant global community of advocates fighting to abolish HIV-related criminalisation.
Johannesburg Meeting: 'From N’Djamena to SADC and EAC Model Laws and Beyond'
In April 2017, ARASA – in collaboration with other members of the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Steering Committee – convened a two-day meeting involving policy and law makers, members of the judiciary, lawyers, parliamentarians and representatives from civil society organisations from the East African, SADC regions and global North.
The meeting discussed the ways HIV criminalisation is creating an adverse impact on public health needs and outcomes for certain populations, especially women, perpetuating gender inequality, and further marginalising and stigmatising key populations. The meeting concluded that there is a need to focus on the inter-sectionalities within the HIV criminalisation discourse.
Download and read the meeting report here.
Second HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Strategy Meeting
At our second HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE strategy meeting, our growing number of partners and supporters spent three days discussing ways to work closer together to further enhance the capacity of advocates to challenge and influence law-, policy- and decision-makers to prevent or stop unjust use of criminal laws against people living with HIV.
(L-R): Nicholas Feustel (Video Advocacy Consultant, HIV Justice Network*); Sean Strub (Sero Project*); Catherine Murphy (Amnesty International); Evgenia Maron (EECA Consultant); Sylvie Beaumont (Research/Outreach Co-ordinator, HIV Justice Network*); Seth Earn (AIDS Free World*); Patrick Eba (UNAIDS); Laurel Sprague (formerly HJN’s Research Fellow on HIV, Gender and Justice, now Executive Director, GNP+*); Edwin J Bernard (Global Co-ordinator, HIV Justice Network*); Lynette Mabote (ARASA*); Richard Elliott (Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network*); Naina Khanna (PWN-USA*); Julian Hows (GNP+*); Ferenc Bagyinszky (AIDS Action Europe); and Sally Cameron (Senior Policy Analyst, HIV Justice Network*).
Other participants at the meeting, but not pictured here, were: Sophie Brion (ICW*), Lisa Power (Chair, Supervisory Board, HIV Justice Network*) and Boyan Konstantinov (UNDP).
Supporting the Veracruz legal challenge at the Mexican Supreme Court
HIV Justice Network’s Global Co-ordinator, Edwin J Bernard, and SERO’s Executive Director, Sean Strub, joined advocates in Mexico City to highlight a letter of support from HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE to a legal challenge to the HIV-specific criminal law in Veracruz undertaken by the Mexican Human Rights Commission and the Veracruz Multisectoral Group.
This was followed by a march from the Human Rights Commission’s building to the Supreme Court of Justice, where the letter was officially registered as a friend of the court submission.
(Pictured: Edwin J Bernard and Patricia Ponce, of the Veracruz Multisectoral Group presenting the letter to the Supreme Court.)
Beyond Blame @AIDS2016
The HIV Justice Network and ARASA co-organised the Beyond Blame pre-conference prior to AIDS 2016 in Durban on behalf of the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE coalition. The meeting allowed advocates from 36 countries to strategise and build power together and also placed HIV criminalisation on the main conference stage.
ARASA and the Canadian AIDS Legal Network also co-hosted the Human Rights Networking Zone in the Global Village at AIDS 2016.
Reaching a global TV/web audience on The Stream
ARASA’s Executive Director, Michaela Clayton, HIV Justice Network’s Global Co-ordinator, Edwin J Bernard, and SERO advisory board member, Ken Pinkela, reached a global audience on both TV and the internet with a 30 minute programme on The Stream, on Al Jazeera English. Anand Grover, Senior Advocate at Supreme Court of India, founder of India’s Lawyers Collective, and a former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health also appeared.
HIV Is Not a Crime Training Academy
The Sero Project and Positive Women’s Network-USA jointly organised the HIV Is Not a Crime Training Academy, designed to galvanise momentum towards intersectional approaches to ending HIV criminalisation.
Held at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, the meeting brought together more than 300 advocates from 34 US states, as well as delegations from Canada and Mexico, building new relationships and providing participants with new skills to help address HIV criminalisation locally, nationally and regionally.
Since the training academy we’ve seen tremendous advances and strategic and fierce organising led primarily by people living with HIV.
Advancing HIV Justice 2: Building momentum in global advocacy against HIV criminalisation
Our Advancing HIV Justice 2 report revealed that although HIV criminalisation is a growing, global phenomenon, advocates around the world are working hard to ensure that the criminal law’s approach to people living with HIV fits with key legal and human rights principles as well as recognising up-to-date science.
Read or download the report here.
HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Launch
In March 2016, seven civil society networks from around the globe, most of them led by people living with HIV, launched the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE coalition to coordinate a global response to the unjust use of laws against people with HIV.
HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE founding partners* and supporters at the launch of the
coalition in Brighton, March 24th 2016. Back row L-R: Rhon Reynolds (GNP+*),
Edwin J Bernard (HIV Justice Network*), Jessica Whitbread (ICW*), Boyan
Konstantinov (UNDP), Patrick Eba (UNAIDS), Sean Strub (SERO*). Front row L-R:
Julian Hows (GNP+*), Sylvie Beaumont (HIV Justice Network*), Cécile Kazatchkine
(Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network*), Naina Khanna (PWN-USA*) and Michaela