Experts across the world agree that HIV criminalisation is bad for public health and violates human rights.
From the World Health Organisation (“WHO”) to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (“UNAIDS”) to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (“African Commission”), the consensus is that criminalising HIV is a barrier to the interventions that we know to be effective in preventing and treating HIV.
Yet in our communities, HIV criminalisation can be a contentious issue. High rates of impunity for sexual violence informs the way we think and feel about HIV criminalisation. The public discourse on the issue is also often grounded in fear and misconceptions about HIV and in stigma against people living with HIV. In the context of a pressing concern to prevent HIV transmission and control HIV, legislators have therefore sometimes responded by reaching for their strongest tool – the criminal law.
In this context, in which fear, anger, stigma and misinformation determine how we think and feel about HIV, it can be very difficult for legislators to lead our communities away from the criminal law and towards responses to HIV that are grounded in evidence, HIV science, dignity and human rights, including to lead difficult reforms to deal meaningfully with sexual and gender-based violence.
This is where this brief comes in. It aims to be an accessible tool for parliamentarians in the East African Community (“EAC”) to understand HIV criminalisation. It aims to equip you with the tools to address misinformation and stigma about HIV with facts, science and human rights, and to develop strategies to rationalise, modernise and improve our communities’ legal responses to HIV.