Civil Society Condemns Criminalising of HIV

8 November 2017

Civil society organisations working on HIV and human rights in Africa recently condemned the enactment of repressive laws which often include provisions that criminalise HIV transmission, non-disclosure and exposure.The organisations delivered the statement at the 61st ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights in Gambia last month. Some of these laws also often provide for compulsory HIV testing, the disclosure of HIV status, and automatic partner notification.

The director of the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (Arasa), Michaela Clayton, said these provisions are overly broad, and disregard the best available scientific evidence. They fail to pass the human rights test of necessity, proportionality and reasonableness. "Rather, they have the effect of exacerbating stigma, discrimination and prejudice against people living with HIV. These measures undermine both an effective public health response to the HIV epidemic, as well as the human rights of people living with HIV," Clayton said.

Women living with HIV face surveillance and state control regarding their reproduction, family planning, childbirth, child feeding, and child-raising choices. In many contexts, HIV criminalisation laws, policies and practices have a disproportionately punitive effect on women, as evidenced by recent cases.There are also numerous examples of the prosecutions of people living with HIV in Zimbabwe, Uganda and Nigeria, particularly women.

In patriarchal societies, it is women who already disproportionately face the burden of the HIV epidemic due to their inability to negotiate protective sexual intercourse in relationships, and are often the first to be tested for HIV.  

Read the full article online here.