Why we must act now.

Misinformation exists in relation to criminalization of HIV transmission and exposure. There is an urgent need to educate governments, key decision makers and the wider public about the damage that criminalization can do to people living with HIV and to public health and human rights.

Repealing or bringing about a change in the law can take time. The stakes are high and efforts need to cut across many different areas of society. Government ministers and officials, community groups, lawyers, police, healthcare providers, judges, professional bodies, organisations working to support people living with HIV and more, all need to be engaged to strengthen national responses to HIV criminalization. 

So why must we act now? 

To prevent new laws being passed

Having laws overturned can be a long and drawn out process. It is crucial that we work together to ensure that countries that are considering developing laws or undertaking prosecutions draw on the latest evidence and expert opinion and are discouraged from doing so. 

To fight for the repeal of existing HIV specific laws

By collecting evidence on the impact of these laws, we can develop strong and persuasive arguments that support legal reform and repeal of specific laws on HIV transmission and exposure. 

To reduce the potential for damage

Where countries have used existing laws such as assault, grievous bodily harm or murder, it is clearly not appropriate to argue for the repeal of legislation.  These laws have a place, but not as part of the response to HIV. It is essential to advocate for clear guidelines limiting the use of these laws in HIV cases, which consider human rights and public health implications, and minimise or even prevent the use of law in this way. 

To raise awareness among people living with HIV about criminalization

Many people living with HIV are not aware of these laws or their rights to legal representation. Increased efforts are needed to educate people, especially in countries where prosecutions are already taking place.  

To promote and protect the rights of people living with HIV

Educating police, health staff, lawyers, judges and the media is essential to ensure access to justice for people living with HIV. Inexperience amongst defence lawyers in particular has the potential to compromise the rights of people living with HIV to proper defence and fair trial.

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