Global Commission's Report HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights and Health
In just three decades, over 30 million people have died of AIDS, and 34 million more have been infected with HIV. The HIV epidemic has become one of the greatest public health challenges of our time. It is also a crisis of law, human rights and social justice. The good news is that we now have all the evidence and tools we need to radically slow new HIV infections and stop HIVrelated deaths. Paradoxically, this comes at a time when bad laws and other political obstacles are standing in the way of success.
34 million people are living with HIV, 7,400 are newly infected daily and 1.8 million died in 2010 alone. The legal environment—laws, enforcement and justice systems—has immense potential to better the lives of HIV-positive people and to help turn the crisis around. International law and treaties that protect equality of access to health care and prohibit discrimination— including that based on health or legal status— underpin the salutary power of national laws. But nations have squandered the potential of the legal system. Worse, punitive laws, discriminatory and brutal policing and denial of access to justice for people with and at risk of acquiring HIV are fueling the epidemic. These legal practices create and punish vulnerability. They promote risky behaviour, hinder people from accessing prevention tools and treatment, and exacerbate the stigma and social inequalities that make people more vulnerable to HIV
infection and illness.
HIV-positive people—be they parents or spouses, sex workers or health workers, lovers or assailants—interact intimately with others, who in turn interact with others in ever-larger circles, from the community to the globe. From public health to national wealth, social solidarity to equality and justice, HIV affects everyone. The prevention, treatment and care of HIV—and the protection and promotion of the human rights of those who live with it—are everyone’s responsibility.
The Global Commission on HIV and the Law undertook 18 months of extensive research, consultation, analysis and deliberation. Its sources included the testimony of more than 700 people most aff ected by HIV-related legal environments from 140 countries, in addition to expert submissions and the large body of scholarship on HIV, health and the law. The Commission’s fi ndings off er cause for both distress and hope for people living with or at risk for HIV. In June 2011, 192 countries committed to reviewing legislation and creating enabling legal and social environments that support eff ective and effi cient HIV responses.
The Commission’s recommendations offer guidance to gov ernments and international bodies in shaping laws and legal practices that are science based, pragmatic, humane and just. The fi ndings and recommendations also off er advocacy tools for people living with HIV, civil society, and communities aff ected by HIV. The recommendations take into account the fact that many laws exist for purposes beyond public health, such as the maintenance of order, public safety and the regulation of trade. But they place the highest priority on creating legal environments that defend and promote internationally recognised human rights and legal norms.