NN: AIDS advocates warn against criminalizing HIV transmission

>> AFRICA: “Terrifying” new HIV/AIDS laws could undermine AIDS fight, IRIN/PlusNews (Aug. 7)
Excerpt:  In an attempt to stem the spread of the virus, African countries are increasingly passing legislation that criminalises HIV exposure and transmission. But these laws could do more harm than good, delegates attending the International AIDS Conference in Mexico, heard on Wednesday. […] Four years ago, participants from 18 countries met at a regional workshop in N’djamena, Chad, to adopt a model law on HIV/AIDS for West and Central Africa. But the law that they came up with was far from “model”, in fact Cameron described some of its provisions as “frankly terrifying”.

>> Seeking Better Laws on H.I.V., New York Times (Aug. 8)
Excerpt:  The 17th International AIDS Conference ended here on Friday with a call for the reversal of laws that criminalize and stigmatize groups at risk for H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS.  “Criminalization is a poor tool for regulating H.I.V. infection and transmission,” Edwin Cameron, a justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals in South Africa, said in a plenary session.  “Let one of the conference outcomes be a major international push-back against misguided criminal laws and prosecutions,” said Justice Cameron, who is himself infected.

>> Move to Criminalise Aids ‘Bad for Africa’, Business Day (Johannesburg) (Aug. 8)
Excerpt:  Criminalising the transmission of HIV was misguided and would undermine much of the work of the past 20 years, to try to reduce the stigma associated with the disease, he said. It would also inhibit people from getting tested, as they could not be prosecuted if they innocently passed on the virus, [Cameron] said.  These laws discriminated against women, said Anne Gathumbi of the Open Society Initiative for East Africa. She said women were usually the first partner in a heterosexual couple to learn of their HIV infection, since they had more contact with health services.

>> Uganda: Criminalising HIV Spread Won’t Help, The Monitor (Aug. 12)
In Uganda the government is soon coming up with a law that criminalises HIV transmission. The draft law holds that any person who knowingly infects another with HIV or carries out an action while knowing that such action will pass on the virus to another person, shall be guilty of a criminal offence. […] The drafters of the law on criminalisation of HIV transmission have an uphill task to come up with a law that will not become too complicated to deliver the desired results. Besides, the criminalisation of HIV spread may cause stigma by portraying people living with HIV as callous human beings who have little regard or remorse for other people’s lives.

>> Rwanda: When HIV Carriers Could Be Guilty for Transmitting the Virus, Rwanda News Agency (Aug. 21)
These new laws have arrived under the guise of protecting women – who have few legal or human rights in many African nations – notes Michaela Clayton of the AIDS & Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) – to the Mexico conference as reported by Aidsmap, but she asks, “is this what women really want?”  Clayton said that 61% of HIV-positive individuals in sub-Saharan Africa are women and that women are the often the first person in a couple to know their HIV status due to antenatal screening. […] Women, Clayton said, are then often blamed for “bringing HIV home” and consequently often feel unable to disclose their HIV status to their male partners due to a very real fear of physical harm and eviction.
In Rwanda, as some activists say, should such a law come to force, the consequences to the fight against HIV/Aids that has brought down prevalence and infection rates, will be history. “No one will ever again take an HIV/Aids test in fear of being suspected to be a PONTENTIAL CRIMINAL”, Mr. Mulisa notes.  This law, as he points out, will reverse the current measures where pre-test counseling has led to many people publicly coming out to the public to educate the others and join the campaign to fight the spread of HIV/Aids.

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~ by h.e.g. on August 26, 2008.

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