Global Commission finds bad laws, human rights abuses, impede progress on HIV/AIDS

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A sign reading "Know your HIV status", promoting HIV testing in Livingstone, Zambia

An epidemic of bad laws and human rights abuses is hampering the global response to HIV/AIDS.

That finding comes from The Global Commission on HIV and the Law, an independent group consisting of former heads of state and legal, human rights and HIV experts.

It says while millions of dollars have been invested over the past 30 years to expand lifesaving HIV prevention and treatment, many countries have enacted and enforced laws which undermine this.

The commission released its report on Monday, and is also holding an interactive dialogue at the United Nations. Participants include Michel Sidibé, head of the Joint UN Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS).

"Evidence is showing clearly that if you just criminalize and you don't give space to people who are most at risk to have access to information and to have access to services, the epidemic will move from the concentrated to the general population. Ukraine is one good example. It was completely confined to the most at-risk population, but because we didn't take necessary measures in those days, it moved from the concentrated population to the general population. More than 20 per cent of the new infections are heterosexual today, where we knew that it was people who were injecting drugs."

The commission recommends that governments follow the leadership of countries which have enacted laws that help advance effective responses to HIV.

As examples, it cited countries that do not criminalize same-sex sexual activity and which treat injecting drug users as patients, not criminals.

Duration: 41″

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