To End AIDS, We Need to End Punitive Laws Perpetuating the Pandemic — Global Issues

  • Idea by Suki Beavers (montreal)
  • Associated Press Service

Delegates here are clear on two things: first, the world has not yet reached the end of AIDS, second, the world can still stay on track and end AIDS as a public health crisis by 2030. , but only if leaders are bold. This includes removing the laws that are causing the pandemic.

The approaches to punitive legislation and criminalization have been a disaster for the AIDS response. They need to be abolished urgently.

When people are targeted by sanctions laws, they fear the government and many people shy away from it. And this distrust quickly spills over into the pandemic response: a government that proposes to confine a person one day will not be trusted to take them for an HIV test the next day. When people fear public shame, many try not to be seen. Too often, this means people miss out on HIV prevention, treatment, and care.

The proof is clear: punitive laws that keep people in the dark are continuing to promote HIV.

In countries where homosexuality is criminalized, the evidence is clear that the risk of HIV infection is higher, access to HIV testing is lower, and populations remain hidden.

We know that men who have sex with men living in countries where they are not criminalized are more than half as likely to get HIV as in countries where they are criminalized and the risk HIV is eight times lower than in countries with extreme forms of criminalization.

Gay men and other men who have sex with men are three times more likely to know their HIV status if they live in a country that does not criminalize homosexuality. . Estimates of population size for gay men and other men who have sex with men are also surprisingly low in the presence of such a criminal law.

Thus, laws that criminalize gender identity, HIV status, drug use and prostitution, discourage and impede people’s access to vital health services: the cost of these laws Left on the law books would include millions of lives lost and the perpetuation of the AIDS epidemic.

The laws described above that criminalize same-sex sexual behavior have also been used to target transgender people in many countries, along with laws prohibiting cross-dressing or “impersonating the opposite sex.” as well as minor offenses.

Use of these criminal laws leads to agoraphobia, discrimination, hate crimes, police abuse, torture, ill-treatment, and family and community violence. It prevents transgender people from accessing HIV prevention, treatment and care services.

In 36% of countries for which data is available, more than 10% of transgender people said they had avoided health care in the past 12 months due to stigma and discrimination. Studies show that transgender people who have experienced stigma in healthcare settings are three times more likely to evade healthcare than transgender people who are not stigmatized.

Criminalizing HIV nondisclosure, exposure, or transmission undermines effective HIV prevention, treatment, care and support because fear of prosecution discourages people from seeking testing and treatment, while preventing people living with HIV – and those most at risk of contracting HIV – from talking openly with their healthcare providers, disclosing their HIV status, or access to available treatment services.

The criminalization of drug possession for personal use drives new HIV infections. Presence of criminal law and related enforcement is associated with higher rates of needle sharing, increased HIV risk behaviors, reduced access to HIV services, and infection rates. HIV increases.

In places where prostitution is criminalized, HIV prevalence is seven times higher than in countries where it is partially legalized. In jurisdictions with favorable regulatory environment, HIV prevalence among sex workers is similar to that of the rest of the population, suggesting that participation in sex work does not pose a risk of HIV transmission. , but rather the lack of an environment that allows sex workers to protect their health and wellbeing.

Criminal law prevents sex workers from being able to screen clients, negotiate condom use, or access protection from law enforcement if they are in danger or experience physical and sexual violence. sex. Fear of discrimination or arrest can also prevent sex workers from accessing HIV services on an equal basis with others.

Studies have long shown that quitting sex work can prevent 33-46% of new HIV infections among sex workers and their partners.

Criminal law is one of the harshest tools governments use, and one of the most blunt. Punishment approaches are harmful when help is needed. They ferment stigma, fear and hatred and are causing a health disaster.

However, we have strong reasons to hope that with a strong push, punitive approaches to HIV may come to an end.

We agreed to a high-level political statement last year at the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on AIDS. One of the key commitments that countries make is to reform laws that create barriers to access to HIV services or increase stigma and discrimination, in order to end AIDS as a threat. threat to public health by 2030.

We are here to help on how to best reform the law so that they support rather than undermine the response to HIV. The Global Partnership for Action on Eliminating All Forms of HIV-Related Discrimination and Stigma, bringing together governments, civil society and the United Nations to exchange learning about effective practices .

An important lesson is that for maximum success for law reform, changes need to be shaped by the communities most affected, from inception to implementation.

We are seeing that legal reform is not only possible, but is taking place across all continents. In recent years, driven by court rulings and efforts to reform the law, punitive laws are continuing to disappear.

Last year, the National Assembly of Bhutan passed a reform that ended the criminalization of same-sex relationships, Botswana’s Court of Appeal upheld its ruling annulling same-sex relationships and Angola began implementing it. The new penal code no longer criminalizes same-sex relationships.

This year, both Belgium and Victoria, Australia abolished laws criminalizing prostitution, and Zimbabwe eliminated HIV exposure, non-disclosure and transmission.

We have proof of what works. It is no coincidence that the government of New South Wales, Australia, a jurisdiction that does not criminalize sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV status or prostitution, has recently announced it will eliminate infections New HIV by 2025.

Decoding is happening, but too slow. By 2022, of the countries reporting to UNAIDS: 14% criminalize gender expression, 36% criminalize same-sex sex, 62% criminalize HIV exposure, non-disclosure and transmission, 90% criminalize drug possession for personal use and all reported countries criminalize some aspect of prostitution.

By 2021, 70% of new HIV infections are among the groups affected by these laws. Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and Latin America have all seen an annual increase in HIV infections for several years.

In Asia and the Pacific, UNAIDS data now shows that new HIV infections are on the rise compared to the past. Without the advocacy of social support elements and especially criminal law, we will fight to reverse this trend, let alone end AIDS as a public health threat. in 2030.

We can end AIDS, but to do so we must end the punitive laws that caused the pandemic. The current.

Beaver Suki is the UNAIDS Director for Equality and Rights for All Global Practice.

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© Inter Press Service (2022) – All rights reservedOrigin: Inter Press Service

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