World AIDS Day: The Alliance warns of criminalisation of transmission of HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean

Published: November 29, 2012

The movement of linking organisations that make up the International HIV/AIDS
Alliance in Latin America and the Caribbean and their strategic partners
(REDLACTRANS and RedTraSex) want to the take the opportunity of International
AIDS Day on 1st December to draw the attention of all key actors in the region and the
world to a new trend to criminalise people living with HIV or AIDS for the transmission
of HIV.

The criminalisation of the transmission of HIV is not a new issue. However, in the last
year in Latin America and in the Caribbean parliamentary initiatives have appeared that
advocate the penalisation of non-disclosure of serological status and transmission.
Countries that have passed new laws or reformed existing ones are: Dominican
Republic, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Ecuador.

There is a considerable number of publications with evidence, good practices and
recommendations from UNAIDS on the negative and damaging effects of the
criminalisation of the transmission of HIV. In particular we know that these practices
interfere with efforts to prevent HIV and AIDS and to encourage free, confidential HIV
testing with counselling, as well as access to health services and timely treatment of
HIV and STIs. Criminalisation violates the human rights of people living with HIV and
the most vulnerable populations.

These policies and laws place the responsibility for the containment of the epidemic
exclusively in people living with HIV or populations at greatest risk of infection. And
we now know that most of the people living with HIV are unaware of their serological
status.

“There are a number of policy considerations that should be taken into account in
determining criminal law policy in relation to HIV transmission or exposure. These
considerations might mitigate against the use of criminal sanctions and highlight the
need for caution”. International Parliamentary Union (IPU), ONUSIDA and UNDP,
Taking action against HIV and AIDS: A handbook for parliamentarians, p 209.
We must highlight that little progress has been made in our countries in reducing the
criminalisation, violence, discrimination and exclusion of these populations. This is
another urgent issue on the legislative, political and programme agenda.
The foremost responsibility for containing the HIV/AIDS epidemic lays with the
governments, who must lead a multisectoral response with a suitable balance among
prevention, treatment and care efforts. And it is the responsibility of governmental
agents and the United Nations system to ensure the active participation of civil society.

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