To its shame, Canada is one of the world leaders in the unjust prosecution of people living with HIV, with more than 180 people charged. In Canada, people living with HIV have faced charges of aggravated sexual assault, even in cases where no transmission occurs, or the risks of transmission are virtually zero. But this is an international epidemic of stigma and discrimination: according to the HIV Justice Network, an estimated 72 countries have laws specifically related to the criminalization of HIV.
For many years, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network has been resisting the overly broad criminalization of HIV in Canada — but now we are taking the campaign global.
In April 2016, senior policy analyst Cécile Kazatchkine travelled to Brighton, England, joining representatives from six other leading international HIV organizations, to launch HIV Justice Worldwide. This exciting initiative aims to pool the experiences and expertise of its members, capitalize on advocacy successes, and take urgent action against emerging laws, all building towards a global movement to end the unjust criminalization of HIV. With support from the Robert Carr Fund for civil society networks, and led primarily by people living with HIV, the consortium’s goal is to build the capacities of those most affected to oppose criminal laws designed to regulate, control and punish people living with HIV on the basis of their HIV status.
This week, HIV Justice Worldwide released Advancing HIV Justice 2, which provides a global overview of HIV criminalization, explains how to target advocacy efforts to particular audiences and identifies key developments by country.
In the report, Canadian civil society is cited for several important projects that have shaped the development of global advocacy efforts against the criminalization of HIV, including the Legal Network’s 2015 documentary film, Consent: HIV non-disclosure and sexual assault law, and AIDS Action Now’s Think Twice campaign.
Following on the release of this report, HIV Justice Worldwide and its members will feature its message prominently at key upcoming conferences. In July, the consortium will host Beyond Blame: Challenging HIV Criminalization, a pre-conference for the International AIDS Conference (AIDS2016) in Durban, South Africa. (As in previous years, the Legal Network will be participating in AIDS2016 on a variety of fronts — watch this space for more details.)
HIV Justice Worldwide is also one of the co-sponsors of the HIV Is Not a Crime II National Training Academy in Huntsville, Alabama, from May 17–20, where the conversation about HIV criminalization will focus on a North American perspective. Also a co-sponsor, the Legal Network will be involved in a number of activities in Huntsville, including organizing a strategic meeting for the Canadian delegation, hosting a screening of Consent, and sponsoring eight Canadian delegates — mostly women — to participate in this unique dialogue that aims to unite and train advocates to resist the harmful creep of HIV criminalization.