July 10, 2012
"Punitive laws and human rights abuses are costing lives, wasting money, and stifling the global AIDS response," according to a report (.pdf) released Monday by the independent Global Commission on HIV and the Law, which estimated the number of new HIV infections worldwide could be halved from 2.1 million to 1.2 million annually with changes in law and public policy, BMJ reports (Roehr, 7/9). The report, "based on 18 months of extensive research and analysis, as well as first-hand accounts from more than 1,000 people in 140 countries," "finds evidence that governments in every region of the world have wasted the potential of legal systems in the fight against HIV," according to the U.N. News Centre. The commission comprises "former heads of state and leading legal, human rights and HIV experts, and [is] supported by the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) on behalf of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)," the news service notes (7/9).
The report cites harmful laws that criminalize HIV exposure or transmission and "stigmatize gays, transgendered people, migrants, prisoners, and drug users as contributing to the spread of HIV," according to Foreign Policy's "Passport" blog (Keating, 7/9). Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a member of the commission, "lamented the stance taken by [PEPFAR] that any organization receiving funds must explicitly oppose prostitution and sex trafficking," Agence France-Presse writes. The policy "doesn't make any sense. It impedes the global HIV response by preventing international health organizations from providing evidence-based services to at-risk groups," she said, according to the news agency (Sheridan, 7/9). "Global leaders, civil society groups and the United Nations must hold governments accountable to the highest standards of international law, public health and universal human rights, and advocate for policies and practices based on human rights and public health evidence," a press release from the commission states (7/9).