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Four decades into the HIV pandemic, draconian laws stand between people and treatment

1 December 2022 — Today, people living with HIV and key populations are criminalised in some form in nearly every country in the world — putting them at increased risk of violence and restricting their access to healthcare.

UNAIDS’ recent “In Danger” report shows that 134 countries criminalise HIV transmission, non-disclosure of or exposure to HIV — at least two dozen other countries allow for prosecutions under other laws. Similarly, in nearly 40% of countries, being in a same-sex relationship is either partially (24) or completely (39) illegal.

Almost 90% of nations globally criminalise drug use in full, according to a 2021 international review.

From the 211 countries and dependencies mapped by the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP)’ Global Mapping of Sex Work Laws, 193 criminalise one or more aspect of sex work . A further 15 countries and dependent territories have a system of legalisation, where sex work has been legalised by introducing restrictive laws/regulations to control the sex industry. In these countries, many sex workers remain criminalised because of the creation of a two-tier system of legalised/regulated sex work and illegal sex work.

Criminalisation increases the risk of HIV infection among key populations, such as young women; gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM); people who use drugs and sex workers. Key populations are up to 36 times more likely to acquire HIV compared to the general population, according to 2021 UNAIDS figures.

Meanwhile, access to HIV prevention services for key populations, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), remains low or — in the case of transgender people in Africa — non-existent. Similarly, harm reduction services, or services to reduce the negative consequences of drug use, remain scarce. 

“Bad laws don’t protect people,” says the Global Network of People Living with HIV’s (GNP+) Florence Riako Anam, the programme manager for Love Alliance. The Love Alliance works to improve the health and rights of marginalised people who are most affected by HIV.

“Instead, decades of evidence show the criminalisation of people living with HIV and Key Populations makes them targets for violence — and the virus — while putting prevention, care and support out of reach,” she continues.

Criminalisation can be deadly for women and their children

Laws that criminalise HIV transmission disproportionately affect women and can increase vulnerability to gender-based violence.

“Women are more likely to be the first within their relationship to discover they have HIV, usually due to HIV testing in the antenatal setting” explains Charity T. Mkona, chairperson of the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW). “As a result, women face blame for ‘bringing HIV into the relationship’ even as these women may be experiencing violence or be unable to negotiate safe sex.” Women living with HIV experiencing violence may face physical and emotional violence, displacement and other economic impacts. Criminalisation can become one more tool of the abuser.

Worryingly we are seeing a wave of criminalisation particularly of mothers living with HIV with regards to breastfeeding despite long-standing evidence about the health benefits of breastfeeding for children and increasing scientific evidence that for people effectively utilising antiretroviral treatment, breastfeeding — or chestfeeding — poses a low risk of transmission.

Criminalisation of transmission is  counterproductive, reducing help-seeking avenues for women living with HIV who are experiencing violence,  while increasing barriers to healthcare and women’s vulnerability to power and control tactics utilised by abusive partners.

We are not criminals

At the International AIDS Conference in July, the  Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) launched the  “Not A Criminal Campaign” to decriminalise HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission; same-sex relationships; sex work and drug use. The “Not a Criminal” campaign is a partnership between GNP+, HIV Justice Network, Y+ Global, the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW), NSWP, INPUD, Global Action for Trans Equality (GATE) and Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights (MPact).

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Not A Criminal Launch

As part of the “Not A Criminal” Campaign, we demand countries replace laws that are barriers to HIV prevention and treatment with evidence-based legislation to protect our communities from criminalisation, discrimination and gender-based violence and support the creation of independent human rights institutions. Additionally, the campaign calls on United Nations agencies and donors to develop strong, coordinated, and high-profile mechanisms to monitor progress on these member states’ commitments.

“Every day, young people in all our diversity are criminalized because of our health status and sexuality, and denied our inherent rights as human beings,” Tinashe Rufurwadzo, director of programmes, management and governance at the Global Network of Young People Living with HIV (Y+ Global). “Our leaders are silent, and our national policies are ignorant and negligent of our needs.”

Scientists, United Nations bodies agree: Support us, don’t criminalise us

Decades of research show punitive legislation targeting people living with HIV and Key Populations fuels stigma, discrimination, inequality and the risk of violence.

People who are criminalised are more likely to acquire HIV because criminalisation makes them less able to access health services to prevent HIV infection. For this same reason, they are also less likely to know their HIV status, be on treatment or be virally undetectable. When people are virally undetectable, HIV treatment has lowered the level of the virus in their blood to levels so low that they can no longer transmit HIV.

But we also know that decriminalisation can be a powerful tool to empower communities and reverse inequalities. For example, decriminalising sex work could avert between a third and almost half of all new HIV infections globally among workers and their clients, found a 2014 study published in The Lancet.

Meanwhile,nearly two dozen of the world’s leading HIV scientists and major United Nations agencies like UNAIDS have already called on countries to repeal the regressive criminalisation of HIV. UNAIDS also supports the decriminalisation of drugs for personal use.

The world continues to miss global targets to end AIDS

The HIV epidemic is far from over and yet the world’s response continues to fall short. Previously, the world committed to ensuring that 90% of people living with HIV knew their status, 90% of those diagnosed were on treatment and that 90% of those on treatment were virally suppressed.

Although 81% of people knew their HIV status as of 2020, only 67% were on treatment and even less (59%) were virally suppressed. Inequalities persist among key populations and extend to children living with HIV, only about half of whom were on treatment, shows UNAIDS’ latest global report.

Yet, the world continues to witness the slow adoption of global commitments to address stigma, discrimination, criminalisation, and violence for people living with HIV, Key and vulnerable populations worldwide.

“Four decades into the HIV pandemic, the evidence is crystal clear: Countries with regressive laws have poorer HIV programme outcomes,” Anam says.. “Bad laws” continue to fuel the inequalities that prevent the world from ending the AIDS pandemic. The time to act for a more equitable future is now.”

To support our calls for decriminalisation and receive alerts about the Not a Criminal campaign, sign up for alerts from GNP+

This year, as part of the International 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, GNP+ together with partners call for an end to bad laws targeting people living with HIV and Key Populations under the theme ‘Criminalisation Equals Violence’. The commemoration is part of ‘Not A Criminal’, a global campaign to highlight the punitive laws that criminalise and cause harm to people living with HIV, sex workers, LGBTI+ people & people who use drugs. 

Nearly every country criminalises HIV transmission, same-sex relations, sex work, and/or drug use in some way. These laws push People Living with HIV and Key Populations underground and away from HIV prevention, treatment and expose them to high levels of stigma and discrimination, gender-based violence, including murder. 

The UNAIDS in Danger report shows that:

  • 134 countries have laws that criminalise people for HIV transmission, non-disclosure, or exposure. 
  • 153 countries police and criminalise those who work, use services, or benefit from sex work.
  • 70 countries criminalise same-sex relations, while 20 countries criminalise transgender people.
  • 115 countries criminalise drugs for personal use or possession of 

Women and girls living with HIV, trans and gender diverse women, women who use drugs, and sex workers living in these countries, are most at risk of heightened violence due to some or all forms of criminalisation and lack of protection from the police and governments of their countries. This violence includes forced sterilisation, rape, sexual harassment, unlawful arrests, and murder. 

As part of the ‘Not A Criminal’ campaign, we demand countries replace punitive laws with evidence-based legislation to protect our communities from criminalisation, stigma, discrimination, and gender-based violence.   

During the 16 days of activism (25 Nov – 10 Dec) we are hoping to raise awareness of the outdated punitive laws that violate people’s human rights and prevent them from leading healthy and safe lives. 

Join us to tell our governments to repeal these laws – we are not criminals. 

Use our toolkit to share campaign materials on your social media platform to raise more awareness.

Toolkit: http://bit.ly/3AEu7Ft

For thousands of young women and girls, motherhood is not a joyous occasion. This Universal Children’s Day and amid a tide of teen pregnancies fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, countries, donors and communities must recommit focus and resources for young women and girls. Communities should safeguard women and girls from harmful social practices while civil society ought to speak out against the triple threats of HIV, pregnancies and gender-based violence (GBV) among adolescent girls to ensure children reach their full potential.

At 18, Lucy Wanjiku Njenga’s life felt like it was about to begin.

“I was in the prime of my life, I had finished high school and won two beauty pageants,” says Wanjiku Njenga, who grew up in a Nairobi informal settlement. “It was such an honour because it showed me that I could do anything I put my mind to, which isn’t a message you get when you’re living in that environment.”

She continues: “I didn’t just want to survive, I wanted to do something with my life.”

Wanjiku Njenga was still dreaming of moving out and finding a job when she discovered she was pregnant.

She remembers: “My world just came crashing down.”

Within two years, she would be diagnosed with HIV and lose her infant son to AIDS-related illnesses. But in 2015, Wanjiku Njenga founded Kenya’s first network of adolescents living with HIV, Sauti Skika. Almost a decade later, she is now the founding director of Young Women Voices, a community-based organisation working to empower adolescent girls and young women living with or affected by HIV. Both Sauti Skika and Young Women Voices are members of the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+).

“Sometimes I wish I knew then that it was okay for me to walk into a facility and get contraceptives without feeling so judged,” Wanjiku Njenga says. “It’s unfortunate that even today, many young women and girls still find themselves in that exact situation: Overwhelmed and unsupported, including by health services that do not respond to their needs.”

Subhead: The time to act is now: COVID-19 led to spikes in teenage pregnancies

One adolescent girl or young woman was newly infected with HIV every two minutes in 2021, UNAIDS reports.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to disruptions to key HIV treatment and prevention services and put millions of girls out of school. For these and other reasons, the pandemic fostered spikes in teenage pregnancies and GBV, notes UNAIDS in its latest global report, appropriately entitled, “In Danger.”

In South Africa, teenage pregnancies rose by nearly 60% in some areas during COVID-19’s first year. Similarly, researchers in Uganda reported a 28% jump in pregnancies among adolescent girls early in its outbreak. Unable to buck the trend, Kenya recently launched a campaign to end what the country is calling the “triple threat:” HIV infections, adolescent pregnancies and GBV.

This triple threat risks denying young girls the opportunity to finish school, increasing vulnerabilities and inequalities. Research shows that ensuring that girls complete secondary education can slash their HIV risk by up to 50%. Combining a high school education with a right-based package of services can reduce that risk even further.

Young women and girls continue to battle user fees, stigma, lack of services

In a recent listening session with GNP+, girls spoke of the hardships of teenage pregnancies and how it was difficult for them to imagine being anyone’s mother at their age. Some girls reported pregnancies as early as 13.

In the session, young, HIV-positive women from across the continent not only recounted gaps in psycho-social support but also treatment and care.

In Nigeria, user fees at some facilities continue to prevent women and their children from accessing care. Stigma and discrimination remain prevalent, women told us, and led to delays in accessing viral load testing and services for the prevention of vertical transmission.

Young women spoke of the lack of services, particularly in rural areas, for post-exposure prophylaxis and the early infant diagnosis that could have helped save Wanjiku Njenga’s young son. Many wanted to see more peer prevention and treatment navigators at health facilities and in the community.

Subhead: Fund those closest to communities

As the world celebrates Universal Children’s Day, it must act urgently to provide young women and girls with rights-based responses that protect them from abuse and enshrine their right to comprehensive sex education, and sexual and reproductive health and rights. To enable women and girls to claim these rights, HIV programmes have to move outside of their traditional scopes of treatment literacy and support to address lived realities of poverty and hunger.

Despite regional commitments to comprehensive sex education, it remains poorly and unevenly implemented in Africa. Comprehensive sex education, both in and out of schools, has been shown to delay sexual debut, decrease the frequency of sex and number of partners among sexually-active youth and increase the use of condoms and contraception, according to a 2018 research review by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

“Countries must act urgently to enforce and strengthen laws and services, recommitting to a rights-based response,” says Maximina Jokonya, HER Voice Fund coordinator at the Global Network of Young People Living with HIV (Y+ Global). “Donors, meanwhile, must fund organisations led by communities and young people affected by HIV that are best placed to reach young women and girls with the support they need.”

To this end, GNP+ and Aidsfonds launched the End Paediatric AIDS in Children (EPIC) initiative at the 2022 International AIDS Conference to demand sustained and urgent action to realize the global pediatric HIV commitments in the Global AIDS Strategy and the 2021 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, adopted at the 2021 UN High-Level Meeting on AIDS.

Food, sanitary pads, school fees: It’s time HIV responses addressed girls’ lived realities

During COVID-19, hunger in many countries in which our networks work skyrocketed. Meanwhile, schools — sometimes a safer place than home for many girls — closed. Around the world, our member networks responded by providing food parcels or helping young girls return to school when facilities re-opened.

“COVID-19 made everything worse,” says Wanjiku Njenga, who does regular community outreach among young women in her community. During the peak of COVID-19, demand soared for food, school fees and sanitary pads, she adds. “People still have not recovered.

Traditionally, the HIV response has been focused on access to medicines. However, more recently, programmes have expanded to begin to understand and address the biological, behavioural, social and economic drivers of young women’s heightened HIV risk. Early results of interventions are both promising and complex — and may be increasingly so as new, digital health tools are incorporated in the era of COVID-19.

“At 18, pregnant and confused, I would have wished that someone had listened to what I needed — not only providing me with the information I needed but also empowering me in ways that could have allowed me to provide for myself and my child,” Wanjiku Njenga says.

“The HIV sector must renew its focus on children within the response, designing programmes that amplify their voices and meet their needs,” she concludes. “Because when children are having children, it’s systems that have failed — not girls.”

Launched at AIDS2022, the EPIC initiative joins forces to highlight the urgent need to re-commit focus, resources, and action to end AIDS in children by 2030. EPIC is just the latest way Aidsfonds and GNP+ kept children on the agenda at the world’s largest gathering of HIV activists, scientists, and donors.

Under the umbrella of the EPIC, Aidsfonds and GNP+ collaborated on the following key events on paediatric HIV advocacy at the meeting:

  • Global Village discussion – “The Promise of dolutegravir (pDTG): From Research to Clinical and Community Experiences”

The session was organised by GNP+ and Aidsfonds and focused on the experiences of transitioning children to pDTG with perspectives from the community, donors, clinicians, and programme managers. The talk centered on community voices, including parents, caregivers, and key populations. Facilitated by an implementer at SAfAIDS, the discussion was attended by Ministry of Health officials, donors, implementing partners, civil society, and women living with HIV. Together, participants identified key challenges, successes, and lessons learned from the pDTG roll-out in many African countries.

  • Launch of the Global Alliance to End AIDS in Children by 2030

UNAIDS, UNICEF, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched the new Global Alliance for Ending AIDS in Children by 2030. The Alliance also includes GNP+, Global Network of Young People Living with HIV (Y+ Global) and the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW). The trio of networks is joined by Alliance partners, including Aidsfonds, other civil society organisations, governments of affected countries, and major donors like the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria.

The Global Alliance for Ending AIDS in Children by 2030 will mobilise leadership, funding, and action around  four key pillars:

  1. Early testing and optimised comprehensive, high-quality treatment and care for infants, children and adolescents living with and exposed to HIV;
  2. Closing the treatment gap for pregnant and breastfeeding women living with HIV and optimising continuity of treatment;
  3. Preventing new HIV infections among pregnant and breastfeeding adolescents and women; and
  4. Addressing rights, gender equality, social / structural barriers that hinder access.

Twelve countries have joined the alliance in the first phase: Angola, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari, alongside UNAIDS, UNICEF and the WHO, is expected to host African heads of state to discuss the Alliance before the end of the year.

Read more about the Global Alliance here.

The Global Fund’s seventh Replenishment campaign came to a close last week, seeing an investment of US$14.25 billion in pledges from governments and private sector donors. This year the Global Fund’s seventh Replenishment made an investment case call of at least US$18 billion from donors to support low- and middle-income countries to get back on track to end AIDS, TB, and Malaria as public health threats by 2030. 

However, 20 million lives living and affected by the three diseases were dealt a blow, when the target of US$18 billion was not reached due to countries like the UK halting their pledge at a very critical stage of the pledge. Without the pledge from the UK, the replenishment is short of US$3.75 billion. As the Communities Delegation has indicated, ‘if the pledges stop at US$14 billion and the target of US$18 billion is not reached, it means only 15.5 million lives will be saved and 4.5 million lives will end prematurely.’ 

GNP+ is calling for a renewed commitment from worldwide leaders to continue saving lives. More than ever, efforts need to continue to end HIV, TB, and Malaria. People around the world continue to face the effects of inequalities, social injustice, and lack of access to health services and health promotion”, Rodrigo Olin, GNP+ Board co-chair. 

According to the Global Fund 7th Replenishment Investment Case report, ‘If we fail to step up investments in fighting HIV, TB, and Malaria, we must accept that we are effectively abandoning the 2030 goals to end these diseases as public health threats. Even worse, we risk surrendering the gains we have collectively fought so hard and invested so much to achieve, leaving people to die and entire communities behind. The economic costs of prolonging the fight against the three diseases far outweigh the additional investments needed. The cost of lives will be measured in millions.’ 

Our HIV response progress has been losing momentum, resources for HIV are decreasing and inequalities are widening. The global HIV targets were missed and the pandemic continues to grow. The Global Fund has saved 44 million lives since its creation 20 years ago, meeting the target of US$18 billion will allow it to save over 20 million lives in the upcoming  3 years”, Sbongile Nkosi, GNP+ Co-Director.

We applaud the 73 governments and private sector donors including the US, Korea, South Africa, Kenya, and many others who have headed the call and risen to the challenge, and raised their pledge to meet the 30% increase. Their efforts to get the world back on track and save millions of lives are commendable, now we call on their counterpart the UK to play their part, stand by their commitment, close the financial gap and show strong commitments to end AIDS, TB, and Malaria.

The 24th International AIDS Conference held in Montreal, Canada,  saw donors, scientists, governments, and communities reigniting their commitments to end AIDS by 2030, as the recently launched report by UNAIDS has indicated that we are In Danger, and now more than ever we need to work together as PLHIV communities and key populations to fight stigma and discrimination, criminalisation of our communities and the unfair exclusion of young people and marginalised communities from the global South in global spaces. 

At AIDS2022, as GNP+, we highlighted the work we do in stigma and discrimination, pushing for treatment access and demanding health and human rights for all, and we joined forces with our partners through our work with Love Alliance and other collaboration in showcasing the strength of communities coming together to call for an end to bad laws.

Together as networks of people living with HIV and key populations in all our diversities we hosted high-level discussions, curated and led energetic discussions and workshops at the global village, and even came together to launch a global campaign Not A Criminal to challenge the unjust criminalisation of people living with HIV, sex workers, people who use drugs, gender diverse people and same-sex relations. 

We could not have been able to have a vibrant, powerful, and energetic AIDS2022 without all of you. The moderators, speakers, and spectators made the conference a meaningful space filled with transformative and innovative conversations to take us further in the fight to end AIDS. We thank you for your time, your expertise, and your energy.

Below is a peak into GNP+ participation at AIDS2022: 

For a more detailed account of what happened at AIDS2022, check out our AIDS2022 twitter collection below:

12 August 2022 International Youth Day — Globally, almost half of countries do not involve young people in policy making or strategies related to their health, UNAIDS data shows. Today, the Global Network of Young People Living with HIV (Y+ Global) and the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) announce the creation of their Young Emerging Leaders (YEL) program, to build an elite squad of young advocates to engage and influence global policy and health governance spaces.

The work is the latest initiative from the civil society coalition, the Love Alliance.

Every day, 1,110 young people between the ages of 15 and 24, become newly infected with HIV, according to UNAIDS’ latest global AIDS update, entitled “In Danger.” In 2021, a young woman or adolescent girl contracted HIV every two minutes. AIDS-related illnesses remain a leading cause of death among young girls and women aged 15 to 29. Meanwhile, young people who are sex workers, use drugs or are transgender — as well as gay men and other men who have sex with men — also remain at high risk of infection. They also remain underserved by traditional HIV care and treatment services.

For almost four decades, young people have fought to become HIV advocates, peer educators, service providers and even researchers. They have struggled — often without resources — to ensure young people are at the centre of policies, programmes and funding to address their needs.

Still, young advocates remain poorly represented in local and international decision-making platforms. In a 16-country survey by the youth coalition Young Pact, nearly 70% still do not include young people in Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria Country Coordinating Mechanisms (CCMs) that decide funding, for example.

“Young people from key populations remain under-represented at almost all levels of decision-making spaces that impact our health and rights,” says Tinashe Rufurwadzo, Y+ Global Director of Programmes, Management and Governance. “Now more than ever, the world needs the leadership of young advocates to ethically and meaningfully engage and represent us in the policy dialogue and health governance spaces.” 

Today on International Youth Day, Y+ Global and GNP+ announce the creation of their YEL program, to strengthen the representation of young people on global platforms, such as the United Nations General Assembly, World Health Organization and the Global Fund.

The YEL program is being implemented by Y+ Global and GNP+ with initial funding from the Dutch-funded Love Alliance program. This program will collaborate with Love Alliance member organizations to create a strong team of 15 YEL advocates primarily from the Love Alliance countries: Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Burundi and Burkina Faso. A few positions will be available for advocates outside of Africa, specifically from Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, the Caribbean and Asia. The program is open to advocates 25 years and younger.

“Increasing the representation of young people within the global HIV response is challenging,” explains Love Alliance Program Officer, Aline Fantinatti. “Many young advocates struggle to gain the technical expertise and confidence to engage in important platforms meaningfully. Those that do, are often overstretched and often unrealistically expected to represent the diversity of young peoples’ voices.”

Fantinatti continues: “The YEL program aims to fill that gap deliberately and sustainably.”

YEL advocates will access specially tailored online learning modules, covering areas such as HIV treatment, funding flows and public advocacy. YEL advocates will also meet monthly in “Moments of Truth” peer-to-peer learning sessions. In these meetings, advocates will share challenges, solutions and lessons learned from their own work.

Advocates will be paired with Community Advocacy Technical Experts (CATEs) for one-on-one, hands-on coaching. Our specially selected community advocacy experts will not only provide individual coaching to participants but will work to facilitate YEL advocates’ access to national or regional meetings and other spaces.

The YEL programme’s inaugural class will run until December 2023, when they will participate in a graduation ceremony and retreat at the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA). Graduates will become coaches to the next generation of YEL advocates.

“Effective advocacy depends on strong and vibrant advocates who have the capacity, resources, support, and motivation from their communities, to show up, engage and represent,” GNP+ Programme Manager Florence Anam, said. “The YEL program will help grow an elite squad of advocates to do just that.”

For more information, contact:

Tinashe Rufurwadzo, Y+ Global Director of Programmes, Management & Governance / trufurwadzo@yplusglobal.org

Florence Anam, GNP+ Programme Manager / friakoanam@gnpplus.net

More than 134 countries still criminalise HIV transmission

International AIDS Conference, Montreal — Nearly every country criminalises HIV transmission, same-sex relationships, sex work and/or drug use in some way. These laws push HIV-affected communities underground and away from HIV prevention, treatment and care. Today, the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) launches a new campaign to repeal these laws. 

The recently launch UNAIDS ‘In Danger’ reports shows that 134 countries criminalise HIV transmission, non-disclosure of or exposure to HIV — at least two dozen other countries allow for prosecutions under other laws. Meanwhile, a 2021 international review found that almost 90% of nations globally criminalise drug use in full, while about three-quarters similarly police sex work.  In nearly 40% of countries, being in a same-sex relationship is either partially (24) or completely (39) illegal.

“All over the world, punitive laws, policies and practices feed discrimination and make us vulnerable to violence – from the state and others,” says Andrew Spieldenner, executive director of MPact, Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights. “Our work, our sex, our gender, our joy and what we put in our body should not be up for others to judge, legislate or abuse.” 

Outdated and discriminatory laws against those most affected by HIV continue to fuel discrimination and a lack of access to healthcare, including HIV prevention, care and treatment services. 

“Criminalising sex workers, our clients and others who support our work creates precarious working conditions and exacerbates exploitation and our vulnerability to HIV and other poor health outcomes,” explains Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) Global Coordinator Ruth Morgan Thomas. “Stigma and discrimination that are rooted in criminal and other punitive laws create significant barriers that limit access to both health and justice.”

Research shows that about 12% fewer people living with HIV in countries that criminalized same-sex relationships, sex work or drug use knew their HIV status as of 2021. On average, these countries also had 10% fewer people who were virally suppressed. When someone living with HIV is virally suppressed, it means that antiretroviral treatment has brought the level of HIV in their blood down to levels so low that they can no longer transmit the virus.

“People who use drugs are intimately aware that criminalising people and communities always generates wider harms,” says Judy Chang, executive director of the International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD). “The global war on drugs is a war on people who use drugs and has led to mass deaths, incarceration, and social injustices that disproportionately impact Black, indigenous and people of colour and women.” 

Chang continues: “The recent US Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade and remove federal protections on the right to abortion has forced us all to envisage a world in which women seeking autonomy over their own bodies and lives are criminalised. This is our lives every day.”

“Criminalization is sometimes framed as a tool to protect women who are experiencing intimate partner violence or sexual assault. But in reality, these laws increase stigma and discrimination against women and girls living with HIV and place us at increased risk of violence,” says Charity T. Mkona Chairwoman of ICW Global. 

Today, GNP+ joins with networks representing young people, women, the LGBTI+ community, sex workers and people who use drugs to launch the “Not A Criminal Campaign” to decriminalise HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission; same-sex relationships; sex works and drug use. 

The “Not A Criminal” Campaign is a partnership between GNP+,  the HIV Justice NetworkY+ Global, the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW), the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP)INPUDGlobal Action for Trans Equality (GATE) and Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights (MPact).

As part of the “Not A Criminal” Campaign, organizations are demanding countries replace bad laws with evidence-based legislation to protect our communities from criminalization, discrimination and gender-based violence, and support the creation of independent human rights institutions. Additionally, the campaign calls on United Nations agencies and donors to develop strong, coordinated, and high-profile mechanisms to monitor progress on these member states’ commitments.

“Far from being a legitimate public health tool, criminalisation of our behaviours, choices and identities is about the enforcement of an oppressive morality through policing our bodily autonomy,” HIV Justice Network Executive Director Edwin Bernard says. “This punishment of our vulnerability also means we won’t be able to end the HIV epidemic by 2030.” 

In 2015, nations committed to ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. A promise complemented by the adoption of the Global AIDS Strategy and the 2021 UN Political Declaration on HIV.  

Yet, the world continues to witness the slow adoption of and refusal to implement global commitments to address stigma, discrimination, criminalisation, and violence for people living with and most affected by HIV worldwide.

“Every day, young people in all our diversity are criminalized because of our health status and sexuality and denied our inherent rights as human beings,” Tinashe Rufurwadzo, Y+ Global director of programmes, management & governance. “Our leaders are silent, and our national policies are ignorant and negligent of our needs.”

Erika Castellanos is the interim executive director of Global Action for Trans Equality (GATE).

She says: “Criminalization affects us all — it hurts us, it kills us, and we need to address it in a united, communities response” 

A list of countries criminalising HIV transmission, same-sex relationships, sex work and drug use can be found here.

Below is a graphic from the latest UNAIDS ‘In Danger’ report showing the numbers of countries that criminalise HIV transmission, same-sex relationships, sex work and drugs. 

Criminalisation data 2022

For media interview, please contact:

Cedric Nininahazwe, GNP+ Global Advocacy Manager / cnininahazwe@gnpplus.net  

Florence Anam, GNP+ Programme Manager / friakoanam@gnpplus.net

Lesego Tlhwale, GNP+ Communications Manager / ltlhwale@gnpplus.net

 “The fight for human rights within the HIV response doesn’t end on paper but it starts there” 

MONTREAL — HIV civil society coalition the Love Alliance launched the first HIV/AIDS Language Compendium today at a satellite session of the International AIDS Conference hosted by the Dutch and Canadian governments and attended by officials from South Africa and Burkina Faso. The compendium has been praised as a useful tool for high level United Nations negotiations and can be used for community advocacy to advance human rights commitments — particularly regarding access to healthcare and sexual and reproductive health and rights. 

A number of countries are pushing back on internationally-accepted language around rights and gender within the global HIV response, with dire consequences for political commitments, programs and funding. The HIV/AIDS Language Compendium released today provides policymakers and activists with the words to fight back. 

In June 2021, the United Nations General Assembly held its High-Level Meeting on AIDS to review progress in the HIV response and adopt the latest Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS. Although not legally binding, political declarations provide the overarching principles — and language — that guide international and national HIV responses, and donor funding. As a result, civil society uses political declarations to hold governments, international agencies and donors accountable. 

UN political declarations on HIV and AIDS have historically been adopted by consensus. Still, four countries voted against the latest declaration at the 2021 meeting. Their opposition followed unsuccessful attempts to remove language in the document affirming the rights of key populations, such as young people and people who use drugs, as well as reproductive health and sexuality. Major international HIV and other health and development agreements have historically included this language without opposition. 

Countries sought to remove mentions of “harm reduction,” or strategies to reduce negative consequences of drug use. References to “community-led” programming were also opposed during negotiations despite decades of research showing community-led responses improve HIV treatment outcomes. 

Lastly, some nations advocated that the phrase “gender parity and rights” exclude “rights.” 

“When rights are written out of high-level political commitments on HIV, this not only increases the risk that rights are written out of national strategies and implementation plans — but that they are written out of our lives,” says Cedric Nininahazwe, Global Advocacy Manager, the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+), a Love Alliance member. 

“The fight for human rights within the HIV response doesn’t end on paper — but it starts there.” 

In response, Love Alliance members GNP+ and Aidsfonds — building on their experience as co-chairs of the HLM Multi Stakeholder Taskforce — worked with the HIV Policy Lab to develop the HIV/AIDS Language Compendium. The compendium is focused on the meaning and legitimacy of language vindicating the human and sexual and reproductive health and rights of people living with HIV, key populations and others at risk of or affected by HIV. 

The compendium includes research and analysis on the authoritative use of such language in past high-level meetings, other United Nations fora and in official publications of UN agencies such as UNAIDS and WHO. Findings include past use and interpretation of language, established definitions, and scientific evidence for each of the topics. 

“Conservative opposition to a rights-based approach to HIV is mounting, and it begins with challenges to how the world speaks about rights in the context of HIV,” Florence Anam, GNP+ program manager explains. “We hope this is a tool that government officials, civil society and community leaders can use to hold nations accountable for their past commitments and a defense against efforts to reverse the tide of progress on sexual and reproductive health rights.” 

The guide has already been well-received by government officials from countries such as the Netherlands and Canada that continue to support evidence-based approaches to tackling the HIV pandemic. UNAIDS estimates that in 2020, almost 40 million people worldwide were living with HIV. 

To end AIDS as a public health threat, “we have to stand up for bodily autonomy and the freedom to love whom you love”. Liesje Schreinemacher, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, could not be more clear in her message, underlining the Netherlands’ commitment to a rights-based approach to HIV/AIDS. The growing pushback is – according to Schreinemacher – something we cannot accept, and we need to protect especially those who are criminalised because of their gender identity or HIV status. 

“Negotiated language and documents that protect the health and rights of key populations – including women and girls provide powerful leverage for civil society advocacy and government diplomacy,” said Anita Vandenbeld, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Development Cooperation of Canada. “Like minded governments and civil society can strengthen collaboration to mitigate threats posed by organized opposition — but we must work smarter within the multilateral space.” 

Vandenbeld concluded: “We will continue to work to protect language that recognizes intersecting vulnerabilities and inequalities, including sexual orientation and gender identity.” 

For media contacts: 

Florence Anam, GNP+ / friakoanam@gnpplus.net 

Marielle Hart, Aidsfonds / MHart@aidsfonds.nl 

The Love Alliance coalition includes Zimbabwe LGBTI association GALZ, the South African Network of People Who Use Drugs (SANPUD), the South African sex workers movement Sisonke, the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) and Aidsfonds. 

END. 

Next week (29 July to 2 August), the International AIDS Conference which brings people living with HIV, scientists, healthcare professionals, and policymakers together on one world stage, will resume under the theme “Re-engage and follow the science.” The hybrid conference will take place in Montreal, Canada, and virtually. 

As the three people living with HIV sister networks (GNP+, ICW Global, and Y+ Global), we will be hosting the People Living with HIV Networking Zone at the AIDS 2022 Global Village booth, which will bring you a diverse range of sessions from networks of PLHIV and allies from across the globe.

See below, scheduled sessions at the PLHIV Networking Zone (Booth #GVE081)

In addition, we have compiled focused road maps to help networks of people living with HIV identify sessions and events that might interest them and their work. 

See below the roadmaps for HIV Criminalisation sessions:

See below the roadmap for HIV Stigma & Discrimination sessions:

See below the roadmap for the Global Network of Young People Living with HIV (Y+ Global)

See below the roadmap for the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW Global)

With just under 2 weeks to go to AIDS 2022, communities are concerned about their ability to participate in-person at this year’s largest gathering on HIV and AIDS due to delays and denial of visas for travel to Montreal, Canada.

As the civil society partners on the organizing committee for the AIDS 2022 Conference, we are hearing of the many challenges that communities are facing, including the high cost and time of visa application and processing. We recognise that people from some countries are particularly affected.

As civil society partners, we have been actively responding to these concerns and have taken practical steps to advocate on behalf of our communities by identifying problems, engaging the media, facilitating information from conference attendees facing problems, troubleshooting visa processes, writing letters of support, and engaging directly with embassies. We are working with the IAS Secretariat and other partners to address some of the issues, and we can see that results are mixed, and resolution has not been as fast as we hoped. The IAS Secretariat has informed us, and we have also heard back from activists, that in the past weeks, several visa issues for community participants have been resolved but there is more work to be done.

Since late 2021, the IAS has worked with the Canadian government to facilitate better participation from communities. For example, the IAS Secretariat obtained a “special event code” with the assurance that using this code during the online visa application process would facilitate visa processing, and they are sharing an updated list of delegates requiring visas with the Canadian government weekly, accessible to all Canadian consulates worldwide. To learn more about what the IAS and Organizing Committee have been doing, access the FAQ on visas.

While we value the international conference and its role in keeping HIV high on the agenda, this is not the first time that civil society and community organizations have raised concerns about location, format, and cost. We, as civil society partners, plan to consult with communities to identify solutions, as well as meet with the IAS Secretariat post conference to consider ways to re-imagine future conferences. Ultimately, we are committed to making the AIDS Conference safe and accessible for our communities everywhere. Forty years into the epidemic, our slogan still holds true: Nothing about us, without us!

Download this statement here: CSO JOINT STATEMENT

The Global Network of Young People Living with HIV (Y+ Global) and its partners African Girl Child Development and Support Initiative, Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+), and Frontline AIDS, are concerned about multiple reports of young people being refused Canadian visas to attend and participate at the AIDS 2022 conference.

The biennial conference this year, takes place in Montreal, Canada, from 29th July – 2nd August, and will be the first in-person global gathering on AIDS since the onset of COVID-19, which has seriously impacted the HIV response. Yet, young people living with, at risk of, and most affected by HIV who have registered to attend the conference in-person, including those who have received the International AIDS Society (IAS) scholarships, have had their visa applications rejected.

One of the reasons provided includes a lack of evidence that the applicants will return to their home country after the conference. All reports that Y+ Global has received so far are from young people based in African and Latin American countries who need to complete complex, lengthy and expensive visa application processes via poorly functioning online portals, presenting special challenges for young people affected by the digital divide. A lack of visa application centers in Burundi and Malawi also means that applicants from these countries must travel to Rwanda and South Africa to submit their biometrics.

“We strongly oppose the complex hurdles that young people living with, at risk of, and most affected by HIV have to jump through to attend a conference that directly impacts our health and lives and the undue scrutiny shown in the review process. I call on the Canadian government to simplify the application process and prioritize visas for young people to ensure our meaningful engagement and leadership at AIDS 2022.” – Tinashe Rufurwadzo, Y+ Global Director of Programmes, Management, and Governance.

COVID-19 has impacted the HIV response and AIDS 2022 is a crucial moment to reshape and redouble efforts to end AIDS, particularly for young people from the African continent who are disproportionately impacted by HIV. It is imperative that they participate in the decisions affecting their health and futures.

Y+ Global and partners galvanized resources to support young people to attend the conference in person, but visa barriers are excluding them from the learning and networking opportunities that the conference offers. Whilst virtual attendance is available, this creates a two-tier system that favors representation from wealthier countries in the global north and relies on the availability and reliability of an internet connection and data access.

The IAS must actively support young activists, particularly those from middle- and low-income countries to access travel visas to enable them to attend the conference in Montreal, Canada.

“We urge that decisions on conference venues acknowledge and consider the levels of scrutiny and barriers that communities of people living with and affected by HIV continuously face in our quest to represent in our own voices and lived experiences, and ask IAS to commit to hosting a greater number of future conferences in the countries most affected by HIV.”- Florence Riako Anam, Programme Manager, Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+)

Application Deadline: July 15th, 2022

Unitaid is a global health initiative that works with partners to bring about innovations to prevent, diagnose and treat major diseases in low- and middle-income countries, with an emphasis on tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS and its deadly co-infections. Founded in 2006, the organization funds the final stages of research and development of new drugs, diagnostics and disease-prevention tools, helps produce data supporting guidelines for their use, and works to allow more affordable generic medicines to enter the marketplace in low- and middle-income countries.

The Communities Delegation to the Unitaid Board represents people living with and affected by HIV, TB and Malaria and those co-infected with HIV and HCV, at Unitaid Board and Committee level. The Communities Delegation aims to be transparent, accountable and to prepare communities at grassroots and country level to engage in Unitaid work, working to raise awareness to increase the debate about the Unitaid work areas that directly affect those living with the diseases at country level, especially in the global south.

Since 2015 the Communities Delegation reconstituted itself to serve its seat on the Unitaid Board and is hosted by GNP+ based in Cape Town, South Africa. For more information about the Delegation’s mission, vision, goals and charter, please find our Delegation Handbook here.

The Communities Delegation is currently inviting applications for membership from people living with HIV, affected by tuberculosis, malaria and those co-infected with HIV and HCV for the period 2022-2025. The Delegation would like to increase its representativity by recruiting additional members from under-represented countries and disease areas.

The Terms of Reference for the Delegation members can be found in the Delegation Handbook with a description of the selection process. Please note that Delegation membership involves regular policy analysis and input into Board processes and grant proposal reviews and that the working language is English.

Community members living with the diseases from Unitaid-implementing countries in West and Central Africa, Latin America, and Asia, as well as community experts in viral hepatitis, IP, Malaria and Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (RMNCH) are strongly encouraged to apply. We would particularly welcome applications from countries with important Unitaid investments such as Uganda, India, Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, DRC, Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Mali, Rwanda, Lesotho and Myanmar. You will find an overview of all current Unitaid projects and implementing countries here. Interested community members with the above expertise and criteria are invited to submit the Application Form via email to wvandevelde@gnpplus.net. The deadline for submissions is July 15th 2022 COB.

Application Form: CD application form 2022

Jeff Acaba, GNP+ Board member

On the occasion of commemorating the 2022 International AIDS Candlelight Memorial with theme, “Beyond Remembering, to taking Action to End AIDS”, we remember our families, friends, and colleagues who have died because of AIDS. More than 40 years since HIV has been named, we must remember, through the deaths that we have collectively experienced, that while this virus is manageable thanks to science, it still is killing more than hundreds of thousands of people each year in Asia and the Pacific (based on the 2021 Global AIDS Report). We have the tools that keep people informed of their HIV status and keeping us alive as people living with HIV, but the access gap to information, testing, and treatment vary largely. Testing coverage across different key populations in the Asia and the Pacific region remain below 60% across the board. Treatment gap ranges from 5% in Cambodia to more than 60% in Afghanistan.

One of the reasons for these gaps is the continued persecution and ostracization of key populations through laws that are punitive or that hamper key population’s and specific group’s access to HIV services: laws that continue to criminalise sex work and drug use, and laws that require parental consent even at an age wherein young people can already discern their needs. As long as these laws remain, we will not reach the targets that we have set by 2025.

This International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, let us match every remembrance with a commitment to take action – not only to address these legal and political gaps, but also to protect our gains and call on a continued investment to the responses led by key population-led organisations and civil society, that have effectively stemmed the HIV epidemic in respective communities and spaces. Our role, especially in advocacy, has never been more important and necessary, especially in a climate where our contributions are either questioned or reduced. Beyond remembering, let’s fight and take action to end AIDS!

Visit the Candlelight Memorial website for this year’s activities and events:

www.candlelightmemorial.net

Written submission by the Global Network of people living with HIV (GNP+)

An international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response should set standards that reduce inequality in and within countries.

The Global Network of people living with HIV (GNP+) 2020 survey, highlighted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the community of people living with HIV. Based on the findings of this data, we strongly recommend the INB to consider the following evidence-based statements:

The continuity of HIV prevention and treatment services must remain a priority during the response to a new pandemic.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, some of the pandemic response strategies created barriers to accessing HIV treatment, holding back HIV treatment initiation in most countries (The Global Fund, 2021). The response to a new pandemic must not come at the cost of the lives of those affected by an existing pandemic like AIDS.

Address stigma and discrimination against vulnerable populations, & end inequalities.

The Pandemic Treaty must place particular emphasis on the protection and respect of the human rights and dignity of marginalised people. Recent experience has proven the increase of gender-based violence, stigma and discrimination against people living with and affected by HIV over the course of the COVID-19 response mechanism. The international instrument must be grounded in human rights principles and guarantee the dignity of vulnerable populations.

The meaningful engagement of the community in the pandemic preparedness and response needs to be a principle, not a simple step in the process.

Building on the history of the HIV epidemic, the international instrument must set principles for meaningful engagement of communities in decision-making processes. We have lived it before, we can’t commit the same mistake, twice. Community needs to be at the centre as proved by UNAIDS (2020)

Here in Zimbabwe, I’ve seen firsthand how very difficult Tuberculosis (TB) is for children, adolescents and families, especially those living with HIV. Despite being preventable and treatable, TB remains one of the world’s deadliest infections. Each day, close to 28,000 people worldwide fall ill with this disease and over 4,000 people – including 650 children – lose their lives to it. Global efforts to combat TB have saved an estimated 66 million lives since the year 2000, but sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has reversed years of progress. For the first time in over a decade, TB deaths increased in 2020.

Why have children in particular been so neglected in the TB response? The lack of dedicated funding for pediatric TB interventions has been highlighted repeatedly as a key barrier.

Thankfully, we’re starting to see some hopeful signs. In 2018, UN Member States committed to a global target of providing TB preventive treatment to at least 30 million people, including 4 million children aged under 5 years, who are household contacts of people diagnosed with TB. The Rome Action Plan 2020 included a dedicated focus on accelerating research and development of priority TB drugs and formulations for children living with HIV. At the UN high-level meeting on HIV and AIDS in June 2021, countries committed to ensuring that 90% of people living with HIV receive TB preventive treatment by 2025.

While this progress is welcome, many challenges remain. To address TB among children and save lives, GNP+ calls urgently for the following:

  • Create awareness within communities on pediatric TB in order to generate demand for quality childhood TB services and keep national authorities accountable for delivering them
  • Make childhood TB a priority in global, regional and national agendas and investments
  • Act on commitments made by national leaders and heads of state during high-level intergovernmental forums
  • Engage policy-makers to develop sustainable approaches to prevent and tackle child and adolescent TB
  • Ensure country availability and distribution of child-friendly formulations of TB medicines
  • Speed up integration of TB prevention, diagnosis and treatment with other health services, including those for HIV
  • Improve monitoring and evaluation of the TB response and the specific outcomes for children and adolescents
  • Better investment in social and economic support systems for households living with HIV, to ensure healthy living conditions contribute towards a more productive society

GNP+ joins WHO in calling for increased investment and research innovation to end TB in children and adolescents and adoption of the most up-to-date guidelines for pediatric TB diagnosis. This is especially critical in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic that has put progress on TB at risk.

Together, we can raise our voices to demand equitable access to pediatric TB prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care. Whether in Zimbabwe or around the world, children and adolescents deserve no less.

Written by Annah Sango

At GNP+, we are working on developing our new Strategic Plan. This plan will steer us through the next crucial few years as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic and its challenges, and look towards the major milestones of the Sustainable Development Goals and scaling up our efforts to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

With so much at stake, we want to ensure that we get this right. Our aim is to make sure that GNP+ is primed to better understand, respond and secure impact on the issues that matter most to people living with HIV. We also want to use the coming years to strengthen our movement and build strong, sustainable partnerships to meet future challenges and ensure that no one is left behind in the HIV response. 

There is still so much to be done and we need your help in determining how we approach the coming strategic period. We are therefore seeking insights and feedback from valued partners across the HIV sector and beyond through a survey which you can find below. 

We would be hugely grateful if you would be able to participate and share your thoughts with us. It will take you approximately 15 mins to complete. 

Thank you for taking part. Your views are important to us and will help shape the future of GNP+.

Survey ends 1 April 2022.

Take our survey – here they are in different languages:

On this International Women’s Day, we join peers, colleagues and partners to celebrate the incredible achievements of women all over the world in ensuring access to HIV prevention and treatment, including Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) services.

The road towards a sustainable tomorrow is held by this foundation based on women’s fearless, resilient mobilising and action worldwide. As young feminist activists, we acknowledge the incredible role that the women in our diversity continue to play to promote gender justice and ensure women and girls’ rights remain on the agenda at global and national levels. Although some progress has been recorded in recent decades, an ultra-conservative robust backlash threatens bodily and sexual autonomy, decision-making power, and the dignity and safety of women, girls, and other sexual minorities. COVID-19 has exacerbated gender inequalities, imposing financial hardship, especially on women. Additionally, blind spots to the specific challenges endured by women who faced multiple forms of discrimination – such as women who inject drugs and engage in sex work, and LBQ young women – continue to reproduce gender inequalities within the HIV response, undermining efforts to end HIV / AIDS. 

Women and girls, particularly women from key-populations (female sex workers, women who use drugs and transgender women, LBQ women) continue to be marginalised and most impacted by HIV[1]. Conservative social norms and patriarchal perceptions on gender roles often disempower women and girls, preventing them from making autonomous and well-informed decisions about their sexual lives and health, putting them at higher risk of acquiring HIV. 40 years into the HIV epidemic, AIDS is still the leading cause of death of women of reproductive age[2]. Ensuring access to SRHR services is critical to promote gender equality and empower women and girls to lead healthy lives, challenge harmful power relations and open doors to opportunities.

Laws and policies also drive how people living with and affected by HIV are treated, how health systems are structured, and how government officials and health care agents engage with communities. Across the world, 64 countries still criminalise people based on their sexual orientation and 14 countries criminalise people based on gender identities; 92 countries have laws that criminalise HIV transmission, exposure or non-disclosure, and many countries with age of consent laws deny HIV prevention services to young women.

How women across different communities are affected by HIV.
How women across different communities are affected by HIV.

Most countries criminalise sex work and drug possession and/or use. These punitive laws fuel stigma and discrimination and create an unfavourable environment that makes women living with HIV, sex workers, women who use drugs, transgender, lesbian, bisexual and queer women face challenging barriers to access essential and life-saving health services for fear of judgment, eviction, getting a criminal record, incarceration, deportation, loss of rights to care for their children, and loss of inheritance rights.

Enabling legal environments and positive health outcomes.
Enabling legal environments and positive health outcomes.

Data from HIV Policy Lab show the significance of supportive legal and structural environments in realising HIV goals and targets, especially among women and girls. Evidence shows more progress in national HIV programmes in countries with clear laws promoting non-discrimination, human rights and robust gender-based violence responses. In 2021, during the UN HLM on HIV/AIDS, UN member States committed to creating such a supportive legal and structural environment to address the inequalities faced by people living with HIV, key populations and women and girls in the HIV response. By 2025, countries that adopted the HLM Political Declaration must reduce by 10% or less the proportion of:

➔ Women, girls, people living with, at risk of and affected by HIV who experience gender-based inequalities and sexual and gender-based violence

➔ Countries with restrictive legal and policy frameworks that lead to the denial or limitation of access to service

➔  People experiencing all forms of HIV-related stigma and discrimination 

Now is the time to bring these commitments that impact women and girls into action! We urge governments, donors and implementing partners to:

  1. Urge attention and efforts that result in the decriminalisation of individuals based on HIV transmission, engagement in sex work, drug use or possession, or same-sex relationships so that women and girls can enjoy their inherent rights to health, including HIV and SRHR.
  2. Resource women-led interventions, including advocacy actions that hold governments and stakeholders accountable to global commitments on gender equality.   

It is time for all of us to end biases that fuel marginalisation and inequality, hampering women’s access to HIV and SRHR services. It is the right thing to do to realise the global commitments to end AIDS by 2030.

[1] See the 2021 Global Aids Update as a PDF

[2] Read the press release We’ve got the Power

Written by: Aline Fantinatti, Florence Anam, Tambudzai Magwenzi and Bruna Martinez.

Today, March 1st is international Zero discrimination day.  GNP+ reiterates our call on countries to create a legal and structural environment that supports people living with, affected by and at risk of HIV to access HIV prevention and treatment interventions. It is the right thing to do. Especially now that data shows Data shows that supportive legal and structural environments reduce marginalization and promotes achievement of national HIV goals and targets. 

In order to realize the commitments of the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS passed by member states in 2021, policymakers must invest efforts to all efforts to address laws, policies, and practices that restrict Key populations and young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health and harm reduction services; laws that criminalise the failure to disclose HIV status; policies and practices that allow for the forcible or coercive sterilisation of women living with HIV and key populations and laws and policies that permit mandatory HIV testing of specific populations such as pregnant women and sex workers 

We urge country leadership and policymakers to embrace scientific evidence for both biomedical and social enablers. It is the science that discovered the anti-retroviral treatment 35 years ago, it is the science that found suppressed viral load reduces to zero, new HIV infections and led communities to the Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U) awareness and it is the science that shows laws that criminalise HIV are BAD LAWS. 

In case you missed it, please read the op-ed by GNP+ programme managers How possible is “Ending inequalities and ending AIDS by 2030” in harmful legal environments? The irony of commitments.

Ukraine Counts.

25 February 2022 – On the eve of our collective call to “Fight for What Counts,” the invasion of Ukraine has indeed catalysed the Global Fund partnership’s call to action.

At this week’s Preparatory Meeting for the Global Fund’s ambitious replenishment ask of 18 Billion US dollars, the Communities Delegation to the Board – speaking on behalf of the Civil Society and Communities Delegations – recognised that “Marginalised communities and populations are the first to suffer the consequences of any global pandemic and conflict. Around the world, they are our constant reminder that AIDS, TB and malaria do not go away in times of crisis.

Ukrainian people and communities are suffering and will continue to suffer the graver consequences of the ongoing invasion and bombing of Ukrainian cities and the killing of Ukrainian citizens. The immensity of this destabilisation and the huge social, political, economic and personal cost of this conflict to populations and individuals across the region is yet to be seen. The highest costs are likely to be paid by the most marginalised – in lives, in loss of homes and livelihoods, in rising illness, in lack of access to health care, food security and education, in displacement and forced migration.

All these horrific costs are being paid by people and communities. At the same time, the life-saving services provided and progress achieved over many years in Ukraine with the support of the Global Fund are disrupted and devastated. We urge all in the GF partnership to recognise that those who stayed in Ukraine’s conflict zones and those who have left will need massive support to restore services, to provide for ongoing needs and to ensure continuity of and access to essential prevention, care and treatment. 

As we actively place “communities at the center,” and in continuing global solidarity with our many friends and colleagues caught in the horror of war today, we urgently call on Global Fund to immediately and ambitiously provide support and as much protection as possible to affiliated staff in Ukraine (including CCM members and Principle Recipients), implementers (including Sub-Recipients and all other implementing partners), as well as people receiving needed services and support through Global Fund’s country and regional programs.  

To that end we collectively call for the immediate deployment of Global Fund emergency funds to serve the needs of communities and civil society organisations that are arising as a result of the crisis in Ukraine.

Everyone can do their part to advocate, speak up, contribute, commit, pray and stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine – our friends, our colleagues and our families. There are immediate needs for food and medical supplies, treatments, diagnostics, and more.

This is where the power of our Global Fund partnership can most meaningfully influence, intervene and save lives.

Our delegations deplore and condemn the actions of Russia against the sovereignty and basic human rights of the Ukrainian people. It is up to the strong solidarity and ambition of our partnership to mitigate the damage and destruction to people and programs caused by the actions of Russia.

With appropriate and immediate action, we can help to preserve the impact that the Global Fund has achieved in Ukraine – and across the broader region – over the past 20 years.

We are able, we are uniquely positioned and we are obligated to do so by our commitment to saving lives, protecting human rights and upholding humanity.