It is possible to challenge the criminalization of HIV and bring about change. Around the world advocacy groups have had success in bringing about the repeal of discriminatory laws, limiting the damage done by existing measures and have prevented the introduction of new ones.
The global trend towards prosecutions runs the risk of undermining advances in HIV prevention, increasing the vulnerability to HIV for some people and encouraging discriminatory attitudes towards people living with HIV.
Challenging the injustice of criminalization is essential if serious and long term advances in HIV prevention are to be made and human rights fulfilled.
At an international level, work is already underway to inform Government’s of the importance of reviewing their approach to criminalization. The United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Physical and Mental Health has called on Governments to:
'...immediately repeal laws criminalizing the unintentional transmission of or exposure to HIV, and to reconsider the use of specific laws criminalizing intentional transmission of HIV, as domestic laws of the majority of States already contain provisions which allow for prosecution of these exceptional cases.'
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Community responses to criminalization need to be built upon, so that Governments are made to recognize the impact that their policies have on people in their own countries. By collecting evidence on the impact of these laws, communities can develop strong and persuasive arguments that show the damage that is being done by criminalization.
Every country’s approach to criminalization is different. Yet there are still some general lessons that can be learned from other nations who have had success in challenging criminalization. Our ‘Success Stories’ and ‘What can you do’ pages provide examples of areas where progress has been made and some of the general lessons learned.
‘Build your own campaign’ gives you materials and resources that you can customize to help develop your own community response to criminalization in your country.