Initiating Policy & Law Reform

Targeting lawmakers

Politicians are the key to law reform as they are charged with making laws. This section includes resources outlining different mechanisms to engage with politicians, arguing for appropriate legislation to support a strong HIV response.

UNAIDS Handbook for Legislators on HIV/AIDS, Law and Human Rights

Aims to assist parliamentarians and other elected officials to undertake appropriate law reform and develop effective legislation to fight against AIDS. Provides examples of best legislative and regulatory practices from around the world. (This resource contains content that is broader than HIV criminalisation.)

Alternative links
French / Français

Effective Laws to End HIV and AIDS: Next Steps for Parliaments

Informs parliamentarians about the types of laws that are helpful and unhelpful in the AIDS response. Gives examples of legislation from around the world that has been effective in limiting the spread of HIV, and draws lessons from the experiences of parliamentarians involved. (This resource contains content that is broader than HIV criminalisation.)

Alternative links
French / Français,

Chapter 13, A controversial issue: HIV transmission/exposure offences, Taking Action Against HIV and AIDS: A Handbook for parliamentarians

Serves as a call to action for parliamentary leadership and a reference guide for legislators and legislative staff. Contains information and guidance on issues specific to the AIDS response. (This resource contains content that is broader than HIV criminalisation.)

The Positive Justice Project Steering Committee Voices Strong Opposition to Alabama Bill that Increases Penalties for Transmission of or Exposure to STIs

Letter to Alabama legislators about proposed laws to increase punishment for people convicted of exposure to or transmission of a sexually transmissible infection.

Missouri House Committee Holds Hearing on Bill which Criminalizes People Living with HIV

Testimony to Missouri House Committee on Civil and Criminal Proceedings that saw a bill defeated criminalizing individuals knowingly infected with HIV who spit at another person.

Best Practices Guide to Reform HIV-Specific Criminal Laws to Align with Scientifically-Supported Factors

Provides technical assistance to states wanting to re-examine HIV-specific criminal laws to ensure that existing policies “do not place unique or additional burdens on individuals living with HIV/AIDS” and that policies “reflect contemporary understanding of HIV transmission routes and associated benefits of treatment.”

Reform of Offences Against the Person

Recommends replacing the outdated Offences Against the Person Act 1861 with a modified version of a 1998 draft Bill. Includes a detailed discussion of submissions by 35 concerned stakeholders (at chapter six: ‘transmission of disease’) .

‘The intention may not be cruel… but the impact may be’: understanding legislators’ motives and wider public attitudes to a draft HIV Bill in Malawi

Participatory Action Research undertaken during consideration of new HIV criminalisation laws in Malawi in 2010/11 indicated the proposed bill manifests a tension between intention and impact. By incorporating criminal sanctions as part of the proposed HIV bill, the lawmakers actively seek to use stigma to shape social attitudes and attempt to guide normative behaviour.

Comments to Uganda’s Parliamentary Committee on HIV/AIDS and Related Matters about the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Bill

Argues that a draft HIV bill (2009) including a provision criminalising HIV transmission, contravenes the right to equal protection and non-discrimination under Uganda’s constitution and Uganda’s obligations under international human rights law. Furthermore, these provisions will prove counterproductive to reducing the burden of the HIV epidemic in the country.

Open civil society letter to the participants of the “Capacity building workshop on human rights and gender in HIV legal frameworks”

Raises serious human rights concerns about the N’Djamena “model law” and the national HIV laws that have followed it. Urges development of guidance on how countries should use legislation to respond to HIV.

South African Law Commission Report on Criminalisation of HIV Transmission

Presents findings from an enquiry undertaken at the request of the Parliamentary Justice Portfolio Committee following public pressure for ‘appropriate action’ regarding deliberate or knowing transmission of HIV infection. The report concludes that statutory intervention (HIV specific law) is neither necessary nor desirable.

The East African Legislative Assembly passes the EAC HIV & AIDS Prevention and Management Bill

April 2012 passing of the HIV & AIDS Prevention bill by the East African Legislative Assembly (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi). The bill offers a constructive alternative to the N’Djamena Model Laws promoting HIV criminalisation. The Bill followed strong actions by civil society including numerous stakeholder meetings of civil society and politicians.

ARASA and SADC PF Human and Social Development and Special Programmes Regional Standing Committee Meeting on criminalisation of HIV exposure and transmission

Outlines the ARASA and SADC Parliamentary Forum, where parliamentarians from 11 African countries heard expert presentations and discussed HIV criminalisation.

Motion on Criminalisation of HIV Transmission, Exposure and Non-Disclosure in SADC Member States

Expresses concern that HIV-specific laws harm prevention efforts and care and infringe on human rights. Reaffirms States human rights obligations and calls on SADC Member States to rescind punitive HIV laws.

Assessment of Legal, Regulatory & Policy Environment for HIV and AIDS in Malawi

Designed to help governments and civil society review laws and policies based on human rights, and increase capacity to achieve enabling legal environments. Includes recommendations on criminalisation at pages 120-122.

Situation Analysis of Legal and Regulatory Aspects of HIV and AIDS in Seychelles

Designed to help governments and civil society review laws and policies based on human rights, and increase capacity to achieve enabling legal environments. Includes recommendations on criminalisation at p.88.

Legal Reforms, Social Change: HIV/AIDS, Human Rights and National Development in Jamaica

Designed to help governments and civil society review laws and policies based on human rights, and increase capacity to achieve enabling legal environments. Includes recommendations on criminalisation at p.73.

Submission to the Parliamentary Joint Ad Hoc Committee on Socio-economic Development

Prepared by the National Working Group on the Sexual Offences Bill (18 organisations), the submission argues against creation of an offence of ‘criminal exposure of another to HIV’

Expert consensus statement on the science of HIV in the context of criminal law

Twenty scientists from regions across the world developed this Expert Consensus Statement to address the use of HIV science by the criminal justice system. Description of the possibility of HIV transmission was limited to acts most often at issue in criminal cases. The authors recommend that caution be exercised when considering prosecution, and encourage governments and those working in legal and judicial systems to pay close attention to the significant advances in HIV science that have occurred over the last three decades to ensure current scientific knowledge informs application of the law in cases related to HIV.

Alternative links
Expertní prohlášení k vědeckým poznatkům o HIV v kontextu trestního práva ,

Disability Law and HIV Criminalization

Over thirty states maintain criminal laws that expressly target people living with HIV. Thousands of people are prosecuted under these statutes, exposing them to decades of incarceration, thousands of dollars in fines, and state-sanctioned stigma. This broad pattern of discrimination based solely on HIV status is not supported by scientific evidence nor public-health rationales. This Note argues that many states’ HIV-specific criminal laws violate the Americans with Disabilities Act’s ban on discrimination by public entities.

Mitigating criminalisation of HIV transmission: England & Wales

Many countries across Europe have seen prosecutions of people with HIV for transmission, exposure or even just perceived exposure of HIV. Laws and responses have varied. This case study looks at approaches taken by people in England & Wales in response to what they saw as the inappropriate use of criminal law to prosecute people with HIV for transmission-related “crimes”.