Around the world, sex workers and people who use drugs report that police are often a major impediment to accessing health and social services. Common police practices—using condoms as evidence of prostitution, harassing drug users at needle exchange points, or confiscating medications for drug treatment—fuel the HIV epidemic by driving sex workers and drug users away from life-saving services.
Emerging partnerships between police, health experts, and community groups are beginning to prove that law enforcement and HIV-prevention programs can work together to save lives while reducing crime. When successfully implemented, these programs reduce the risk of HIV and drug overdose, and protect the health and human rights of these communities.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued guidance to help end HIV criminalization – the use of criminal law to prosecute and penalize people living with HIV for conduct that would be legal if they did not get tested or know their status. DOJ's guidance, titled "Best Practices Guide to Reform HIV-Specific Criminal Laws to Align with Scientifically-Supported Factors," provides technical assistance to ensure that HIV-related criminal laws and policies reflect contemporary medical and scientific understanding of the routes, risks, and consequences of HIV transmission.
11 JULY 2014 ¦ GENEVA - Failure to provide adequate HIV services for key groups – men who have sex with men, people in prison, people who inject drugs, sex workers and transgender people – threatens global progress on the HIV response, warns WHO.
These people are most at risk of HIV infection yet are least likely to have access to HIV prevention, testing and treatment services. In many countries they are left out of national HIV plans, and discriminatory laws and policies are major barriers to access.
The policy changes in Bangladesh and the judicial decisions in Nepal, Pakistan, and India which legally recognize a third gender will aid the fight against HIV and AIDS in Asia and the Pacific.
Transgender people and hijras have been historically disadvantaged by punitive laws, social marginalization, and extreme stigma. This stigma manifests in social rejection, abandonment by parents, violence, and inability to find employment. As a result, transgender people and hijras often resort to sex work, increasing their risk of HIV transmission. Fearing discrimination and harassment by medical professionals, they often do not seek medical services. In some countries, transgender people are up to seven times more likely than other groups to become infected with HIV.
In the lead-up to AIDS 2014, ten powerful thought-provoking films from seven countries over three days (18, 19 and 21 July 2014) will outrage Melbourne film-goers by exploring how laws and policies aimed at controlling, punishing or disempowering specific groups of people living with, or at risk of HIV, harms not only human rights, but also the broader response to the HIV epidemic.
Curated by international HIV activist Edwin Bernard, co-ordinator of the HIV Justice Network, the Outrage HIV Justice Film Festival is presented in partnership with ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image), Victorian AIDS Council and Living Positive Victoria.