By Matthew Rimmer
In July 2014, Melbourne hosted the 20th International AIDS Conference. The event opened, paying tribute to the late Dutch HIV/AIDS researcher Professor Joep Lange, with his image projected onto a screen, with the accompanying quotation: ‘If we can bring a bottle of Coke to every corner of Africa, we should be able to also deliver antiretroviral drugs’.
By Dr. Mark Dybul and Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG
This week, thousands of people from all over the world will convene in Melbourne to evaluate the global response to HIV/AIDS, and to focus on discrimination. Unlike plagues of the past, which have often been equalizers, indiscriminately killing nobility and working class, young and old, this modern one kills very discriminatingly. In fact, it feeds on discrimination.
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.