Modernize HIV criminal laws worldwide

Modernize HIV criminal laws worldwide

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The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation started this petition to UN General Assembly and

Dear World Leaders, 

We have the power to end AIDS.

But in order to do so we must reform the laws that criminalize people for their HIV positive status. 

More than 100 countries currently have either HIV-specific criminal laws or use other criminal laws to prosecute people living with HIV. Many of these laws prosecute acts that pose little to no risk of transmission, such as biting, spitting and breastfeeding. 

These outdated discriminatory laws – created initially as misinformed public health tools and guided by a culture of fear – are based on stigma, not science. In the decades since these laws were put in place, research has proven how the virus is transmitted and how we can prevent it. The time is now for law to match modern science. Doing so will help eliminate the stigma that prevents individuals from seeking HIV testing and from taking steps necessary to prevent transmission to others.

HIV criminalization is also an issue of racial discrimination.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic disproportionately affects racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual minorities. In many UN member nations, including the U.S., legal systems are unequally enforced on these minorities, as well as migrants. At present, rather than updating or removing laws and overcoming stigmas, our countries are furthering marginalization.

These laws are especially dangerous for women. 

Throughout the world, pregnant women are often the first in their family to learn their HIV diagnoses because of routine prenatal care. Due to power inequality within the household, economic dependency and high levels of gender-based violence, it may be dangerous, even deadly, for women to share their HIV status. HIV criminalization provides abusers with one more tool of coercion: the threat of prosecution for alleged non-disclosure. And the burden of proof typically lies on the defendant. Transgender women and sex workers are especially vulnerable to these laws, which are used to target, harass and further marginalize them. 

This week, as the world marks 40 years since the first reported case of AIDS, the UN General Assembly will hold a high-level meeting to decide on the future direction of the global response to HIV/AIDS. We, the undersigned, urge you to act decisively to modernize HIV criminalization in the United States and in the 100+ countries that still prosecute people living with HIV. 

We can end AIDS. But only if we end HIV criminalization first.

To learn more and get involved, visit ETAF.org 

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