Tag Archives: Stigmatisation

HIV Criminalization Cases Recorded in 72 Countries, Including 49 in the Last Four Years.

By Arasa Network

hiv-aids pic

HIV criminalization continues: a global review has found that HIV-related arrests, investigations, prosecutions and convictions have ever occurred in at least 72 countries, with recent cases occurring in 49 countries, including 14 in which the law appeared to be applied for the first time.

The HIV Justice Network’s review concerns cases in which either the criminal or similar law is applied to people living with HIV based on HIV-positive status, either via HIV-specific criminal statutes (29 countries), general criminal or similar laws (37 countries), or both (6 countries). Such laws typically criminalize non-disclosure of HIV status to a sexual partner, potential or perceived exposure to HIV, or transmission of HIV.

HIV criminalization “is a pervasive illustration of how state-sponsored stigma and discrimination works against a marginalized group of people with immutable characteristics,” says HIV Justice Network. “As well as being a human rights issue of global concern, HIV criminalization is a barrier to universal access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care.”

Between October 2015 and December 2018, at least 913 people living with HIV were arrested, prosecuted, convicted or acquitted in 49 countries. The largest numbers of cases were reported in the Russian Federation (at least 314 cases), Belarus (249), United States (158), Ukraine (29), Canada (27), Zimbabwe (16), Czech Republic (15), United Kingdom (13), France (12) and Taiwan (11).

To estimate where the criminal law appears to be disproportionately applied, the researchers analyzed the number of known recent cases according to the estimated number of diagnosed people living with HIV in a country. They identified 15 criminalization hotspots: countries in which the number of cases was equal to or greater than 0.5 in 10,000 per capita of diagnosed individuals.

  • Belarus (139 in 10,000)
  • Czech Republic (55 in 10,000)
  • New Zealand (10 in 10,000)
  • Canada (4 in 10,000)
  • Sweden (4 in 10,000)
  • Russian Federation (3 in 10,000)
  • Taiwan (3 in 10,000)
  • Ukraine (2 in 10,000)
  • Australia (2 in 10,000)
  • Switzerland (2 in 10,000)
  • England and Wales (1 in 10,000)
  • Kazakhstan (1 in 10,000)
  • United States (1 in 10,000)
  • France (0.8 in 10,000)
  • Italy (0.5 in 10,000)

Their analysis suggests that recent HIV criminalization cases do not reflect the demographics of local epidemics, with the likelihood of prosecution exacerbated by discrimination against marginalized populations on the basis of drug use, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, immigration status, sex work and/or sexuality. Cases in the United States also appear to disproportionately impact people already in the purview of the criminal justice system, such as prisoners, and people living in poverty, including homeless people, with a high number of cases related to ‘HIV exposure’ via biting or spitting during arrest or whilst incarcerated.

Recent reports of increased numbers of cases in sub-Saharan Africa and in Eastern Europe and Central Asia illustrate what advocates have long-feared: that women are more likely to be prosecuted (and less likely to have adequate legal representation), since they are often the first in a relationship to know their status as a result of routine HIV testing during pregnancy, and are less likely to be able to safely disclose their HIV-positive status to their partner due to gendered power inequalities. Women with HIV also face the possibility of being prosecuted for passing HIV on to their child during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding.

In addition, migrants from high HIV prevalence regions (such as sub-Saharan Africa and eastern Europe) appear to be disproportionately prosecuted in Canada, northern and western Europe and Australasia, and usually have limited access to adequate legal representation. Non-citizens are also likely to be deported to their country of origin after serving their sentence even if they have family ties in their adopted country.

HIV-specific laws continue to exist in at least 75 countries, including many countries in sub-Saharan Africa (29 countries) and eastern Europe and Central Asia (18).

Advocacy Success

Nonetheless, during the period covered by the report, promising developments in case law, law reform and policy have occurred, most often as a direct result of advocacy from individuals and organizations working to end the inappropriate use of the criminal law to regulate and punish people living with HIV.

HIV-specific laws have been repealed in Victoria, Australia and in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter decision followed eight years of effective civil society lobbying and nurturing of supportive parliamentarians.

There have been promising developments in case law, law reform and policy, most often as a direct result of advocacy.

Laws have been modernized in seven jurisdictions. For example, Belarus’ law previously made exposure of HIV a crime, regardless of disclosure of HIV status, condom use or whether the sexual partner wanted the prosecution to take place. As a result of advocacy by the community organization People PLUS, the government announced in December 2018 that a person with HIV will no longer be held criminally liable for HIV exposure or transmission if they disclose their HIV-positive status and their partner consents.

The US state of Colorado used to hand out longer sentences to individuals convicted of sex work, solicitation of a sex work or rape, if that person had been diagnosed with HIV at the time of the offence. Following several years of researching, consulting, organising, lobbying and negotiating by a coalition of campaigners, these laws were changed in 2016. The sex work provisions were removed, while the tougher sentences for HIV-positive individuals convicted of rape were somewhat lessened.

Other jurisdictions modernizing their laws in recent years are Switzerland, Norway, California, Michigan and North Carolina.

Several proposed laws have been withdrawn. In Malawi, a proposed law was initially welcomed by feminists, but perceptions of the law’s impact changed after consultations between legal activists and grassroots networks of women living with HIV, examining the legislation in detail. As it became clear to local women how the vague provisions on ‘willful transmission’ could play out in their lives, they decided to take up advocacy against it and the parliament withdrew that part of the law.

International activists facilitated the development of Mexican network of 44 civil society organizations (La Red Mexicana), which has had several successes, including the withdrawal of proposed laws in three Mexican states and the country’s supreme court declaring a law in Veracruz to be unconstitutional. A proposed law has also been withdrawn in Brazil and a Kenyan statute ruled to be unconstitutional.

In addition, precedent-setting cases in Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Sweden and Morocco have the potential to limit the overly broad application of the law through the recognition of up-to-date HIV-related science on the real risks of transmission.


Cameron S & Bernard EJ. Advancing HIV Justice 3: Growing the global movement against HIV criminalisation. HIV Justice Network, Amsterdam, May 2019. (Report).


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By Kyenpya Katkuk Esq


As a 9 year old I had a problem with the colour of my skin because I was constantly bullied by a certain boy who was always calling me “blacky” everyday on our way back from school.  His constant name calling and taunting got me thinking there was something wrong with my skin.  Fast forward to my college year, I had a course mate who happened to be an albino. I realised she barely had friends around her and she was constantly avoided by people. Inspite of her plight, she was extremely smart, outspoken and very confident of which I admired so much.  This got me thinking about albinos whenever I’d come in contact with them, I resonate with their insecurities and the discrimination they face by virtue of their skin colour but I also can see that its no fault of theirs, and they have as much to offer to the world as every other person. These are people that are endowed with gifts, talents and abilities of which can be of great help to anybody, establishment or community.


Albinism is a genetic condition, which has been profoundly misunderstood and has led to various forms of stigma. The sad part about albinism is the constant dehumanization, physical attacks or killings due to the perception that they are magical beings and so their body parts can be used for witchcraft rituals particularly in certain parts of eastern Africa. Some persons also share beliefs that the condition can be physically transferred.


This brings me home to where it has been discovered by UNICEF that there is an estimated number of 2 million albinos living in Nigeria. With this population, Nigeria has one of the highest albinism prevalence rates in the world, with children constituting about 40% of the estimated 2 million albino’s.  Children with albinism are the most vulnerable of all children. Their situation is further compounded by the fact that they are the most susceptible to skin cancer due to their delicate skin type. Quite a number of albino children are not in school because of visual impairment, discrimination from other children and social exclusion as a result of their skin.

There is significant ignorance amongst families and communities and sometimes the rationale is that parents of children with albinism should not enrol their children because of the belief that educating such a child is a waste of resources.

Furthermore, the inability to see the classroom board from their desks leaves most of them frustrated and puts pressure on them to drop out of school. As a result, a lot of albinos do not have the full social or economic tools to live productive lives and some lack the confidence to compete favorably with others in the labor market and therefore rarely reach their full potential. Conversely, both the individual and the country suffer because the skills of an albino person are not being tapped for the greater goal.

Conclusively, there is a need to address the challenges of persons living with albinism in homes, schools and communities to create adequate awareness educate the public as to the fact that albinism is not a disability but a genetic condition and should not be a ground for discrimination. Albinism should not be undermined by governments and there should be a social welfare policy for the care of persons with albinism. Policy makers should be involved in ameliorating challenges faced by persons living with albinism.


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On the 29th day of August, 2018, the Hope Sisters Against HIV/AIDS, Stigma and Discrimination Initiative, a Women-Led Grassroot Civic Group in Makurdi, Benue State paid a Courtesy Visit to Lawyers Alert Head Office in order to identify with the LA and strengthen the existing working relationship between both Organizations.


The group was led Miss. Maria Okwoli, the Executive Director, she was received by Mr. Lazarus M. Ahangba, the Programs Manager of the Head Office. In her address, Miss. Okwoli prays LA for their assistance and support to the members of their group since the partnership started a few months ago. She said the visit was necessary owing to changes within the Organization especially at the leadership level. As a key partner and stakeholder to the Organization it becomes pertinent to formally visit and intimate the Organization of the changes that had occurred within the period. She went ahead to create the indulgence of LA to continue with the support it has always given to the group even with this new leadership that they look forward to a harmonious relationship with LA going forward.

In response, Mr. Lazarus, thanked the group for their visit and expressed delight over the group commitment to course of Women Human Rights especially those of the most vulnerable which they represent. He promised LA will continue to work and partner with the group particularly in areas of mutual interests. Furthermore, he told the group that the offer to build the capacity of its members on Monitoring/Documentation of Human Rights Violations, Gender Based Violence and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights is still open and they can liaise with the appropriate officers in charge of those areas.

In addition, R.A. Hwande Esq, mentioned the efforts of LA in providing pro bono services to vulnerable women and how they can also explore same. He went ahead to give examples of past and recent incidences LA had offered pro bono to some members of their group in conflict with the law.

After this, the meeting came to an end with a vote of thanks by Miss. Okwoli. She thanked LA for finding time to host them and look forward to a better working relationship. Shortly after this, a group photograph was taken.


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Posted by on August 31, 2018 in HIV/AIDS & HUMAN RIGHTS


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Passage of the HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Law: Matters Arising

By Jerome, Uneje Mary

Since the advent of HIV and AIDS in Nigeria in the early 90s, it is estimated that over 3 million people are either suffering from the scourge or lost their lives . 2.5 million Children have been made orphans amidst other damning statistics. People Living Positively (PLP) often suffer untold hardships, discrimination and even stigma. This discrimination takes place mostly at work places, places of worships, neighbourhoods and other social units. The media is awash with stories of employment termination, marriage refusal at worship places, forced tests been conducted on suspected persons amongst other forms of discrimination.  “HIV/AIDS related stigmatization and discrimination remain a big challenge threatening the fight against the epidemic and the achievement of Millennium Development Goals in Nigeria.

Experts and pundits alike in the HIV/AIDS sector have always claimed that the most effective and efficient measure that will address and put paid to the issue of discrimination and stigmatization of PLP in Nigeria is the passage of the HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Law. This however had been a running battle between Civil Society, PLPs versus Government Officials responsible for the passage of the law. This culminated in a Civil Society/PLP protest at the national assembly in Abuja 2013.

The signing of the HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Law by the present administration of President GoodLuck Jonathan is relevant, important and most of all commendable. This newly signed Law is committed to stopping all forms of stigma and discrimination against People Living Positively. The law also makes provision for the prevention of discrimination and also access to healthcare services. It also seeks to protect the rights and dignity of People Living with HIV and AIDS. The importance of this law cannot be overemphasized enough.


As a Pro-Human Rights Organization, we at Lawyers Alert have always been involved in the clamour for the passage of the law both at the state and the federal level. This is to enhance the protection of the rights and privileges of vulnerable persons based on their health status. We therefore, wholeheartedly support and commend the signing of the HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Law.

As commendable as this has been, a lot still needs to be done. Experience has shown that laws in Nigeria are always passed but hardly implemented neither are there adequate measures put in place for their implementation. This sad situation negates the essence of such laws. We therefore, hope that this law will not suffer the same fate given the stiff challenges faced during the struggle for its passage. In the light of the above, we therefore emphasis on the need for proper implementation of the law across the country.

There is also need for the passage of the law across all the federating state assemblies. This is necessary as some states fail to replicate or domesticate laws that have been passed at the federal level for reasons best known to them. An example of such is the public procurement act of 2007 of which only a handful states have so far domesticated.

Most of all, there is a strong need for the law and its provisions to be made available in a simple and easy to comprehend language to the people. The passage of a law is one thing and its understanding by the people is another. Both are two sides of a coin. Where a law is neither understood nor made available by and to the people, such law is bound to fail on arrival. Therefore there will be a strong need for government to make the law available to the people in a language and manner that will be most understood by them.

The media, civil society and other relevant stakeholders are hereby enjoined to contribute immensely to the widespread and assimilation of this law to the people especially at the grassroots where there is ignorance and widespread of HIV/AIDS.

In conclusion, the signing of this law is a huge contribution towards the reduction and consequent elimination of all forms of discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. We therefore, commend the government for such a noble and courageous act. We also hope that our recommendations will be adequately implemented so as to ensure that the spirit and the letter of the anti-discrimination HIV/AIDS law as signed will lead to the elimination of all forms of discrimination against people living positively.

Jerome, Uneje Mary  is  the  Program Officer, Lawyers Allert


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