[Dear subscribers, please find two more contributions to the continuing UNDP-run e-discussion on taking recommendations of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law forward.] 

Opportunities and strategies to address challenges and to further advance the recommendations of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law

[Facilitator’s note: Please find two contributions, received with thanks from Ninoslav Mladenovic, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Erick Ngoie, UNDP Democratic Republic of Congo, to phase 2 of the e-discussion on “The Global Commission on HIV and the Law – Taking the Commission’s Recommendations Forward”. We welcome your contributions which can be posted online here, or alternatively via email to Kindly note that the discussion platform is publicly accessible. This e-discussion is organized by UNDP’s HIV, Health and Development-Net and the Network for UNDP’s Partnership with the Global Fund, and cross-posted on the UN Human Rights Policy Network – HuriTALK, DGP-Net, Gender-Net, the Asia Pacific Community of Practice on HIV, Gender and Human Rights (HIV-APCoP), the joint United Nations Initiative on Mobility and HIV/AIDS in South East Asia (JUNIMA), the UNICEF HIV/AIDS Community of Practice, the Interagency Task Team HIV and Young People Community of Practice and the Global Commission on HIV and the Law mailing list. Thank you.]

Ninoslav Mladenovic, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:

I. Concrete strategies and opportunities through which UN agencies, governments, civil society organizations, and other national and international development actors can collaborate to address challenges to further advance the Commission’s recommendations as well as rights-based responses to HIV and health more broadly:

1. Call for voluntary and confidential testing to promote testing by individuals or couples who may have reason to suspect their infection; 

2. Ensure that nationwide standards of up-to-date scientific evidence are used appropriately in criminal cases, including the impact of ART on infectiousness and life-expectancy;

3. Educate the population at large to dismantle stigma in relation to HIV and ensure that there truly is an equitable concept of shared responsibility;

4. Adopt clear prosecutorial and police guidelines for appropriate criminal intervention in cases of HIV transmission;

5. Use evidence-informed public health interventions rather than criminal law, and adopt evidence-informed, human rights-based public health interventions rather than using criminal law sanction;

6. Use general criminal law rather than HIV-specific statutes to deal with truly blameworthy cases of HIV transmission that causes actual harm;

7. Ensure that scientific and factual elements meet requirement of proof of causation beyond a reasonable doubt in prosecuting HIV transmission;

8. Accurately inform law enforcement officials, prosecutors and the judiciary of the appropriate legal limits to criminalization.

II. Experiences and strategies in Western Balkans countries:

There have not been any criminal proceedings in the Republic of Croatia regarding transmission of HIV. At the end of 2004, a question of the criminal liability of a man who allegedly infected two women through voluntary, but unprotected sexual relations appeared in the media. These articles, however, did not lead to institution of criminal proceedings. The Croatian CC does not speak of a specific criminal offense of transmitting HIV, nor is  ransmission of HIV specified as qualifying circumstances in a criminal offense. Transmission of HIV may occur through sexual relations, but also in other manners (e.g. the sharing of needles between drug users, transfusion of infected blood, or transplantation of an infected organ, etc.) Regarding the manner of transmission, the transmission of HIV may fall into different categories of criminal offense. If HIV was transmitted through sexual relations or an equivalent sexual act or in any other way (e.g. drug users sharing a needle), it could be regarded as the criminal offense of transmitting a sexually transmitted disease (Art 239 CC). If transmission occurs via infected blood or organs, it could be regarded as the criminal offense of transmitting an infectious disease (Art 238 CC).

The national legal framework provides for, de jure and de facto, criminalization of HIV transmission, which only reduces the level of access to prevention services, increases the fear and stigma and leaves space for selective application and possible misuse of the Criminal Code (CC), particularly with reference to members of vulnerable groups. Therefore, experts recommend the relevant provisions of the CC to be applied with due diligence in order to avoid possible violations of the rights of the PLHIV. In addition, legal elements for determining the guilt should be clearly limited to exceptional cases only, when individuals have purposely transmitted an infectious disease by practicing dangerous behavior. Instead of applying criminal sanctions to prevent HIV transmission, experts recommend programmes that have proven to reduce HIV transmission to be extended and, at the same time, to protect the rights of both PLHIV and HIV negative individuals.

The Criminal Code of 2005, in addition to retaining the transmission of contagious diseases in general as a criminal offense (Article 249), also introduced the transmission of HIV as a punishable offense into national legislation for the first time. The legislators introduced harsh prison sentences (from one to five years) for transmission of infection to another person (Article 250, paragraphs 2 and 3). In addition, putting somebody at risk of contracting HIV is punishable by a prison sentence of up to two years, even if no transmission of the virus occurred (paragraph 1), as well as transmission of HIV by negligent behavior (paragraph 5). The legislators provided no clarification regarding the type or level of negligence or failure to act that is punishable. The harshest sentences are applied in cases when the transmission of HIV results in the death of the infected person (paragraph 4).

It is evident that the intention of the legislators was to deploy harsh sentences to prevent the spread of HIV, emphasizing the responsibility of the virus carrier for spreading of the infection. It is not clear whether the criminal responsibility of an HIV infected person should be the same in cases of a minor negligence (e.g. injury at work) and in cases of deliberate endangerment of other persons at risk of contracting the infection, which could be open to different interpretations, especially if we bear in mind the specific characteristics of HIV as infection (three established ways of transmission and a theoretical possibility of transmission through other types of contact, e.g. a kiss). There is no recorded court practice in Serbia that could indicate how the courts might interpret and apply these provisions. Theoretically, these provisions open the possibility of criminal procedures that could not be justified from an ethical point of view (e.g. if a person did not know they were HIV positive, or if he/she had done everything to protect the partner). So far there has been only one court case based on these

In terms of protection of human rights and the dignity of all citizens, it is necessary to revise the attitude towards criminalization of HIV transmission and to strengthen programmes of positive prevention, which reduce communication of disease. It is necessary to consolidate provisions of the Criminal Codes in Western Balkans countries, which regulate transmission of HIV infection in order to enable integration of public health protection and respect of human rights.

Ninoslav Mladenovic, LL.B., J.D., LL.M.

President - Health, Eduction, and Research Association (H.E.R.A) / Member of IPPF European Network
Member - European AIDS Treatment Group (EATG)
Member - European Commission on Sexual Orientation Law (ECSOL)
Independent consultant - UNDP Regional Office for Europe and CIS 


Erick Ngoie, UNDP Democratic Republic of Congo:

[Note: For a  translation of this contribution please click on the respective discussion question and select the language of your choice from the Google Translate button on top of the discussion platform (no log-in is required).

Quels exemples pouvez-vous citer de partenariats innovants ou non traditionnels à utiliser stratégiquement pour faire avancer des réponses au VIH axées sur les droits de l’homme ainsi que pour faire face aux défis identifiés lors de la première phase de la discussion ?

Comment forger de tels partenariats et utiliser efficacement les avantages comparatifs de différentes organisations afin d’appuyer la mise en œuvre des recommandations de la commission ?

Le cadre juridique et le système de santé en RDC ne facilitent pas l’accès aux soins et traitement pour les PVVIH et les populations clés. Les professionnels de sexe donnent peu d’importance à combattre le VIH que de faire le commerce de sexe. Ce comportement peut se justifier par le fait de la discrimination, de la stigmatisation et de l’absence d’une politique claire en matière de la prise en charge et prévention pour ces groupes cibles. Très peu d’initiatives ciblent ces populations clés dans le pays. Maintenant que le Pays révise la stratégie de lutte contre le sida en vue de l’élaboration de la nouvelle stratégie 2014-2018 ; ceci est une opportunité pour intégrer dans la nouvelle stratégie les orientations claires qui intègre les questions de genre, des violences sexuelles, des populations clés et la lutte contre le VIH dans le contexte d’instabilité politique, les guerres et situation humanitaire précaire. Ce processus va aboutir à l’élaboration d’une note conceptuelle à adresser au Fonds Mondial d’ici octobre 2013 pour les 130 millions de dollars américains pour les 3 prochaines années à la lutte contre le sida.

Le PNUD RDC appui le processus avec une consultante thématique chargée de l’atténuation de l’impact du VIH qui évalue les aspects liés au genre, aux droits humains, à la stigmatisation et à la discrimination. La consultante s’est basée aux résultats l’enquête INDEX STGMA réalisée avec l’appui du PNUD en novembre 2012. Pour enrichir les analyses sur ces questions, avec l’appui du PNUD, un consultant international vient de finir la revue du cadre juridique congolais sur le VIH et sida. Ce document riche d’informations va être validé à l’atelier de Kinshasa du 29 au 30 juillet avec la partie nationale. Ces outils permettront aussi à alimenter le dialogue national sur les lois et VIH qui se tiendra à Kinshasa d’ici octobre de cette année.

Dans le contexte d’un cadre du développement en pleine évolution, quels sont les défis et opportunités qui se présentent pour rester attentifs aux approches axées sur les droits de l’homme en matière de VIH et de santé ?

La RDC se prépare à tenir le dialogue national sur les lois et le VIH avec l'appui du PNUD au travers un projet du Réseau Congolais des Organisations des Personnes vivant avec le VIH « UCOP+ » d'ici octobre 2013. Le pilotage des activités de ce projet se fera conjointement entre les organisations de la société civile, le Ministère de la justice et Droits Humains, le Programme National Multisectoriel de lutte contre le sida, le PNUD et l'ONUSIDA. Ces mêmes organisations constituent les membres du comité de pilotage du dialogue national sur les lois et le VIH.

Cette façon de travailler permet de réduire la stigmatisation contre les PVVIH et de donner la voix aux représentants des groupes vulnérables. Dans le cadre de ce programme, les résultats ci-après sont attendus d'ici fin octobre : 276 hommes et femmes professionnels des OSC, agents et fonctionnaires du ministère de la justice et droits humains ainsi que de la police judiciaire seront formés ; Une proposition de révision de la loi en ses articles 41 et 45 punitives sera validée et déposée au parlement ; les propositions de texte des mesures d'application de la loi pour les secteurs de la justice et santé seront adoptées et déposées aux ministères concernés ; un dialogue national de 80 participants (société civile et décideurs) sera organisé où les participants vont échanger et dégager des recommandations claires avec des actions futures en vue d'améliorer l'environnement juridique et accélérer ainsi l'accès équitable aux soins, traitement et soutien aux populations qui en ont besoin. 

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