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The Global Commission on HIV and the Law: Update

Dear Colleagues,

Here is a snapshot of Commission related events during and following the International AIDS conference, which took place in Washington, DC from 22 – 27 July, 2012.

The conference, attended by nearly 24,000 participants from 183 countries, returned to the United States after a 20 year absence. This was only possible because the Obama administration decided to finally repeal the discriminatory and irrational prohibition on foreigners with HIV entering the United States. Unfortunately, other travel restrictions  that prevented thousands of sex workers and people who use drugs from attending the conference remained in force.

On the eve of the  conference, Congresswoman Barbara Lee  introduced The Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic Act of 2012  calling for: (a) increased and targeted federal resources to maximize impact of HIV efforts, (b) expanded efforts to end stigma and discrimination, (c) repeal and reform of laws that violate human rights and undermine the positive impact of resources, and (d) maximizing federal coordinating efforts to drive greater efficiency and improved results in HIV and related programmes. Also in the days leading up to the conference, Michael Kirby visited Jamaica for a judicial sensitization event where the work of the Commission was shared with Jamaican judiciary.

Positioning the launch of the Commission report just a few weeks before the conference meant that many speakers at the AIDS conference referred to the Commission’s findings and recommendations. For example, Cheryl Overs in her plenary address on sex work, discussed the Commission’s recommendations on sex work and the concluding presentation in The Lancet’s special session on HIV in MSM praised the Commission’s recommendations calling for the decriminalization of consensual, adult same-sex sexual activity, effective measures to prevent violence against MSM, ensuring legal protections and removal of legal barriers to access HIV and health services for MSM. Numerous session on issues of HIV criminalization, key populations, women, intellectual property, treatment access and human rights made reference to the work of the Commission.

A number of Commissioners and UNDP colleagues presented the work of the Commission. For example, Congresswoman Barbara Lee  noted the work of the Commission during the conference opening ceremony, Michael Kirby gave a plenary address at the MSM Global Forum meeting, President Mogae discussed the Commission’s report at a session on the SADC response to HIV and NCDs, Mr Prasada Rao presented at the opening day of the sex worker conference which was held in Kolkata, India,  and Jeff O’Malley discussed the Commission’s recommendations during a session on the role of legislators, mayors and Parliamentarians.

The symposia session on the work of the Commission took place on 24 July and was extremely well attended. The session can be viewed at http://globalhealth.kff.org/AIDS2012/July-24/The-Global-Commission.aspx. On the same day, a blog penned by Shereen el Feki appeared in the Huffington Post .

While the media coverage before and during the conference was overwhelmingly positive, shortly after the conference on 31 July 2012, The Bangkok Post published a fairly negative article on the Commission report.  The article was poorly written and lacked a robust analysis of evidence. Replies from Jon Ungphakorn and President Cardoso were published in the print and online editions of The Bangkok Post just a few days after. And on 15 August, The Nation, a major Thai newspaper, published an op-ed by President Cardoso and Helen Clark.

Thanks to the excellent work of  Global Health Strategies and our colleagues Ian Mungall & Emilie Pradichit, all the latest media coverage can be found on the Commission website.  

The website is proving to be a very useful resource. According to our latest data, the EN version of the Commission report has been downloaded 2, 226 times.

Warm regards,

Mandeep

Dr Mandeep Dhaliwal
Cluster Leader: Human Rights & Governance
HIV/AIDS Group
United Nations Development Programme

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