Statement by ARASA and partners from the Southern African Drug Policy Reform and Harm Reduction Advocacy Network on police violence in the region, and in particular in Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Delivered at 62nd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, Nouakchott, Islamic Republic of Mauritania, 25 April – 9 May 2018
We, 27 representatives of civil society rganisations and communities implementing HIV prevention activities in Southern Africa, participated in a civil society consultation on addressing structural barriers to HIV prevention in the region, hosted on 10 and 11 April 2018 ahead of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) “Regional HIV Prevention Consultation: Stocktaking on the Progress in Fast Tracking HIV Prevention by Member States” hosted from 12 to 13 April 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
We reviewed the progress of HIV prevention efforts in the region and the implementation of the 100- day plans developed by SADC Member States following the launch of the Global HIV Prevention Coalition Roadmap in October 2017. We also reflected on the involvement of civil society in HIV prevention policy development and programming at the national level.
Strategic litigation, legal defense and advocacy efforts are vital tools to counter the criminalisation of HIV and tuberculosis (TB) and advance a human rights and evidence-based public health approach.
Over 80 lawyers and activists from 27 African countries gathered from 20 to 23 February 2018 for a training workshop organised by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA), HIV Justice Worldwide, Kenya Legal & Ethical Issues Network on HIV and AIDS (KELIN), Stop TB Partnership and UNAIDS, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the Africa Regional Grant on HIV: Removing Legal Barriers. The Workshop aimed at equipping lawyers and activists with skills and knowledge on HIV and TB criminalisation.
Many countries in Africa retain public health laws and penal codes inherited from the colonial era, with significant discretionary powers to enforce detention and coerce testing and treatment for TB, and to punish people for the negligent or reckless spread of communicable diseases like it.Even if seldom enforced, these laws contribute to a draconian legal environment, ripe for the discriminatory abuse of power against people with TB and their families. This kind of abuse does not only violate the human rights of people with TB, it is also counterproductive. It scapegoats and stigmatises people with TB as criminally culpable. It shifts the focus from the failures of health systems to provide access to effective and safe testing, treatment and care.
On 14 March, HIV Justice Worldwide launched a a new toolkit “Making Media Work for HIV Justice," which provides an introduction to media engagement for advocates opposing HIV criminalisation--as well as reporting tips for journalists, designed to educate media makers around the nuances of HIV criminalisation and the harms of inaccurate, stigmatising coverage.