African Law Students Debate HIV Criminalization

This past week, more than 120 law students from 60 law schools across Africa gathered in Cotonou, Benin for the 19th African Human Rights Moot Court Competition, an annual competition that prepares law students to argue cases of human rights violations before the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

According to an UNAIDS report on the event:

This year’s hypothetical case raised several human rights issues, including the criminalisation of HIV transmission. Human rights and health experts, civil society organisations and people living with HIV have raised concerns in relation to laws criminalising HIV transmission on the grounds that the overly-broad application of these legal provisions may reinforce HIV-related stigma. Such laws may also deter people from seeking HIV prevention, treatment and care services for fear of prosecution, and may lead to human rights violations.

During this year’s Moot Court Competition, UNAIDS, UNFPA and UNESCO launched a project, in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria to compile information on the legal and policy issues relating to HIV and young people in Africa. The project will map laws and policies related to access to HIV-related education for young people, the minimum age of consent to HIV testing, and access to HIV prevention and treatment for young people.

The criminalization of the transmission of HIV transmission is a hot button topic in Africa, so it’s good to see that future African human rights lawyers are engaging deeply with the issue. Some countries have been passing laws that explicitly criminalize any person who transmits HIV to another. There are also many cases in which laws around attempted murder, murder, manslaughter, assault, and grievous bodily harm are applied to cases of HIV transmission.

For more information about the criminalization of HIV, download this two-page PDF, produced collaboratively by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the World AIDS Campaign (WAC), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and Living Positively, a project of the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS (GYCA).



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