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UNDP, UNAIDS Launch Global Commission On HIV, Law

The U.N. Development Program (UNDP) together with UNAIDS on Thursday announced the formation of a commission to examine how legal environments affect HIV/AIDS efforts, VOA News reports (DeCapua, 6/24).

The Global Commission on HIV and the Law will bring together legal, public health and HIV experts, U.N. News Centre reports. “Over an 18-month period, the Commission … will mobilize communities across the globe to promote public dialogue on how to make the law work for an effective response to HIV. … It will also support the holding of regional hearings, a key innovation in promoting the direct interaction between policymakers and those most directly affected by HIV-related laws, which is seen as crucial to progress,” according to the news service.

“Laws that inappropriately criminalise HIV transmission or exposure can discourage people from getting tested for HIV or revealing their HIV positive status,” while other laws can compromise the ability of high-risk populations to access HIV prevention and treatment services, a UNDP-UNAIDS press release states. “At the same time, there are also many examples where the law has had a positive impact on the lives of people living with or vulnerable to HIV,” the release adds (6/24).

“Every day we see stigma, in all forms, bearing down on men and women living with HIV/AIDS,” UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said, Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports. “Laws pertaining to drug users, sex workers, homosexuals and transgender individuals will all be ‘central to the commission,’ Clark said,” according to the news service (6/24).

“The commission will ‘help restore the dignity of people and help us remove bad laws and save the lives of people,’ the chief of the UN’s Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS, Michel Sidibe, told reporters in Geneva,” SAPA/News24.com reports (6/24).

“To reach [a] country’s own universal access targets and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), persistent barriers like punitive laws and human rights violations will need to be overcome,” the UNDP release states, adding that the commission “is being supported by a broad range of partners and stakeholders, including donors such as the Ford Foundation and AusAID” (6/24).