HIV/AIDS Control Efforts Should Focus on Populations Targeted by Counterterrorism, Security Measures, Opinion Piece Says
In some previous analyses of HIV/AIDS and security issues, the "effect of AIDS on military strength and public security overshadows what may be a substantially more important link between AIDS and security" -- the "effect of the unfettered pursuit of a public security agenda, including counterterrorism measures, on the lives of people who are most affect by or vulnerable to HIV/AIDS," Joanne Csete of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network writes in a commentary in the March 3 issue of the journal Lancet. According to Csete, the criminalization of drug users in some countries, including Russia and Thailand, has hindered effective HIV/AIDS initiatives. She adds that men who have sex with men also have been "caught up in the politics of antiterrorism in numerous settings," including Egypt, India and Nepal. "In other words, people who are particularly vulnerable to HIV are in many countries the first to be targeted by counterterrorism and security measures," Csete writes, adding, "All too often, such targeting is assisted by criminal sanctions against homosexuality, criminalization of sex work and sever criminal penalties for minor, nonviolent drug offenses." The creation of "criminal penalties in these areas facilitates both official and social marginalization of these people, who find it almost impossible to have police protection if their rights are violated," according to Csete. She adds that UNAIDS and its "co-sponsor agencies rarely include criminalization of people who are vulnerable to HIV in their analyses of national AIDS responses" because they "prefer to characterize AIDS-related human rights problems as stigma and discrimination." Although such stigma and discrimination are "certainly important," they do not "capture adequately the severe effect of criminalization of people affected by HIV and on their ability to use AIDS programs without fear," Csete writes. She concludes, "UNAIDS' incomplete analysis of AIDS and security, and its failure to appreciate the effects of criminal law of those most affected by AIDS, impede its ability to advocate effectively for the interventions based on human rights that it always claims to pursue" (Csete, Lancet, 3/3).
The commentary is available online.