Developing Countries Should Pass HIV/AIDS Policies That Respect Human Rights, Encourage HIV Testing, Treatment, Australian Judge Says
Developing countries should pass HIV/AIDS policies that respect human rights and encourage people at risk of HIV to be tested for the virus and receive treatment if necessary, Australian High Court Judge Michael Kirby said Tuesday at the International Criminal Law Reform Conference in Dublin, Ireland, the Canberra Times reports.
According to Kirby, governments that have focused their HIV/AIDS policies on education rather than on treating the disease as a crime have been more successful in slowing the spread of the virus. "Those countries that have adopted a human rights-respecting approach to the HIV/AIDS epidemic have been far more successful in containing the spread of HIV than those countries that have adopted punitive, moralistic, denialist strategies, including those relying on the criminal law as a sanction," Kirby said (Violante, Canberra Times, 7/16).
Kirby also addressed the increased pressure to criminalize some instances of HIV transmission in developing countries, saying that such policies are counterproductive and a violation of human rights (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 7/16). Kirby said laws introduced in several African countries -- including Benin, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Togo and Sierra Leone -- infringe on the human rights of people living with HIV/AIDS.
In addition, Kirby cited a law that criminalizes the "willful transmission" of HIV "through any means by a person with full knowledge of his or her HIV status to another person." He added that the law potentially "imposes criminal liability," even if an HIV-positive person practices safer sex or takes steps to reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission.
Kirby called on governments to implement laws and policies that have been proven effective in fighting the virus, even if such policies are unpopular. "Taking the effective measures is not always popular," Kirby said, adding, "Yet taking punitive measures, depending on their terms and enforcement, is ... unlikely to succeed in the environment where there is no effective vaccine" or cure for HIV/AIDS (Canberra Times, 7/16).