How do laws affect people who are living with HIV?
Yesterday I attended a few sessions that looked at how the law affects people living with HIV, and the stigma they experience. The questions were asked: Do laws affect those living with HIV? If they do, how can we change discriminatory laws?
Justine Sass from UNESCO talked about the ways that laws affect young people and children, including the fact that they can put people at risk of acquiring HIV.
She looked at laws across the world, and found that many countries have laws where you can be tried as a criminal from the age of 7 onwards, though in the same countries you can’t access healthcare without your parents’ consent before the age of 18. There is also a gap between the age at which people can legally have sex, and when they can get healthcare. This puts people at risk of acquiring HIV because they are not allowed to access information and services that might help them prevent HIV transmission.
A presentation by Olumwole Fajemisin from Nigeria described a project that he worked on to reduce stigma. It was really interesting to see that when they advocated to change laws in certain parts of Nigeria it had a massive impact on reducing stigma.
These studies show how important it is for us to be loud and vocal about changing laws that discriminate against people living with HIV in Australia and New South Wales.
We need to make sure that the general community and policy makers understand the impact these laws have on people’s lives.
So guys and girls: Make sure you get out there and advocate!
If you want to have a look at the presentations you can check them out here: http://pag.aids2014.org/session.aspx?s=1117#3