Criminalizing HIV

Well-intentioned legislation is paving the road to stigmatization and discrimination in Africa
by Staff, Utne Reader
January-February 2012
Add to My MSN

Image by Flickr user: hdptcar / Creative Commons


Content Tools

Related Content

Where are the Women Comedy Writers?

Chloe Angyal reflects on the dearth of women writers in late-night television comedy....

Companies that Promote Women Make More Profits

Promoting more women in the workplace isn’t just equitable, it’s profitable....

Alt Wire Guest Blogger Regan Hofmann of POZ

Alt Wire is a morning digest of links and information collected and explained by a different guest b...

Infectious Ideas: An Epidemiological Approach to Religion

Social scientists find it helpful to think of ideas and religions spreading like infectious diseases...

In Burundi, a willful transmitter of HIV can be tried for murder. In Benin, failure to disclose one’s health status to a sexual partner, regardless of whether a virus is actually transmitted, is illegal. In Togo, it’s unlawful for anyone—regardless of HIV status—to have sex without a condom.

These laws, which are increasingly common in Africa, are intended to stem the spread of HIV, writes social justice blogger Julie Turkewitz in The Indypendent (Aug. 1–30, 2011), but the legislation has the opposite effect—it further stigmatizes carriers and discourages testing. This sort of social engineering also violates human rights, writes Turkewitz: “In countries where HIV-positive status can subject a person to social isolation, exile, physical abuse, or death, this provision has dangerous implications.” It’s particularly perilous for disempowered women, who cannot always insist on condom use, are too often the victims of rape, and could be thrown out of their home for having HIV.

Africa’s HIV criminalization laws can be traced back to a three-day summit held in 2004 by the U.S.-based charity FHI 360 (formerly Family Health International), after which 14 nations adopted the counter­productive laws. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which originally tasked the charity with creating a program to reduce Africa’s HIV/AIDS pandemic, today condemns the knee-jerk laws. “Stigma and discrimination are really a driver of this epidemic,” says USAID official Robert Clay. “We need to make sure that we don’t have those types of laws on the books.”

Cover-169-thumb.jpgHave something to say? Send a letter to editor@utne.com. This article first appeared in the January-February 2012 issue of Utne Reader.








Post a comment below.

 








Pay Now & Save $5!
First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $31.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!