Toolkit: Scaling Up HIV-Related Legal Services
HIV prevention: ● Police behaviour can make HIV prevention efforts more difficult by driving key populations away from HIV prevention and testing services. Legal services can counteract illegal police behaviour in the context of law enforcement, such as harassment, discrimination, violence, arbitrary arrest and rape, of those vulnerable to or affected by HIV, such as sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people and people who use illicit drugs. ● The availability of legal protection for women and girls who fear domestic or community violence can prevent sexual assaults, which place women and girls at risk of HIV. Legal protection from violence can also mean that women and girls are in a stronger position to insist on condom use or to refuse sex. HIV treatment, care and support: Legal services can help people living with HIV to access health services, income support and housing and deal with debt relief and end-of-life planning. ● Legal services can ensure that people living with HIV, sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people and people who use illicit drugs are not denied access to social and health services because of discriminatory attitudes or rules. ● Legal services can help people affected by HIV to claim legal rights to property and inheritance. ● Legal services can provide access to redress for HIV-related discrimination at work, in the provision of health care, in school and in access to services such as insurance. Such assistance is of direct benefit to the person affected by discrimination. It also creates a more supportive social environment, so that people can be tested and seek treatment, care and support without fear of discrimination. ●
At the United Nations General Assembly Special Sessions on HIV/AIDS in 2001, Member States committed to: “Enact, strengthen or enforce as appropriate legislation, regulations and other measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination against, and to ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by people living with HIV/AIDS and members of vulnerable groups; in particular to ensure their access to, inter alia education, inheritance, employment, health care, social and health services, prevention, support, treatment, information and legal protection, while respecting their privacy and confidentiality; and develop strategies to combat stigma and social exclusion connected with the epidemic.” (Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS (2001) clause 58)
This statement of commitment to human rights means little without access to affordable legal services.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SCALING UP HIV-RELATED LEGAL SERVICES Existing HIV-related legal services are generally small in scale and in coverage. Achievement of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support requires an equal commitment to universal access to legal services. This is critically important given the high levels of social marginalization and of discrimination against people living with and affected by HIV and key populations. Legal services should be accessible and affordable to all communities affected by the epidemic. This requires an expansion of quality HIV-related legal services to improve the coverage of services, alongside efforts to expand access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services. 11