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15.11.2019

Criminalisation of HIV in Europe: preliminary findings

The European HIV Legal Forum (EHLF) is a project of AIDS Action Europe, the goal of which is to develop effective means of improving access to HIV services for all those who have limited access to HIV services due to legal obstacles, through the united efforts of legal and policy experts with the aim of bringing into effect a rights-based approach to health as adopted by the European Commission.

First rounds of the EHLF work focused on access to HIV prevention care and treatment services for migrants with irregular status, starting from a comparative study of five countries and by the end of 2017 producing a 16 country legal report with relevant international laws and case-law examples. . You can learn more about finding of the EHLF on undocumented migrants here.

For the period of 2018-2019, the European HIV Legal Forum focused on two topics:

  1. Criminalisation of HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission
  2. Access to HIV, viral hepatitis and TB services in prisons and other closed settings.

AIDS Action Europe as a member of HIV Justice Worldwide Steering Committee with its EHLF work  focused on the situation in EU countries. 10 EU members participated in this round: Austria,  Czechia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania and the United Kingdom. The countries provided answers to the legal survey, which included questions on existing laws, number of known HIV-prosecutions, what role media play, whether scientific developments like HIV transmission ways and U=U are taken into account etc.

The report will be available in early 2020 but there are already preliminary findings, which suggest that:

  • In the participating countries, there are no HIV-specific criminal laws, but HIV prosecution have taken place  using general criminal laws.
  • Depending on the country, we have identified cases where people were prosecuted under criminalization of HIV transmission, exposure or non-disclosure. There is a clear power imbalance between the complainants and the prosecuted. In most countries, the prosecuted belong to the migrant communities or are sex workers, drug users or belong to the combination of these marginalized group.
  • The Media plays an important role in how these cases are handled, the reports are usually sensationalizing, stigmatizing and scapegoating people living with HIV and other key populations. Most of the participant organizations identified trainings on working with the media as their priority.

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