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European HIV Legal Forum meets in Amsterdam

One of the projects of AIDS Action Europe is the European HIV Legal Forum (EHLF). The project was born a couple of years ago at a seminar on HIV and the Law, which was organised by AIDS Action Europe in cooperation with the National AIDS Trust in the UK. Legal obstacles to access appropriate HIV services – from prevention to testing, treatment and care – were highlighted and the participants expressed the need to look in greater detail at legal issues.

Some countries – Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK – followed up on the conclusions from the seminar and created the EHLF. In a pilot project, experts from these countries assessed legal issues related to access to HIV services, in particular with respect to migrants living with HIV. The findings were summarised in a report and presented to civil society organisations at an EU meeting in Luxembourg. The whole process led to a Strategic Plan for 2014-2015, in which mission, objectives and governance of the EHLF were summarised.

The meeting of the EHLF in Amsterdam in early April 2014 was organised to take the first steps to implement the Strategic Plan. Some founding members of the Forum, together with additional legal experts, translated the general framework of the Strategic Plan into concrete next steps.

  • Firstly, choices were made regarding the contents of the EHLF. It was decided to broaden the issue from undocumented migrants, to all those who have difficulties to access services, due to legal regulations. In some countries, people may be excluded because they are uninsured, in others exclusion may be the result of their residence status. Broadening up enables the EHLF to tackle a greater variety of access issues and dedicate attention to more affected communities.
  • Secondly, the members of the EHLF agreed on the extension of the Forum in geographical terms. Without growing too fast, more countries should be involved, in order to cover a maximum of issues and experiences. The countries selected to be involved in the next phase of the project are Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom.
  • Finally, it was agreed to contact and involve other professionals, such as epidemiologists and academics in the field of health and law, into activities of the EHLF, in order to take advantage of their expertise, networks and facilities.

During the evaluation of the meeting, all participants agreed that the meeting in Amsterdam was an important step forward, to put the Strategic Plan into practice, or – as one of the participants formulated it – the discussions and agreements led to an important move “from fiction to facts”.

Mr. Georg Bröring
Interim Executive Coordinator AIDS Action Europe

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