An inappropriate tool: criminal law and HIV in Asia.

Published: September 1, 2010


BACKGROUND: Asian countries have applied criminal sanctions widely in areas directly relevant to national HIV programmes and policies, including criminalization of HIV transmission, sex work, homosexuality and drug injection. This criminalization may impede universal access to HIV prevention and treatment services in Asia and undermine vulnerable people’s ability to be part of the HIV response.

OBJECTIVE: To review the status of application of criminal law in key HIV-related areas in Asia and analyze its impact.

METHODS: Review of literature and application of human rights norms to analysis of criminal law measures.

RESULTS AND CONCLUSION: Criminal laws in the areas considered here and their enforcement, while intended to reduce HIV transmission, are inappropriate and counterproductive with respect to health and human rights. Governments should remove punitive laws that impede the HIV response and should ensure meaningful participation of people living with HIV, people who use illicit drugs, sex workers and men who have sex with men in combating stigma and discrimination and developing rights-centered approaches to HIV.

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