Positive Impact of Commission on HIV and the Law in Asia-Pacific

Lwin Lwin Thant - CNS
Since the launch of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law report in July 2012, there have been significant positive outcomes shaping in the Asia-Pacific region. “Today there are 82 countries across the world where UNDP, UN partners, civil society organizations among others have been working together and followed up on the recommendations of this report. We assume this is a good follow up which includes reviewing legal environments in the country, working with judiciary, police, and parliamentarians, and increasing access to justice programmes. There has been very interesting follow-up in the Asia Pacific region too on a range of issues including key populations, intellectual property (IP) and treatment access, among others” said Mandeep Dhaliwal, Director (HIV, Health and Development Practice), UNDP.

This report, formally called 'HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights and Health' presents a coherent and compelling evidence base on human rights and legal issues relating to HIV, said Dhaliwal. Laws based on evidence and human rights strengthen the AIDS response.

“Cambodia is reviewing its IP laws. This report has also influenced expansion of the ‘police-community partnership initiative’ in 5 provinces of Cambodia so that key populations can have better access to services. We also have been doing sensitization of Royal Thai police in Thailand on issues of laws and human rights for key populations. In Bangladesh, national AIDS programme has held a country-level multi-stakeholder consultation on HIV and the law which was attended by parliamentarians and representatives from the government and judiciary. They looked upon laws that need to be changed in Bangladesh for improving impact of HIV programmes and human rights in context of key affected populations” said Mandeep Dhaliwal.

Added Dhaliwal: “We also did a regional judicial sensitization for judges of high courts in 16 countries of Asia-Pacific region. Similarly there is a follow up consultation in the Pacific too which included governments, civil society, and judiciary from Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Samoa, Solomon Islands, and other parts of the Pacific, to help look at HIV, laws and its impact in the region. In India, there has been a follow up too to decriminalize same sex behaviour.”

“A lot has become possible in the region because of the leadership of UNESCAP. Its resolution and political commitment from leaders to remove discriminatory laws that are impeding effective HIV response in the region has brought in positive change” said Dhaliwal.


Mandeep Dhaliwal highlighted another significant outcome of the Commission. “It has brought together people who make the law [governments] and enforce the law [judiciary, police] with the communities and the service providers at ministries of health. There is a dialogue to develop solutions now. Political commitment is really important because changing laws is a political process.”

Mandeep reminded that laws alone will not be a magic wand. “It is not just about the laws. The law is an important tool but we also have to think that the policing is right, people have access to justice, and that people know about their rights and the laws so that in case of a violation they can access available legal recourses. We also need to change social attitudes in society and ensure there is acceptance of key affected populations.”

Lwin Lwin Thant, Citizen News Service - CNS
November 2013

Note: This article was first published in 11th ICAAP INSIGHT, the official daily conference newspaper of 11th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (11th ICAAP) in Bangkok, Thailand. This newspaper was managed by Inis Communication and CNS.