Written Statement on HIV Criminalization and Women for the 57th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, UN NGO Committee on HIV/AIDS (2013)

International Commitments and United Nations Documents

This Statement, accepted for publication by the 57th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, calls for the repeal of all laws criminalizing HIV transmission, exposure to HIV, or failure to disclose HIV status. The Statement, authored by the Center for HIV Law and Policy's Adrian Guzman, in his capacity as a member of the UN NGO Committee on HIV/AIDS, was submitted by Hunter College Center for Community and Urban Health, National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs, and Salesian Missions, NGOs in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council.

The Statement notes that HIV-specific laws are likely to be used to prosecute women more frequently than men in both high-income and developing countries due to gender-based violence, power inequality and economic dependence within relationships, and vertical transmission. Women are more likely to know their HIV status due to more regular and frequent engagement with health care systems, and thus are more likely to be targeted by disclosure mandates. In keeping with the 57th Session theme, "Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls," the Statement asserts that if these HIV-specific laws persist, women and girls will continue to be at increased risk of HIV infection and HIV-related violence and human rights violations.

The Statement joins the Global Commission on HIV and the Law in its July 2012 recommendations that countries cease enactment of new HIV-specific laws and repeal existing ones; that law enforcement authorities cease prosecutions in cases of HIV nondisclosure or exposure where no intentional or malicious HIV transmission was proven to take place; that countries amend or repeal laws criminalizing vertical transmission; that prosecutions for actual and intentional HIV transmission be pursued with care and using a high standard of evidence and proof under general criminal laws; and that existing prosecutions under HIV-specific statutes be reviewed and convictions set aside to ensure that these charges do not remain on criminal or sex offender records.