18 December, BANGKOK – Across Asia, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people continue to face rights violations because of their sexual orientation and gender identity and weak knowledge of local legal systems impact on their ability to file formal complaints, or seek justice or legal redress.
IDLO's work includes strengthening the legal response to HIV and AIDS in developing nations; fostering awareness of public health goals and human rights among government officials, and among those communities most at risk of HIV infection; and building lawmakers' capacity for reform based on evidence, international law and best practice.
We also work with United Nations agencies to scale up joint efforts towards zero HIV discrimination. Developed in partnership with UNAIDS and UNDP, our Scaling up HIV-Related Legal Services toolkit has been distributed in six languages (English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Russian). Separately, we have launched multilingual e-learning courses on HIV Law and Policy.
Though constitutionally people living with HIV in Jordan have the same legal rights as anyone else, many don’t know or access their rights, and often don’t seek medical treatment for fear of being turned away.
One of the challenges in scaling up HIV-related legal services is the limited number of knowledgeable, skilled and committed lawyers to provide such services. Part of the solution therefore lies in building the capacity of law schools to ensure law graduates are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to support human rights-based approaches to HIV. Many universities, including in East Africa, offer clinical legal education programs to give students direct experience of providing legal information to clients.
Adolescent girls and young women account for 71 percent of new HIV infections among young people in sub-Saharan Africa. They are more vulnerable to HIV because they are often subjected to a range of gender and age based biases, discrimination and violence, including sexual assault, forced marriage and trafficking. Despite growing HIV-related responses, they and their communities most often do not have the capacity, voice and power to hold these service providers accountable for improved delivery of quality HIV-related services.
It is well recognized that discrimination against people living with HIV and affected populations (such as injecting drug users and women in the sex industry) blocks HIV prevention efforts. Discrimination discourages HIV testing and can limit access to care and treatment services. IDLO is working to provide legal information and representation to HIV-affected and key populations in Benin. Through collaboration with local organizations, IDLO is building local capacity in Benin and strengthening the legal response to help those living with HIV assert their rights and address intolerance.
IDLO has conducted a three-year project to strengthen the legal environment for the response to HIV in Papua New Guinea. Under the project, the PNG Development Law Association was established as the country's first non-governmental legal aid service to address the rights of vulnerable populations. In collaboration with AusAID, IDLO provided financial and technical support; expanded access to legal information, representation and services for people living with and populations vulnerable to HIV, including victims of domestic violence; and raised awareness of rights and protections.
Tolerance of minorities (religious, sexual or otherwise) remains low in Egypt and other Middle Eastern and North African countries. People living with HIV are among the groups facing most discrimination. The virus is associated with stigmatized behaviors, such as sex between men and drug use. Many people with HIV are thus forced into the shadows, denied treatment, at risk of abuse and imprisonment. IDLO has been working with UNAIDS and local partners to help hundreds of people living with, and affected by, HIV in Egypt to access health and legal services.