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UN commission: laws restricting global AIDS assistance

Laws in all countries of the world are limiting assistance and options available to individuals infected with HIV/AIDS, a UN commission reported [text, PDF; UN News Centre report] on Monday. The Global Commission on HIV and the Law [official website] found that a variety of laws and practices worldwide affect infected persons' ability both to prevent exposure to the virus and to seek help after infection. The Committee found that social inequality of women and relaxed enforcement of laws protecting women greatly reduce women's ability to avoid exposure to the virus. Additionally, at-risk groups such as gay men and transgendered individuals are often alienated from society, including adequate medical resources through actual laws or social practices. The report was also critical of intellectual property laws in certain countries that greatly limit the availability of life-saving drugs and drive up costs. The report also noted that over 600 people worldwide are currently imprisoned for infecting another person with HIV. The committee called for a global repeal of legislation that discriminates against vulnerable and at-risk individuals, as well as those individuals already infected with the virus. It also called on countries to decriminalize private consensual sexual behaviors including same-sex relations and consensual sex work. They recommended allocating resources to reforms to prevent further spread of HIV such as sex education.

Governments worldwide have struggled in recent years to avoid discrimination while avoiding the risk of spreading HIV. Last September, the UK Department of Health announced that it would lift the lifetime ban [JURIST report] on blood donations from men who have had sex with other men. Britain introduced the lifetime ban in the 1980s in an effort to quell the proliferation of HIV and AIDS. The US Department of Health and Human Services in July 2011 asked experts to review a similar US policy [ABC report] that bars gay men from donating blood. Earlier that month, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that the US government cannot withhold HIV/AIDS funding to organizations based on their prostitution stance, finding a violation of the First Amendment. In November 2010 a Chinese court ruled against [JURIST report] a man who claimed he was denied a teaching job because he is HIV-positive, finding that the city education officials properly assessed his unsuitability for the position base on health standards.

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