This World AIDS Day, make human rights the priority says Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

Canadian HIV/AIDS
Legal Network / Réseau juridique canadien VIH/sida

This Sunday, December 1st, is World AIDS Day — a day when we pause to remember those we have lost, to honour those living with HIV, to celebrate those who continue to advocate for justice and health, and to call on governments to fulfill the commitments they’ve made to some of society’s most marginalized people.
The Legal Network has spent years advocating for the human rights of people living with or at risk of HIV and AIDS. This World AIDS Day, we renew our call for the Government of Canada to do more. We need them to acknowledge the intersection of health and human rights — and to follow through with the commitments they’ve already made. We’ve already been in touch with the new government on these commitments and many more, making human rights the priority.

HIV Funding

Among the commitments made by the Government of Canada is the long-promised HIV funding that was meant to help end HIV as a public health threat. While this was supposed to have increased to $85 million annually, since 2007 funding has flatlined at roughly $70 million a year. This means that more than $117 million has simply never been delivered, forcing some organizations to close and putting many more at risk.

HIV Criminalization

In recent years, we have also seen movement on the issue of the criminalization of HIV non-disclosureThe broad criminalization of HIV non-disclosure damages the rights and health of people living with HIV. On World AIDS Day 2018, the former Attorney General of Canada issued a directive to limit unjust prosecutions against people living with HIV in the three territories. In June 2019, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights released a report recommending limiting any use of the law to cases of actual transmission, recognizing the need for law reform. But we still need real law reform.

Harm Reduction and Drug Law Reform

There is an undeniable link between harm reduction and ending HIV as a public health threat. Giving people who use drugs access to supervised consumption services (SCS) and prison needle and syringe programs (PNSPs) help prevent the spread of infections as well as prevent deaths from overdose. Canada must implement evidence-based, accessible and effective PNSPs in all federal prisons, scale up SCS and decriminalize drug possession for personal use, to respect and protect the health and human rights of people who use drugs. Doing so will save lives and prevent further spread of HIV and other blood-borne illnesses.

Sex Workers’ Rights

Since the passage of the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) in 2014, sex workers have told us how they continue to be criminalized and their working conditions have deteriorated. Many are forced to work in precarious situations, putting them at risk of abuse, violence, and poor health. Canada must repeal the PCEPA and work with sex worker groups to develop legislation and other initiatives that respect and protect their autonomy and rights. Sex workers can describe in compelling detail how laws that criminalize them, their clients, and their work settings are dangerous to their health and safety — we just need to listen to them.
HIV is a health issue, but it is also a human rights one. This World AIDS Day, we’re calling on the Government of Canada to keep its word and put the rights of people living with and at risk of HIV at the forefront.
You can take action by partnering with the Legal Network and making a gift today. Remember, any gift you make before December 31 will be matched dollar for dollar by Andrew Beckerman, in honour of his late father, Charlie.
Thank you for making human rights a priority.
In solidarity,
The Legal Network

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