Post originally published on Change.org
Funding by the United States for HIV-Criminalization continues in Africa.
In Africa, HIV criminalization is rampant and supported by many country officials. Ugandan parliamentarians submitted a bill last year that would make HIV criminalization a law. It has been revealed that U.S. efforts are providing funding to similar HIV criminalization efforts across Africa.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has been financing the Action for West Africa Region HIV-AIDS program (AWARE), which has been instrumental in creating and enforcing more aggressive HIV/AIDS policies across Africa. This has translated into developing a “model” HIV-specific criminal law. USAID has been funding these efforts since 2004. Prior to this effort, there were no HIV criminalization laws in any country in Africa. Now, there are at least 27 African countries with active laws.
Housing Works reports that at the time of the release of this news, Robert Clay, the director of USAID’s Office of HIV/AIDS, told them “the U.S. government opposes laws that criminalize HIV non-disclosure.”
As a strong and powerful HIV/AIDS advocate, Housing Works was “curious about this contradiction” and they “asked Clay to provide more information on the federal government’s stance on the criminalization of HIV.”
Robert Clay was up to the challenge and subsequently wrote a piece published on USAID’s Impact Blog. In his response, Clay uses the words “stigma” and “discrimination” ad naseum, yet he seems to be talking around these issues as opposed to addressing them head on. He does not make any connection between stigma and the HIV-Criminalization laws. In fact, he does not directly address HIV-Criminalization at any point in the piece.
Instead, he makes several general, sweeping statements about combating stigma, like this one: “All of us who work on global AIDS issues are aware of the negative impacts of stigma and discrimination, and are committed to creating equal access to quality care and services for those living with HIV worldwide.”
This is certainly a positive stance shared by most of us advocating for HIV/AIDS awareness. Yet it is more of a political statement that doesn’t provide any specific strategies or address any specific concerns beyond affirming a broad philosophy.
To this reader, Robert Clay and USAID seem to be raising more questions rather than providing any answers.
This is Housing Works’ response to the blog: “Unfortunately, his response fails to clarify USAID’s position on laws that prosecute HIV non-disclosure. In fact, the words ‘criminal’ and ‘law’ never even appear in the response. Nor does his post provide any concrete examples of programs that combat HIV criminalization.”
Sean Strub, senior advisor to the Center for HIV Law and Policy’s Positive Justice Project, also provided Housing Works with a strong reaction. “The statement provided sounds like cowardly bureaucratese for ‘We’re not touching that with a ten foot pole.’ Where’s the [USAID] funding for a conference on how dangerous these statutes are, how profoundly they drive stigma, [a conference] providing resources for combating and overturning them? When will that conference be held, funded by USAID?”
The politics, HIV-Criminalization laws, and US funding continues. Please join us in telling USAID that this has to stop now. Sign our petition and share it with your network.
To read the post on Change.org, click here.