The second meeting of the African Regional Judges' Forum on HIV, Human Rights and the Law was held on 18-19 June in Johannesburg, South Africa. Twenty-three judges representing the senior judiciary from 13 African countries participated in the Forum. Jurisdictions represented included the judiciary of Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The second meeting therefore had representation from Eastern, Southern and Western Africa and from the Small Island nations.
The agenda was determined by the Judges' Forum and the 2-day deliberations included detailed discussions on (a) the final report of the Global Commission on HIV, Human Rights and the Law; (b) rights of incarcerated populations including their health rights and rights to access to treatment; (c) the question and rights of people with disability in the context of HIV; (d) access to medicines for PLHIV and engaging the courts in ensuring access based on utilising the flexibilities incorporated in the TRIPS Doha Declaration; (e) understanding the science of transmission of HIV to adjudicate cases linked to sexual violence and HIV status; and (f) transgender people and their issues in the context of laws and access to services in particular, and the rights of LGBTI people generally.
The Forum discussed these issues in a collegial environment and called on experts to make brief submissions/presentations on specific issues to initiate discussion. Experts called upon included lawyers, a civil society representative, a representative from the transgender community and an expert on HIV science. All sessions were chaired by the judges. Three senior judges made presentations on the issue of disability, on the issue of prisoners' rights to treatment and on the rights of LGBTI people – drawing on their vast judicial experience and case law. The device of a 'mock-trial' was also utilised by the Forum to stimulate discussion. In addition, a dynamic repository of documents containing rulings on HIV-related human rights issues, scientific information, guidance and tools and international treaties was launched and shared with the Judiciary present. The repository can be found here.
At the end of the two-day meeting, the Judges' Forum identified a number of key areas for taking the process forward and these include the following: