National Dialogue on HIV & the Law in Costa Rica, 29-30 November 2012
- Published on Friday, 30 November 2012 03:24
[Originally published as a Blog post by Ernesto Kraus, UNDP on the HIV, Health and Development-Net, 10 December 2012] According to the 2012 UNAIDS Global Report on the AIDS Epidemic, globally 34 million people are living with HIV, 7,400 new infections occur each day and 1.7 million people died from AIDS-related causes in 2011. 123 States have legislation against discrimination on HIV. 112 have protection for vulnerable populations, but these laws are often ignored, and in 63 countries transmission is criminalized, especially through sex. In Costa Rica, the data indicates that approximately 4,000 people are receiving antiretroviral treatment in the public health system and about 300 new HIV infections occur annually.
From 2002 to 2011, a total of 1,297 people died of AIDS. The HIV epidemic in Costa Rica is concentrated among men who have sex with men, transgender people and socio-economically marginalized young people. Although the Government is providing a wide range of services to all citizens, in reality, the majority of young people are unable to access these services without the permission of parents or guardians. At the same time, adolescent pregnancies and early marriages are still common, also due to the lack of sexual and reproductive education in school and lack of protection of the rights of girls, but this does not seem to be a priority for government authorities. For this reason, UNDP, on behalf of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, and in conjunction with the Office of the Ombudsman, decided to conduct a National Dialogue in Costa Rica.
The National Dialogue would provide an opportunity for people directly affected by and vulnerable to HIV to present evidence on issues that have been silenced by restrictive legal environments. More than 100 people from civil society organizations and government officials came together to discuss and find ways to solve challenges related to discrimination, education, employment, sex work, police abuse, and access to treatment, among other issues, in order to identify viable solutions and respect for the rights of people living with or vulnerable to HIV. Civil society organizations made comprehensive presentations of needs in areas such as the review of HIV-specific legislation, which includes an article that criminalizes the transmission of HIV, public practices that prevent adolescents from receiving tools for adequate HIV prevention, the limitation of condom distribution for prisoners, and access to second-line antiretroviral treatment for people living with HIV. The civil society organizations also offered specific recommendations for state agencies.
Government authorities responded by detailing the actions that have been undertaken to address the issues raised, and in some cases, reflected on the need to review their actions and the need for legislation to fully incorporate human rights. Both Government and Civil Society agreed on the need to train and sensitize the various officials so they respect the right of people living with HIV to exercise their rights. The Ombudsman committed to follow up on the demands and responses provided by government authorities. The dialogue highlighted the importance for the authorities to engage with civil society organizations, as this is a constructive way to improve the quality of life of people living with and vulnerable to HIV.
Costa Rica impulsó cabildo abierto contra la discriminación a personas con VIH Spanish