National Dialogue on HIV, human rights and the law in the Democratic Republic of CongoPublished on Wednesday, 27 November 2013 15:15
The Minister of Justice and Human Rights and the Congolese Organisation of People living with HIV (UCOP+) organised on the 26 and 27 November the National Dialogue on HIV and the Law in Kinshasa with the support of UNDP, UNAIDS and PEPFAR. This event aimed at creating an interactive dialogue on human rights and HIV among different stakeholders such as Government representatives, HIV experts, parliamentarians, representatives of civil society, legal experts, human rights defenders and people living with HIV including key populations such as sex workers and men who have sex with men. Since 2008, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had adopted the Bill 08/011 on the protection of people living with and affected by HIV. Some provisions of this law are problematic, as has been pointed out by a number of stakeholders including the UN. For example, transmission of HIV is criminalized and a person is obligated by the law to disclose their positive status to her/his sexual partner upon reception of the test results. More than 120 participants at the dialogue discussed these issues as well as on stigma and discrimination of key populations in view to improve the access to HIV prevention, care and treatment to all citizens. Previous reports such as the Stigma Index report conducted in DR Congo in 2012 with UNDP’s support showed that different forms of stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV continue unabated everywhere in the country. Despite a gradual decline in the HIV prevalence among the general population, the country remains in a situation of a generalized epidemic with an incidence rate of 1.1% in 2013. No data is available regarding the HIV prevalence among key populations such as sex workers, men who have sex with men, prisoners and among people who use drugs. Committed to create an enabling legal environment in the HIV response that also includes vulnerable and marginalized populations, the Government with the support of key stakeholders organized the National Dialogue on HIV, human rights and the Law with 4 main objectives: 1. Discuss the Bill no. 08/011 of 2008, specifically its articles 41 and 45 (1); 2. Engage with parliamentarians to achieve propositions of reform in the Bill no. 08/011 that could be translated into a concrete action plan; 3. Improve access to HIV services and create an environment free of stigma and discrimination for key populations such as men who have sex with men, sex workers, prisoners and injecting drug users; 4. Integrate human rights and HIV in programmes of the justice sector. Following this two-day meeting, recommendations to establish an enabling legal environment have been adopted by the participants such as taking steps to facilitate HIV access to all citizens including key populations; reforming the Bill no. 08/011 in its dispositions; and strengthening the capacities of parliamentarians, judges and law enforcement agents in human rights and HIV to increase access to justice of victims of stigma and discrimination. Concrete steps have already been taken to follow up on these recommendations: a Committee has been put in place to ensure a proper follow up. A forum of parliamentarians will be convened to discuss the necessity of a legal review in the context of HIV and human rights. Following the development of a ‘Training Manual: HIV and Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo‘ last November, trainings will be organized in 2014 for police officers, lawyers and human rights defenders in some provinces of DRC in collaboration with the Minister of Justice and Human Rights and the National Multisectoral Programme on AIDS. The Minister of Justice is committed to ensure that the Bill protecting people living with and affected by HIV applies to prisoners by developing a Center of Information, Education and Counseling in charge of providing HIV services including access to treatment to prisoners. Another commitment of the Minister of Justice is to publish an order with measures of law enforcement pertaining to HIV. For more information, see the press release (in French).  Based on UNAIDS Spectrum/EPP.  Art. 41 contains an obligation to disclose the positive HIV status to the partner. It can lead to the derogation of the professional secret by the medical personnel. Art. 45 criminalises the voluntary transmission of HIV.