In a joint effort, the United Nations Development Program, the Judicial Education Institute of Trinidad and Tobago and the Judicial Education Institute of Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, convened the Caribbean Judges Forum on HIV, Human Rights and the Law in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago from the 5th to the 6th of November.
The Forum brought together Judges from across the Caribbean. During the two-day event the judges discussed the latest scientific, medical and epidemiological evidence pertaining to HIV prevention, treatment and care. By analyzing cases and legal jurisprudence from other regions, the judges considered the social and structural factors that increase the vulnerability of people living with HIV and key populations, including evidence on HIV-related stigma and discrimination. The judges also had the opportunity to hear directly from key populations about their persistent struggles in accessing justice. This was an opportunity to contextualize both HIV as well as human rights as issues negatively impacting the lives of citizens in the Caribbean region.
Participating judges received up-to-date information on the HIV epidemic in the region, key populations most affected by HIV in the Caribbean, achievements in tackling HIV, especially in mother-to-child transmission, success stories from specific countries and the projection of resources available for the region as related to the HIV response for the coming years.
An update on the state of criminalization of HIV in the world was provided, particularly as to how HIV and the response from States to it are affecting the enjoyment of human rights. Special reference was made to the Report from the Global Commission on HIV and the Law and its 2018 Supplement as well as the Expert Consensus Statement on the Science of HIV in the Context of Criminal Law.
There was a strong recognition among the judges that such fora provide an excellent opportunity to bridge the gap between science and global developments in HIV. There is also a critical need for public health evidence, and this requires public health practitioners to be proactive in sharing available data with the judiciary to enable them to increase access to justice to the most vulnerable.
Two judges from the Caribbean earlier this year participated in the African Regional Judges Forum and appreciated the partnership with judicial education institutes in convening a similar Forum in the Caribbean while noting the importance of including these topics in judicial education curricula across the region.