Overview of the Middle East and North Africa Regional Dialogue

With an estimated 75,000 new infections in 2009, HIV is steadily spreading in MENA. Concentrated HIV epidemics now exist in key populations in many countries in the region, at a time when infections have stabilised, or even declined, in other parts of the world. As HIV rises in MENA, however, so does the region’s response to laws and practices that have an impact on the epidemic. For example, the UNDP HIV Regional Programme in the Arab states pioneered a legal reform process which fostered the approval of anti-discrimination HIV law in Yemen in 2009. In partnership with the League of Arab States, an Arab convention on protection of the rights of people living with HIV has been drafted. Work on trade and access to medicine by WHO and UNDP, as well as efforts by the International Development Law Organization to promote legal assistance and access to justice for people living with HIV, are among other initiatives in the region addressing HIV and the law. The establishment of a network of HIV-aware and -active religious leaders and faith-based organizations, called CHAHAMA, has been instrumental in addressing stigma, and promoting a culture of religious tolerance vital to legal reform. Much more needs to be done, but a firm foundation is being laid day by day. The Global Commission on HIV and the Law wants to further these and other efforts in the region to improve HIV responses by addressing key legal barriers and adverse practices. In 2011, the Commission will host a Middle East and North Africa Regional Consultation to learn from individuals, communities, policy and law makers in the region. The Regional Dialogue will be an opportunity for those profoundly and directly affected by and vulnerable to HIV, including those whose voices are currently silenced, to be heard. At this pivotal moment in the region’s history, your voice can help shape legal change to better serve those living with HIV/AIDS and all those vulnerable to infection.