UN to investigate laws against HIV-infected people

Geneva, June 24 (DPA) The United Nations launched a commission Thursday to investigate punitive laws that harm global efforts to respond to the decades-old HIV epidemic.

The commission will ‘help restore the dignity of people and help us remove bad laws and save the lives of people,’ the chief of the UN’s Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS, Michel Sidibe, told reporters in Geneva.

Sidibe said 86 countries have ‘homophobic laws’ that force people vulnerable to contracting the disease into hiding, while 52 nations have rules that limit the movement of people with HIV/AIDS.

Other laws, such as those criminalising transmission or exposure as a carrier, push people to not get tested for HIV – the virus that causes AIDS – and actually help spread the disease, UN agencies said.

Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand and current head of the UN Development Programme, said the health and law experts on the commission will be ‘asked to focus on the most challenging issues’ related to the virus.

‘Every day we see stigma, in all forms, bearing down on men and women living with HIV/AIDS,’ Clark said, adding later that ‘we need rational responses which shed the yoke of prejudice and stigma.’