DUSHANBE, 15 October 2020 – Judges from across the Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) region today convened for the second EECA Regional Judges’ Forum on HIV, Human Rights and the Law. The Forum is organized by UNDP, co-hosted by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Tajikistan, and held virtually 15-16 October 2020 from Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

Judges, representatives of National Institute of Justice and UNDP Health, Governance and Human development specialists from Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan will participate to address this year’s focus: criminalization of HIV exposure, transmission and non-disclosure. The EECA region, where almost all countries have laws that criminalize HIV exposure and transmission, is home to three of the world’s four “leaders” in terms of HIV prosecutions (Russian Federation, Belarus and Ukraine).

The majority of participants will be judges with experience in HIV-related cases and who understand human rights principles as a critical element to advancing HIV jurisprudence, as well as the judges who participated in last year’s Forum, held in Moldova.

The Forum provides a platform for judges to discuss the latest scientific, medical and epidemiological evidence, international and regional guidance, and social and structural factors that increase the vulnerability of people living with HIV and key populations”, says Dr Rosemary Kumwenda, Regional Team Leader, Istanbul Regional Hub.

 “We are excited to bring the judges from the Eastern Europe and Central Asia together to compare judicial and legislative responses to HIV and related national, regional and international laws, and share experiences and challenges in their work with the protection of rights in the context of HIV and co-infections” says Dr Pratibha Mehta, Resident Representative, UNDP Tajikistan

The rate of new HIV infections is decreasing globally, but Eastern Europe and Central Asia is one of only three regions where the HIV epidemic continues to grow. Since 2010, new HIV infections have increased 72 percent, and AIDS-related deaths have increased by 4 percent. According to UNAIDS, there are approximately 1.7 million people living with HIV in the region. Most new infections in the region are among key populations, who must contend with punitive legal environments, social ostracization and discrimination.

While there have been significant improvements in the legal environment relevant to HIV and TB in the region, legal barriers persist, and key populations are still not sufficiently and effectively protected. Additionally, the legal, policy and regulatory frameworks that govern national efforts in prevention, treatment, care and support need significant strengthening. Some key EECA region wide obstacles include: criminalization of HIV transmission, non-disclosure and exposure; criminalization of sex work or introduction of increased punitive measures against sex workers; criminalization of drug use and/or possession for personal use; forced and coerced HIV testing and others.

Functional and effective judicial systems are imperative to ensure the protection of the rights of key populations. In this regard, the judiciary in a number of the EECA countries has been quite progressive also through important enabling court decisions.

For additional information, please contact:

Rukhshona Nazhmidinova, UNDP Communications Analyst in Tajikistan, e-mail: rukhshona.nazhmidinova@undp.org

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