DUSHANBE, 11 November 2021 – UNDP holds the third meeting of the Eastern European and Central Asia (EECA) Regional Judges’ Forum on HIV, Human Rights and the Law on 11-12 November 2021 to provide a collegial environment for regional judges to discuss the latest scientific, medical and epidemiological evidence, as well as international and regional legal guidance.  The online meeting was co-hosted by the National School of Judges of Ukraine . Judges of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Tajikistan, representatives of UN organizations, NGOs, and governmental agencies are joining the event.

The pool of participants includes judges, representatives of National Institute of Justice, other relevant governmental agencies, NGOs, UN agencies and UNDP HIV, Health and Development focal points from selected EECA countries, including Albania, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan . The agenda is focused on practices and experiences of judges with background in HIV-related cases that are consonant with human rights principles and seen as advancing HIV jurisprudence.

The Forum aims to provide a collegial environment for EECA judges: 1) to discuss the latest scientific, medical and epidemiological evidence, international and regional guidance, social and structural factors that increase the vulnerability of people living with HIV and key populations, 2) judicial and legislative responses to HIV and related national, regional and international laws, and 3) to share experiences and challenges in their work with the protection of rights in the context of HIV and co-infections. The Forum will also focus on the issue of criminalization of HIV exposure, transmission, and non-disclosure.

In Tajikistan, HIV epidemic is on the rise with reported prevalence of 101 per 100,000 population in 2020. There are estimated 14,565 people living with HIV (“PLHIV”) in Tajikistan; of those 9,770 are registered in the health system. According to data from the Republican AIDS Center, the trend in the epidemic is shifting from transmission through injecting drug use to transmission through high-risk unprotected sexual activity.

Improved and coordinated regulation of various HIV related issues in the region is vital in developing sustainable legal mechanism with integrated infection prevention strategy. Although the rate of new HIV infection cases globally is decreasing, in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA), the HIV epidemic continues to grow. EECA is one of the leading regions in the world in terms of deaths from HIV-related conditions. It is estimated that in 2020 there were 35,000 cases of AIDS-related deaths. 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. The rights of people living with HIV, key populations at risk of HIV, and of people experiencing TB are not sufficiently and effectively protected. The legal, policy and regulatory frameworks that govern national efforts in prevention, treatment, care and support need significant strengthening. Some of the key obstacles are 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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