Legal Network News – November 22, 2022

While the HIV Legal Network is based in Canada, our work extends all over the world. From advocacy to defend the human rights of people who use drugs in Russia and the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region, to collaborating with local partners to challenge HIV criminalization in Africa, to supporting litigation against homophobic laws in the Caribbean, our international work touches many people and many issues. Read on to hear more about what we’ve been working on lately.

Lesotho flag shown on wood texture

A win in Lesotho and more updates from DRC

Last month, the Lesotho High Court struck down a section of the Sexual Offences Act imposing the death sentence for people living with HIV convicted of sexual offences. The Court ruled that the death penalty — when imposed solely based on a person’s HIV status — was discriminatory and amounted to inhumane treatment. The Legal Network, as part of HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE (HJWW), supported this challenge, including by ensuring that expert scientific evidence on HIV was brought before the Court.  We welcome the court decision that put an end to this terrible injustice in Lesotho. Read our joint statement here.

To learn more about our work in Africa, check out our new podcast, Pas un crime, available on our website as well as on Anchor FM and Spotify. Our first French-language episode features senior policy analyst Cécile Kazatchkine in conversation with Modeste Mambo Amisi, executive director of HODSAS, a sexual health and human rights organization based in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo. The Legal Network and HJWW have been supporting HODSAS for several years in their efforts to combat HIV criminalization and increase legal literacy among key populations in DRC. Modeste’s testimony about sex workers being arrested because of their alleged HIV positive status and their capacity to fight back thanks to this legal literacy demonstrates how our collective efforts can have immediate and dramatic impact.


White hourglass that looks like lungs on red background.

More news from EECA

With the continuing war in Ukraine, our work in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) region is made both more urgent and more complicated. In Russia, the situation for human rights advocates is fragile as many organizations face loss of funding or risk sanctions or imprisonment. But even so, we are finding ways to continue our research and to speak up for those who are targeted because of their HIV status. This fall, we released our report into tuberculosis in Russia as of August 2022. And in the coming months, we will have a study analysing access to social and medical services for people with HIV and disabilities. This study talked to 10 people living with HIV in Russia, along with three social workers. All people involved in the study had experience with injection drug use and lived with HIV. According to the preliminary results, people living with HIV and disabilities experienced increased barriers to accessing social and health services during COVID restrictions. There are also indications of similar limitations due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, both because of an influx of people with disabilities as the war continues and because of sanctions imposed on Russia.

In the meantime, Mikhail Golichenko, the senior policy analyst with the HIV Legal Network who leads this critical work, is participating in STEP UP training development, an international initiative for EECA countries concerning HIV and human rights. He will also be participating in the EECA judges forum on HIV criminalization.

HIV criminalization in the EECA was the topic of our first English-language episode of Not a Crime, too. If you haven’t yet listened to it, you can find it here and on Anchor FM and Spotify.

Red ribbon laid over a map of the world

New policy analyst working on Caribbean advocacy

We are very pleased to introduce André Capretti, our newest policy analyst. André will be working on our Caribbean portfolio, including ongoing cases in Jamaica and the constitutional challenge in Dominica. He comes to us with experience from the federal government, Amnesty International, and in civil litigation. “I’ve wanted to work at the HIV Legal Network since law school when I first learned about their advocacy and efforts to reform laws and policies that affect marginalized populations. Their leadership both on the global level and here in Canada has been inspiring, and I’m very pleased to be able to join them now to work in this critical area,” he says. Welcome, André!


Rights Within Reach campaign logo

Help us bring Rights Within Reach!

There’s a lot happening at the HIV Legal Network, both in Canada and around the world, and we need your help to keep this going. Give before the end of the year and your donation will be matched, dollar-for-dollar, by Charlie’s Challenge! We are making a real difference in the lives of thousands of people living with and affected by HIV and criminalization of all kinds, but we can’t do it alone. Please give today!


In solidarity,

The HIV Legal Network

P.S. Join Dr. Laura Bisaillon for the launch of her new book, Screening Out: HIV Testing and the Canadian HIV Experience, on Wednesday, November 30, 4:00-5:30 p.m. (EST), sponsored by the HIV Legal Network. The launch will be in person at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in Toronto and on Zoom. Register now to hear about the first-ever analysis of the medical, legal, and bureaucratic practices governing the federal immigration medical program, told from the perspective of the very people toward whom exclusionary health policy is directed.