Global Commission on HIV & the Law – Final Report Released

The much anticipated final report from the Global Commission on HIV & the Law: “HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights & Health” has been launched this week ahead of AIDS 2012. This landmark report explores how law and human rights can transform the global HIV/AIDS response and is available in English, Spanish, French and Russian. The Global Commission on HIV and the Law chaired by ex-President of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso is an independent body of leaders and experts convened by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on behalf of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). The Commission website http://www.hivlawcommission.org/ has access to the Full Report http://www.hivlawcommission.org/index.php/report and a range of other key papers and information from the two year process including: key working papers, submissions received, press releases, fact sheets, etc. The Executive Summary of the report can be accessed at: http://www.hivlawcommission.org/resources/report/Executive-Summary-GCHL-EN.pdf

The Commission was supported in its work by a Technical Advisory Committee (TAG) chaired by one of the Commissioners the Hon. Michael Kirby and also included Commissioner Mr. JVR Prasada Rao. Importantly for people who use drugs (PUD), the membership of the TAG also included a representative of the International Network of People Who Use Drugs (INPUD) who was Annie Madden, Executive Officer of the Australian Injecting & Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL). The work of the Commission ran over two years and some of the key activities included:

  1.  Regional Submission Process– resulting in a large number of submissions from people who use drugs (PUD), their representative organisations and key harm reduction advocates – these submissions are available on the main Commission website: http://www.hivlawcommission.org/index.php/regional-dialogues/submissions-to-the-regional-dialogues
  2. Regional Dialogues– these were held across seven regions and included consultations and presentations from PUD representatives and other harm reduction advocates from many civil society groups – video recordings of all or parts of the Regional Dialogues are available on the main Commission website where you can watch our amazing and brave drug user activists and advocates in action: http://www.hivlawcommission.org/index.php/regional-dialogues/regional-dialogues
  3. Working Papers and Advice– throughout the process the TAG and various consultants prepared working papers and advice to support the thinking and work of the Commissioners in writing the final report. This work has also contributing to building some key documents relating to specific areas of HIV and the law that are now available to all of us working on these issues – copies of the papers can be downloaded from the Commission website: http://www.hivlawcommission.org/index.php/report-working-papers. Some of the papers contain issues specifically relating to drug use, HIV and the law including “The Criminalisation of HIV Exposure and Transmission: A Global Review”, Punitive Drug Law and the Risk Environment for Injecting Drug Users: Understanding the Connections”and “How to Best Reach HIV-Vulnerable Groups in Arab States: Drug Abuse in International Laws and Arabic Legislations”. All of the papers however have relevance for the PUD community.
  4. Final Report– INPUD strongly advocated to have a PUD representative on the TAG for the Commission and as that representative, Annie worked in consultation with INPUD Board and in particular with Jude Byrne (INPUD President) to provide the ‘drug user perspective’ into TAG meetings, papers and advice and to make comments on drafts of what would eventually become the Commission’s final report. This was not easy as there was so many competing issues and agendas. It was a long process, and in addition to the work done on the TAG, many, many PUD made important contributions along the way including making submissions, participating in the regional dialogues and by taking up every opportunity to speak with individual Commissioners to make sure issues for PUD remained a priority in the final report. A link to Full Report can found at: http://www.hivlawcommission.org/index.php/report

“HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights & Health” is a really important report for PUD across the world. It can be used alongside the growing list of major international, UN and national reports (including the Global Commission on Drugs Report and the Australia21 Report) that are calling for urgent action to halt the criminalisation of PUD and end the suffering, human rights abuses, health problems, corruption and deaths that result from the vast majority of current legal and policy approaches to drugs, their use and, the people who use them. It is a large report dealing with complex issues but one thing is for sure, it gives the PUD community at the international, regional and domestic levels a new source of evidence, information and recommendations to call for action. Reports like this one will never be ‘all things for all people’ but, it definitely gives us another tool in the fight for the health and human rights of PUD! We would love to hear your views on the report, the Commission process and ideas for taking the issues and recommendations from ideas to action.