World AIDS Day 2013 - Major victory in Sweden, moving forward on human rights of people living with HIV
This World AIDS Day (December 1, 2013), the IPPF European Network is proud to highlight the major victory for human rights of people living with HIV, which was achieved as the Swedish court recognized the value of effective antiretroviral treatment in preventing HIV transmission. Sweden had one of Europe’s most draconian policies on HIV transmission resulting in the highest rate of people living with HIV that are sentenced to prison. This October, the Swedish Court of Appeal acquitted a man who had been convicted for exposing people to HIV on the grounds that his viral load was undetectable (due to effective antiretroviral treatment) and therefore there was no longer a significant risk of transmission of the virus.
Over the last 3 years, the IPPF Member Association, the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RSFU), in partnership with HIV Sweden and the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) undertook careful advocacy work which was funded by the IPPF Innovation Fund. The project raised awareness about the human rights implications derived from recent knowledge that effective antiretroviral treatment can reduce HIV transmission. The action targeted medical professionals, lawyers, politicians and the Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control which was consulted by the Court on the case. “We are proud to have had a role in bringing legislation in line with modern knowledge and human rights,” said Kristina Ljungros, President of RSFU.
After the Court decision, the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare, issued a statement outlining criteria by which individuals are no longer obligated to disclose their status. The new policy protects human rights and removes barriers to early access to voluntary HIV testing (obligation to disclose can dissuade people from accessing testing.) The 2013 WHO Consolidated Guidelines on the Use of ARV Drugs for Treating and Preventing HIV Infection, emphasize the value of effective ARV treatment for preventing the spread of HIV. IPPF believes that efforts to provide early access to voluntary testing and counselling should now be redoubled, first and foremost because early treatment is good for the health of people living with HIV, but now also because it has value for prevention. “The groundbreaking Swedish decision will hopefully be a good example for other European countries (including my own country, Germany) where laws on disclosure continue to violate the rights of people living with HIV and discourage access to voluntary testing and counselling,” said Peter Wiessner of the European AIDS Treatment Group (EATG). IPPF EN is working with EATG to advance the fight against criminalization of people living with HIV in Europe. More information on IPPF’s global “Criminalize Hate not HIV” campaign can be found here: http://www.hivandthelaw.com/.
“There is still considerable work to do to achieve ‘zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS deaths’ in Europe, and protecting the human rights of people living with HIV must continue to be a centre piece of that work.” –Vicky Claeys, Regional Director, International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network.