The National HIV/AIDS Secretariat (NAS) and its partners have started a three day consultative meeting of stakeholders to review the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Act 2007.
In his statement, Director of NAS, Dr Brima Kargbo said that the Parliament of Sierra Leone ratified the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Act in 2007 as a result of guidance from a model law developed by the forum of African Arab Parliamentarians for West African countries.
He added that a lot of gaps were identified by partners at both national and international level, adding that cognizance of the fact that our law must have an international approval rating of non discriminatory in itself.
Today, HIV/AIDS is no less a challenge to medicine as it is to the legislature and every discipline of life that touches human development, he said on Wednesday at the Hotel Barmoi in Freetown.
“As the epidemic progresses, governments began to realize that medical approach alone to HIV prevention and care was insufficient”, Kargbo said.
He noted that international organizations began to stress the broad social impacts of HIV/AIDS, thus spurring multi sectored responses.
Mulunnesh Tennagashaw from UN Theme Group says that, the United Nations International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights encourages all countries to ensure that their laws are supportive to the protection, promotion and fulfillment of the human rights of people living with and vulnerable of HIV.
She emphasized that national legislation is one major tool that protects and promotes the rights of People Living with HIV as well as help in scaling down the spread of HIV.
However, laws can either be protective or can be an impediment to this realization depending on its content, Tennagashaw told the gathering.
Country Manager of Christian Aid, Lynda Kerley said laws everywhere in the world are subjected to amendments in order to fit into the demands of society. She stated that, the Act enacted in 2007 provided for legal recognition to the rights of HIV positive persons, including confidentialities, status and protection from stigma and discrimination.
Kerley maintained that despite the positive aspect of the Law, attention has been drawn by the international community’s to improve and amend the HIV/AIDS law to have a positive gender and human right perspective. Article 21 of the Law which provides for the criminalization of mother to child transmission was of grave concern to all, she said.
The Country Manager said that, Article 21 (A) provides that People Living with HIV (PLWHIV) shall take reasonable measures and precautions to prevent the transmission of HIV to others. This Article, she said, does not adequately protect PLW-HIV women and other disadvantaged persons, it therefore exposes them to stigma and discrimination, violence and other abuse.
Arnold Macauley, Secretary General of NETHIPS said that his organization would like to urge all those who will be taking part in the review of this document to remove without hesitation any portion of the document that discriminates or criminalizes someone due to HIV infections.
By Abibatu Kamara