Several countries in Asia-Pacific have successfully enacted laws to protect people living with HIV, but in most cases the legislation lacks teeth, according to a new report by the U.N. Development Program.
Cambodia, China, Fiji, Laos, Micronesia, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Vietnam have laws that provide legal protections for people living with HIV. However, the study notes there are serious gaps between “laws on the book” and “laws in the streets”: Although laws are there, people living with HIV cannot access justice.
“It is not good enough for politicians to pass well-meaning laws if in reality people cannot access justice to enforce their rights,” Shiba Phurailatpam, regional coordinator of the Asia-Pacific Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS and one of the authors of the report, said in a statement.
Phruilatpam added: “We call on governments and the donor community across Asia and the Pacific to help strengthen access to justice and legal empowerment among people living with HIV.”
In many countries, according to the UNDP paper, people living with the virus fear fear mounting a legal challenge that would result in disclosure of their identity, and even if they do have the courage to go to court, lack of money and access to public justice systems hinder them from claiming their legal rights.
The findings from the study will discussed at the upcoming judicial dialogue on HIV conference in Thailand on June 2-4.
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