Skip to main content

“Capacity building workshop on human rights and gender in HIV legal framework"

Open civil society letter to the participants

In light of the importance of a robust legislative response to the epidemic and strong action on behalf of the most affected communities, we draw your attention to serious human rights concerns that have been raised with respect to the N’Djamena “model law” and the national HIV laws that have followed it. This meeting is a vital opportunity to update these laws so that the region of West and Central Africa reflects the very best guidance on how countries respond to HIV with legislation.

A number of provisions of the N’Djamena “model law” violate international human rights law and the UNAIDS/Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights (“the International Guidelines”). Further, while the International Guidelines emphasize the importance of protecting women’s rights, the model law
is extremely detrimental for women, who are more likely than men to be tested for HIV (due to testing conducted in antenatal clinics) and more vulnerable to violence and abandonment resulting from disclosure of their status.

• The “model law” contains language that could severely restrict educational activities around HIV prevention in schools.
• In explicit contravention of the International Guidelines, the “model law” allows mandatory HIV testing in situations such as where pregnant women go for a medical check-up, or “to solve a matrimonial conflict”. Mandatory testing for pregnant women jeopardizes women’s health and lives by discouraging them from seeking pregnancy related care.
• The “model law” imposes a blanket duty on health care practitioners to disclose the HIV status of their patients to their patients’ spouses or sexual partners, regardless of the actual risk of transmission. The law contains no provisions to ensure that the person living with HIV be given advance warning of such notification, nor any means to prevent violence or abandonment that may be a direct result of such involuntary disclosure. This provision has particular implications for women who bear the brunt of intimate partner violence.
• The “model law” contains a provision criminalizing “the willful transmission of HIV”, and defines HIV transmission to be transmission of the virus “by any means”. This broad language could impose criminal penalties even on individuals who practice safer sex and/or disclose their HIV status to their sexual partners, or on mothers who transmit HIV to their children, either in utero or during labour and delivery.

UNAIDS and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reissued the International Guidelines in 2006 in recognition of the continued centrality of human rights to the fight against AIDS. We urge you to ensure that the HIV laws in West and Central Africa guarantee human
rights protections, including the human rights of women. HIV laws in the region should be based on education, empowerment, non-discrimination, and community engagement. Punitive provisions and other approaches that exacerbate stigma and discrimination will only drive people away from testing and treatment services and risk undermining an effective response to the epidemic.

We therefore urge you to ensure that the workshop results in:

1) Concrete plans, within established time periods, to amend the limited number of articles in national HIV laws that are at variance with international human rights law and the UNAIDS/Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ International Guidelines.
2) The N’Djamena “model law” has been promoted as a template for legislation in the region. It is therefore critical that it be revised so that it provides parliamentarians with a resource that reflects international human rights principles and the UNAIDS/Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ International Guidelines. We understand that revision was agreed to during the previous meeting on the “model legislation” in Dakar, July 2007. Specifically, the law should be revised to include provisions that specifically protect the rights of women, prisoners, and other vulnerable populations as well as to amend existing provisions on:

    o Education on HIV and AIDS in schools;
    o Mandatory HIV testing;
    o Partner notification;
    o Discrimination;
    o Criminalisation of transmission;
    o Prisons.

3) A clear commitment to genuine participation with civil society partners, particularly with representatives of those communities who will be most affected by the laws under discussion including persons living with HIV and women, from the region and across Africa, throughout the drafting, amendment, and implementation of these laws. We look forward to learning the outcome of this week’s meeting and to following this important process.


AIDS and Human Rights Research Unit
University of Pretoria, South Africa

AIDS Law Project
South Africa

AIDS and Rights Alliance of Southern Africa
Southern Africa

Yaovi Mawulé Apedo
JMAH (Jeunes missionnaires d'Aide Humanitaire)

Janet Asiimwe
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

Association AFRIQUE JEUNES 2020

The ATHENA Network

Gueye Babacar
Advocacy Program Manager, Association AWA

Alvaro Bermejo
Executive Director, International HIV/AIDS Alliance

Elizabeth Brundige
Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, Yale Law School
United States

Robert Carr
Executive Director, Caribbean Vulnerable
Communities Coalition

Center for Reproductive Rights
United States

Linda Dumba Chicalu
Project Lawyer, Aids Law Unit, Legal Assistance Centre

Faustace Chirwa
Executive Director, National Women's Lobby &
Rights Group (NWLRG)

The Coalition of Women Living with HIV and AIDS in Malawi

Lironga Eparu
National Association of PLWHA

Marieta de Vos
Executive Director
Mosaic Training, Service & Healing Centre for Women
South Africa

Simão Cacumba M. Faria
SCARJOV- Associação de Reintegração dosJovens/Crianças na Vida Social

Patricia Figueroa
Caribbean Regional Coordinator HIV Collaborative Fund/ ITPC
Puerto Rico Community Clinical Research on AIDS - PR CoNCRA

Sally Fisher
Intersect Worldwide
United States

Aneleh Fourie-Le Roux
Training and Mentoring Coordinator, Christian
Aids Bureau for Southern Africa
South Africa

Anne Gathumbi
Program Officer, OSIEA

Ted Gaudet
Board Member, GNP+NA

Liesl Gerntholtz
Director, Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre
South Africa

Global AIDS Alliance

GNP+ (The Global Network of People living with HIV/AIDS)

Gill Greer
Director General, IPPF

Rosemary Hack
South Africa

Yapja Youchaou Hamed
National Coordinator, NGO Solidarity Cameroon

Human Rights Watch
United States

International Community of Women Living with

International Women’s Health Coalition
United States

Ipas (International NGO - offices in 13 countries)

Hannah Jansen
Stichting Marieke Bevelanderhuis

Léonnie Kandolo
Présidente, Protection Enfants Sida “P.E.S.”
République Démocratique du Congo

Georges Kanuma
ANSS (Association National de Soutien aux
Séropositifs et aux malades du sida)

Johanna Kehler
Executive Director, AIDS Legal Network
South Africa

Bhawani Shanker Kusum
Secretary & Executive Director, Gram Bharati Samiti (GBS)

Rafa Valente Machava
Executive Director, Women, Law and
Development Association MULEIDE

Stephen McGill
Stop AIDS In Liberia (SAIL)

Frank Molteno
Coordinator, Cathedral HIV & AIDS Task Team
(CHATT) [Anglican Church of Southern Africa]
South Africa

Damaris Mounlom
Coordinator, Women-Health-Development NGO

Buyiswa Mpini
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
South Africa

Dr. Lydia Mungherera
Chair of the Executive Board of Mama's Club

Malala Mwondela
Executive Director
Zambia AIDSLaw Research & Advocacy Network (ZARAN)

Sylvie Niombo
AZUR Développement

Patrice Desire Ndzie

Pan African Treatment Access Movement (PATAM)

Positive Malaysian Treatment Access & Advocacy Group (MTAAG+)

Nicolas Ritter
Director, Prévention Information et Lutte contre le Sida – PILS –

Solidarity and Action Against HIV Infection in India (SAATHII)

Adejoke Sonoiki
Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS)


James Silk
Clinical Professor of Law, Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, Yale Law School
United States

Meena Saraswathi Seshu
General Secretary, SANGRAM

Richard Shilamba
Ag. National Coordinator, Southern Africa Human Rights NGO Network(SAHRiNGON)-Tanzania Chapter

Bille Sike
Association De Lutte Contre Les Violences Faites
Aux Femmes

Marion Stevens
Treatment Monitor, Health Systems Trust
South Africa

Belinda Tima
ICW Co-Chair
United Kingdom

Norman Tjombe
Director, Legal Assistance Centre

Zoumana Isaac Traore
National Coordinator, International AIDS Candlelight Memorial

Treatment Action Campaign
South Africa

Lyn van Rooyen
Programme Manager, CARIS - Christian AIDS Resource and Information Service
South Africa

Frans Viljoen
Director, Centre for Human Rights, University of
South Africa

World YWCA

Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.

Region / Country