Mozambique, Germany and Portugal are rolling out the People Living with HIV Stigma Index in 2012. Other countries who have completed the process include Argentina, Bangladesh, Belorus, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador Ethiopia, Estonia, Fiji, Germany, India, Kenya, Malawi, Malaysia, Mexico, Republic of Moldova, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Sudan, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, Ukraine and Zambia.
The Dominican Republic is the first country where the index is being implemented. A team of researchers from two of the national networks of people living with HIV (ASOLSIDA and REDOVIH) have been working alongside Profamilia (the national family planning association) to carry out the research. To date almost 900 interviews have been completed, in four geographical regions covering 20 of the 32 provinces. In addition to asking questions about stigma, discrimination and living with HIV the index has also included a special focus on women, gender violence and young girls.
There have always been controversial issues surrounding HIV - from the ability of young people to access condoms and other sexual and reproductive health services, to a truly human rights based response for sex workers, men who have sex with men and injecting drug users. One of the most challenging issues facing the world today is the criminalization of HIV transmission.
The criminal law is a blunt instrument for HIV prevention. Yet from the UK to the USA, Mali to Mozambique, Azerbaijan to Australia, criminal laws are increasingly being used to prosecute HIV transmission or exposure. This undermines human rights and jeopardizes hard won gains in the global response to HIV. For World AIDS Day, a new publication - Verdict on a Virus: Public Health, Human Rights and Criminal Law - shows that a simplistic ‘law-and-order' response to HIV and the way in which individual court cases are reported in the media only serve to intensify a climate of denial, secrecy and fear.