Advocating Prevention Over Punishment: The Risks of HIV Criminalization in Burkina Faso
Posted: 4 Feb 2010
Date Written: November 1, 2009
In 2004, parliamentarians from 12 countries in West and Central Africa created a template for legislation aimed at protecting the rights of people with HIV and stemming rising HIV infection rates by criminalizing HIV transmission. Since then, the template has been adopted as national law in 15 African countries, including Burkina Faso in 2008. The Burkina Faso law offers a number of protections for people with HIV, such as confidentiality of HIV test results, and holds the government accountable for providing health services for people with HIV and education about HIV in schools. However, other articles in the law, which criminalize HIV transmission and mandate disclosure of HIV status, may contribute to violations of the human rights of women and men with HIV. This article reviews the two cases brought in Burkina Faso under the 2008 HIV law to date, both against women, and explores the implications of specific elements of the legislation. It recommends that Burkina Faso use guidance provided by UNAIDS and the Southern Africa Development Community to repeal harmful articles in the HIV-specific legislation and implement the positive provisions. Prioritizing HIV prevention over punishment is the best way to respect the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS.
Keywords: HIV/AIDS, criminalization, mandatory disclosure, human rights, women’s rights, Burkina Faso
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