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February 24, 2011

In Kato’s Africa, USAID Money Spurred Spread of HIV Criminalization Laws

Housing Works: "A decade ago, not a single African country had a law that specifically criminalized HIV exposure. Now, at least 27 African nations punish exposure. These laws open the door for the jailing—or worse—of people with HIV who practice safer sex; mothers who transmit the virus to their children; and even those who have HIV but are undiagnosed.

"The spread of such laws is in part the result of a 2004 model law created by Action for West Africa Region-HIV/AIDS, a five-year project funded at just under $35 million by USAID.

“By funding the creation—and wide dissemination—of a ‘model’ HIV-specific law, USAID has sent mixed messages from the United States,” said Edwin Bernard, editor of HIV and the Criminal Law. “On the one hand, the model law supports human rights by criminalizing stigma and discrimination. But by using vague and imprecise language in its HIV criminalization statute it also creates fear, confusion and the further stigmatization of people living with HIV.”