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HIV law under scrutiny

Abidjan — The government has been challenged to review laws that criminalise transmission of HIV and Aids in line with public health trends as well as human rights dictates.

BY XOLISANI NCUBE IN Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

Presenting a paper on de-criminalisation of HIV and Aids at the International Conference on Aids and STIs in Africa (Icasa), human rights lawyer, Lizwe Jamela said according to Zimbabwe’s laws, being HIV-positive was a punishable offence.

“The Zimbabwe laws, specifically Section 79 of the code, the provision which relates to transmission of HIV, makes it an offence to have the virus,” he said.

“It does not take into account current health trends and public health dictates that promote HIV status disclosure.”

According to the law, it is a punishable offence to act in a manner that exposes someone to HIV, but Jamela said this ignored scientific research on the spread of the virus.

“The law says any action which exposes someone to HIV is liable without considering that sexual intercourse is negotiated and is by consent between adult partners,” he said.

“In this day and age, it’s archaic to believe that someone can engage in sex without protection and then the law blames only one person. Who does that?

“What if the alleged victim is the perpetrator? That is not provided for in the current Act.”

The 2017 edition of Icasa ran under the theme: Ending Aids — delivering different lyrics, and saw various organisations displaying various initiatives to end the spread of HIV and Aids by 2030.

As a way to fight the pandemic, de-criminalisation of HIV should be prioritised so that people can disclose their status freely as well as ensure that HIV-positive mothers breastfeed their children as stipulated by the World Health Organisation, Jamela said.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe-born Loice Chingadu, a director with SafAids, won a leadership award in recognition for the work she does in the fight against HIV and Aids.

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