Filed under: Guest posts HIV Human rights and rule of law

Face of a brown hair young woman, fake blood comes out of her nose, fake bruises on the face

Aigul Mukanova (in makeup) at a flashmob to raise awareness about human rights in Ukraine, June 2012

Knowledge is power for those living with HIV.

Having the right information enables people affected by HIV to prevent human rights violations, and seek redress if their rights have already been violated.

Knowledge can also help change attitudes toward populations at high risk of HIV transmission in Eastern Europe: people who inject drugs, sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people, and migrants.

So how do we educate and provide support for such a diverse population in a user-friendly way? This is a complex issue, but many organizations are working to overcome this obstacle.

The key is to first gain the trust of marginalized communities, part of which has involved increasing the number of HIV-related legal services available for those in need.

This is a good first step, but there’s still a lot of work to be done in order to strengthen HIV responses in countries in Eastern Europe.

Earlier this summer, UNDP and its partners organized a training programme in Kyiv to raise awareness and improve access to legal services for people living with, or affected by, HIV in Ukraine.

The meeting, co-organized by the East Europe & Central Asia Union of People Living with AIDS, the All-Ukrainian Human Rights Movement “Dignity”, and the All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV, brought together 27 participants including HIV activists and people living with and affected by HIV from across Ukraine.

The training was organized as part of a regional project on HIV, rights and universal access in Eastern Europe and the CIS, supported by the European Union.

Trainers introduced international, regional and national mechanisms to protect and uphold the rights of people living with HIV, judicial practice, the rules of contact and conduct for law enforcement professionals, and preventive measures to avoid human rights violations.

One of the key discussion topics included the need for qualified legal assistance in national and international courts and quasi-judicial bodies.

As a step forward, the group discussed making changes to policies and legislation related to the rights of people living with HIV and the potential for civil society organizations to act as catalysts for change.

The new website of the regional legal aid network was also presented. It provides contacts and detailed information about the services offered by legal aid organizations in Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, and other CIS countries. The site also provides a platform where people can report rights violations.

It is intended to not only make it easier for victims to report violations, but also directs them to a legal aid network, and most importantly, tracks the progress and results of cases.

Our discussions are just the beginning of coordinated efforts among legal aid organizations in the region. We look forward to increased collaboration on how to better use the law to protect the rights of people living with and affected by HIV.

What more do you think needs to be done?