Rountable of judicial training institutes on HIV/TB and Human Rights ProgrammesJan 25, 2018
Mr. Walid Badawi, Country Director UNDP South Africa
Program Director Dr. Gomolemo Moshoeu
Justice Nambitha Dambuza, of the Supreme Court of Appeal, South Africa
Justice Edwin Cameron, of the Constitutional Court of South Africa
Honorable justices from:
My UNDP colleagues from the Regional Service Center led by Amitrajit Saha, Head Piklu
Ladies and gentlemen,
All protocols observed,
1.0 On behalf of UNDP and its South Africa Office, let me welcome you to this Roundtable of Judicial Training Institutes on HIV/TB and Human Rights Programmes
2.0 I hope that you have travelled comfortably and are enjoying the fabulous weather that South Africa has to offer and I wish that you have two days of successful deliberations.
3.0 We are here at an important juncture in the journey to defeat the HIV/TB epidemic. The latest report from UNAIDS shows, the number of people with access to antiretroviral therapy has more than doubled since 2010, bringing the new total of people on HIV treatment around the world to an estimated 17 million at the end of 2015. In South Africa, the total number of people on antiretroviral therapy is 4.2 million as of December 2017, one of the world’s largest ARV programmes, which has resulted in a sharp increase in national life expectancy from 58.3 years in 2011 to 65 years in 2017.
4.0 But as we know, our region – Sub-Saharan Africa – continues to account for the highest burden of HIV globally – despite having made significant inroads into increasing treatment and slowing down the rate of new HIV infections. Further, it is important to underscore that a quarter of our HIV infected population in Sub-Saharan Africa continue to be in the 15 to 24-year age group.
5.0 In 2016 the High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS adopted the Political Declaration that includes a set of specific, time-bound targets and actions that must be achieved by 2020 if the world is to get on the Fast-Track and end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals.
6.0 While we have made great progress, more still needs to be done to reduce the exclusion, stigma and discrimination that fuels the spread of HIV and impedes access to services and support.
7.0 For example in South Africa, the SANAC Stigma Index Report (2015) showed that internalized stigma is still a major challenge with more than 40% of people living with HIV (PLHIV) expressing feelings of internalized stigma.
8.0 In 2012, the UNDP-led Global Commission on HIV and the Law, concluded that ending AIDS as a public health threat was within reach but only if science and action were accompanied by respect for human dignity and efforts to end injustice. The same, unfortunately, continues to hold true today. Decades into the global AIDS response, marginalised populations such as men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people, people who use drugs and prisoners, continue to bear a disproportionate burden of HIV.
9.0 Young people and adolescents are also being left behind in the AIDS response. Young women and adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection, especially between the ages of 15-24 years. They accounted for 20% of new HIV infections among adults globally in 2015. Drilling down to South Africa, the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS, 2016) reveals that young women aged 15-to-24 are eight times more likely to be HIV positive than their male counterparts.
10.0 The HIV epidemic in Africa continues to raise new and complex legal and human rights’ issues and challenges every day: often through legislation that either do not address, or actively uphold human rights of people most at risk of and most affected by HIV including people living with the virus.
11.0 Since 2014, the Africa Regional Judges Forum (ARJF) has held annual meetings with an increasing number of judges from Africa. The first meeting of the ARJF, held in 2014 in Johannesburg, was attended by 11 judges from eight countries in Eastern and Southern Africa; and the most recent meeting, held in 2017 was attended by 32 judges from 17 countries, including a judge from Tunisia (North Africa), and from the Ukraine (Eastern Europe) – making the Judges’ Forum a truly cross-regional forum for the first time.
12.0 Experience over the last 6 years – since the launching of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law’s report in July 2012 and the convening of the Africa Judges Forum– show us, that despite numerous challenges, there have been some extraordinary advances in terms of laws and rights-based jurisprudence in the context of HIV/TB in our part of the world.
13.0 We are witnessing instances where courts have struck down harassment of members of LGBT communities by law enforcement agencies; have ordered national governments to provide anti-retroviral treatment to foreign nationals in prison; ensured that national registration bodies register LGBT organisations; have struck out orders to incarcerate TB patients in prisons on the basis of non-adherence to treatment regimens – emphatically saying ‘TB is not a crime’; and upturned rulings of lower courts imprisoning sex workers on the basis of living on earnings of prostitution; and, in a recent case, struck down a lower court ruling sentencing a HIV positive woman for breastfeeding a child “with the intention of wilful transmission of HIV”.
14.0 This current Roundtable of African Judicial Institutes is therefore a logical next step towards sustaining and institutionalising the efforts initiated by the African Regional Judges’ Forum.
15.0 I have been informed that South Africa has been consistently represented on these forums over the years and that the representatives have disseminated some of the lessons to their peers in various forums.
16.0 On behalf of UNDP South Africa, therefore let me applaud and welcome this excellent initiative taken by the South African Judicial Education Institute to convene the Roundtable to discuss how best could relevant curricula relating to human rights, HIV and key and vulnerable populations be included in national judicial institutes in countries in Africa. The Country office stands ready to support SAJEI on its locally driven initiatives in this regard.
17.0 The agenda of the two-day meeting, I am advised, includes: an exchange of information and knowledge regarding judicial trainings and human rights, HIV and TB; discussion of gaps in the current work on judicial training with respect to HIV, TB and human rights; and identification of next steps for national judicial institutes to incorporate HIV, TB and human rights materials in their training programmes.
18.0 UNDP is committed to, and continues to support follow up on the recommendations made by the Global Commission on HIV and the Law. We are therefore proud to support this Roundtable achieve the identified outcomes including: 1. understanding the centrality of human rights-based approaches in law, in the context of infectious and other disease control, with specific focus on HIV and TB, in the training of judicial officers in African countries; 2. Arriving at a consensus that it is important to include training on human-rights based approaches in addressing/adjudicating cases pertaining to transmission of infection (particularly HIV and TB), access to treatment, and rights and entitlements of persons at risk of or suffering from such diseases in curricula of judicial training programmes in African jurisdictions; 3. Identifying next steps for SAJEI and other judicial institutions on how to initiate the institutionalisation of such training and education of African judges on HIV, TB and human rights over 2018 and 4. Agreeing on roles, responsibilities and partnership modalities between SAJEI, other institutions and UNDP to follow up on the next steps.
19.0 Once again, I welcome you and hope that you have a successful meeting to address all the planned objectives and attain the proposed outcomes.
20.0 Thank you
1. Mandeep Dhaliwal. Huff Post Op Ed (8 Jun. 2016). “20 Million People Living with HIV Are Being Left Behind”. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mandeep-dhaliwal/20-million-people-living-_b_10343224.html?1465403600
2. UNAIDS 2016. Global AIDS Update. http://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/global-AIDS-update-2016_en.pdf
3. Ban Ki Moon (April 2016). “On the fast track to ending the AIDS epidemic”. SG Report UN GA (A/70/811). http://sgreport.unaids.org/pdf/20160423_SGreport_HLM_en.pdf
4. World Health Organization. Global Tuberculosis Report 2017. WHO; 2017