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U.N. to Look at Discriminatory AIDS Laws

U.N. to Look at Discriminatory AIDS Laws

A newly formed United Nations commission will investigate laws across the globe that discriminate against HIV-positive individuals, the agency has announced.

"Laws that inappropriately criminalize HIV transmission or exposure can discourage people from getting tested for HIV or revealing their HIV-positive status," said a joint statement from the U.N. Development Program and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.

Experts on the Global Commission on HIV and the Law are drawn from the fields of law, public health, human rights, and HIV. They are charged with developing recommendations by December 2011 on how laws can advance universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, and care.

The effort is intended to help "restore the dignity of people and to remove the bad rules," UNAIDS chief Michel Sidibe said.

Some 49 countries criminalize transmission or exposure to HIV, and 86 countries have legislation antagonistic to gay people, including seven that impose the death penalty for homosexuality, Sidibe said.

An estimated 52 nations restrict the travel of people with AIDS. Other laws pose challenges to proper care for drug users, the agencies noted.

"Laws that criminalize men who have sex with men, transgender people, drug users, and sex workers can make it difficult to provide essential HIV prevention or treatment services to people at high risk of infection," the joint statement said.

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