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SWAN at UN Global Commission on HIV and the Law

By Anna-Louisa Crago
What is the Global Commission on HIV and the Law (GCHL)?
It is a commission put in place by the UN to study the impact of different laws on HIV-prevention, treatment and care. It also studies the impact of laws on discrimination and violence against people living with HIV or at high-risk of HIV.

The commissioners are a group of highly respected individuals and experts from around the world and include former heads of state, judges and policy experts. They are advised by a committee of technical experts with extensive knowledge about HIV and the law.

The commission is particular because it is independent of the UN. That means that the commissioners can come to their own conclusions, even if coutries within the UN or UN workers disagree with these.

What does the GCHL have to do with SWAN?

Individuals and groups from the CEE/CA, as well as other regions,were invited to submit testimony about the impact of different laws and HIV. SWAN submitted a submission that tried to include experiences from all across the region. Many other SWAN groups individually submitted such as HOPS (Macedonia), Lega-Life (Ukraine) and HESED (Bulgaria).

In the end, Odyseus (Slovakia), SZEXE (Hungary), TAIS PLUS (Kyrgyzstan), Association for Assistance (Russia) and SWAN were accepted to present in front of the commissioners at a regional meeting in Moldova in May, 2011.

How did SWAN prepare?

With the generous help of the Open Society Foundation, presenters from the various groups including Katerina Jiresova, Irina Maslova, Gulnara Kurmanova, Mariann Bodzsar, Stasa Plecas from Serbia who was representing SWAN and Aliya and Anna-Louise from the SWAN network met in Chisinau, Moldova to strategize.

The group decided that the strongest strategy was to brainstorm 4 key issues as they affected groups across the region and to present as a block. One person per issue and one person to summarize and spell out the recommended actions groups were calling on the Commission to endorse. (See the document the group produced and delivered here).

How did it go?

Incredibly well. The group was concise, convincing and made a very strong presentation. The show of unity and the power of the group presentation were remarked upon by many in attendance.

Now, SWAN groups must wait for the release of GCHL’s report to see if their voices were truly heard.

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