The Commonwealth must reform laws to stop HIV

This action has now closed

The lives of gay people in Commonwealth countries could be significantly improved

Thank you for taking action to demand that discriminatory and stigmatising laws in Commonwealth countries must be changed. These include laws which criminalise people simply for being gay or trying to earn a living through sex work.

Together we sent over 75,000 petition letters to heads of governments and ministries of foreign affairs, putting unprecedented pressure on the Commonwealth and its institutions to make legal reforms for a better response to HIV.

If the recommendations Commonwealth leaders received at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) are acted upon in the coming months, the lives of people at higher risk of HIV in Commonwealth countries will be significantly improved and their risk of HIV infection greatly reduced.

We can be optimistic about the outcome of CHOGM

We feared that some Commonwealth member states wanted the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) report on the reform of the Commonwealth to be buried and its recommendations on human rights and legal reform to be brushed under the carpet.

However, thanks to your action, the recommendations made by the EPG are being taken seriously. These recommendations:

– To “take steps to encourage the repeal of laws that may impede the effective response of Commonwealth countries to the HIV/AIDS epidemic”

– and for the creation of a Commonwealth Commissioner for Democracy, the rule of law and human rights

have been kept on the Commonwealth agenda and more detailed proposals on these two areas will be presented at the Commonwealth Foreign Affairs meeting in September 2012 in New York.

The CHOGM also acknowledged the seriousness of HIV in the Commonwealth, committing to “accelerating action to implement the objectives outlined in the 2011 UN Political Declaration on AIDS”.

But time is ticking, the more we wait the more people are likely to die unnecessarily of HIV related causes because they cannot access the services they need due to stigmatising and discriminatory legislation.

Last chance : the Commonwealth Foreign Affairs meeting in September

We will keep advocating on the Secretary General and Commonwealth Ministers (in charge of providing further advice) for our messages to be developed and adopted when Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers meet in September in New York.

We will continue to advocate for these recommendations to be developed and adopted when Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers meet in September in New York next year.

There is no way back now! Legal reform for an effective HIV response and meaningful Commonwealth leadership in promoting human rights will be key in the implementation of a “Charter on the Commonwealth” to “actively promote, uphold, preserve and defend the fundamental value, principles and aspirations of the Commonwealth” which the Heads of Government agreed last week to establish.

The clock is also ticking for the Commonwealth and its Secretariat to demonstrate their relevance. Ignoring the recommendations that the Commonwealth leaders themselves have made will simply add to the ever growing questions among Commonwealth citizens about the impact and added value of the institution.

We are closer to achieving our goals and we will keep fighting. Thank you for your support!

This action was organised by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance (the Alliance), the Commonwealth HIV/AIDS Action Group (CHAAG) and the Australian Federation of Aids Organisations (AFAO).