Post submitted by Bo Suh, HRC Digital Media Intern
The U.S. Ambassador to Australia John Berry told the 20th International AIDS Conference that the fight against HIV/AIDS cannot be won without the decriminalization of LGBT people.
Ambassador Berry is very popular in Australia and is now one of the highest-ranking U.S. officials to support HIV criminalization reform. He emphasized that the world is at a crucial moment in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but criminalization laws impede greater access to preventive care and treatment by wrongly stigmatizing and marginalizing people living with HIV and AIDS.
“Unfortunately, the criminalization of certain at risk populations and those who are HIV positive – and the stigma associated with HIV – are the very things that will prevent us from eliminating this disease entirely,” he said.
Berry noted that these criminalization laws undermine health officials’ ability to limit the spread of the disease. Berry also recognized that the U.S. still has much more work to do.
“Now while the United States still has laws that criminalize HIV status, we are working to become better – to do better – and to remedy our mistakes,” Berry said. “We believe that one of the most productive public policy actions that we can take is removing outdated criminalization laws from the books. The president in his national HIV/AIDS strategy has called for the review and reform of all HIV criminalization laws across our country.”
The Sero Project, a network of HIV/AIDS activists, applauded Berry’s comments.
“The Ambassador's unambiguous declaration that HIV criminalization is an injustice and critical impediment to ending the epidemic is of enormous importance. HIV criminalization reform is becoming a litmus test for human rights around the world and we are looking forward to more progress in the months and years ahead,” they said in a statement.