The Annual Meeting of the Regional Network of Legal Aid
The Annual Meeting of the Regional Network of legal aid for people affected by HIV/AIDS, which brings together 29 organizations from 9 countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, took place in Kiev, Ukraine, on 11 -12 September, 2015. The meeting was supported by the UNDP Regional Office. The theme of the meeting was the short and long-term strategic planning of the activities of the Network of legal aid.
The participants of the meeting have shared the information about their current legal practice. The main part of such successful practice were won lawsuits to grant a temporary residence permit in Russia, not to disclose a confidential information on diagnosis in the medical records, to restore the infringed rights of internally displaced persons and refugees with HIV, not to deprive the rights of HIV-positive parents to educate their children, to provide an early release from prison to convicts with HIV who cannot get treatment while in prison. Representatives of the Kazakhstan-based organisations have shared about their practice of issuing protection orders to women who were victims of domestic violence. Such practice became possible because of the help of the Chief Inspector for the protection of women against violence.
In Georgia, policemen have got severe reprimand over homophobic rhetorics in the course of lawsuits, which were involving the members of the Network for legal aid. The organizations from Moldova, Ukraine and Kazakhstan provided the information about trainings, which were held for doctors to overcome discrimination against HIV-positive people. The Network members from Russia presented their experience of successful advocacy for including medicines for antiretroviral therapy into the list of necessary vital medicines and changing the patent law.
The representatives of the Network of legal aid mentioned the prosecution for HIV infecting according to claims of regular partners of HIV-positive people and the failure to provide antiretroviral therapy to HIV-positive children by their parents as the systemic problems. Since such complex problems in legislation are common to most countries in the region, the participating organizations offered to join their efforts to change the legislation.
The meeting was also attended by representatives of following regional networks: the Eurasian Coalition on Male Health, the Eurasian Women’s Network on AIDS, the Union of PLHIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Sex Workers' Advocacy Network for Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia .
The representatives of the regional networks described the activities of those networks, shared about their formation and development, provided plans for future work. The representatives of the Eurasian Coalition on male health talked about the start of cooperation with the Network of legal aid to prepare the legal expertise of legislation of the nine countries in the region on HIV, MSM and transgenders, to analyze the gaps in the legislation and to provide recommendations to address those gaps. The network of female sex-workers informed the meeting’s participants that in order to prepare the study on the analysis of barriers to sex workers in receiving legal aid, they used the results of interviews with six participating organizations of the Network from Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Georgia. The presentation of the regional networks and communities evoked a vivid interest, and many questions were asked and answered.
"The regional networks should facilitate the strengthening of the partnership and cooperation among their members at the country level, to protect the rights of people living with HIV in a more effective way» - said Hovhannes Madoyan , the representative of the Association of PLHIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia - ”We see such cooperation as joint campaigns, aimed at protecting the rights of PLWH and representatives of key affected populations. It is also important to combine our efforts to change the legal rules that obstruct the access of representatives of the key affected populations to HIV testing and treatment.
The Coordinator of the Network of legal aid presented the activities of the Network over the past year. Three new members from Kazakhstan and Ukraine joined the Regional Network in 2015. The Specialist on strategic planning shared about the resources available and the need to develop new ones and presented the strengths and weaknesses the Network of the legal aid defined by some participants during the preliminary interviews. There was a discussion of the Network’s annual plans and the three-year plans, opportunities and ways of their implementation. The participants of the meeting have outlined their involvement in the implementation of the proposed activities, having suggested the involvement of organisations’ resources and funds. The working group was established to prepare the participation of the Network of legal aid for the Fifth Conference on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.