Remove legal barriers to health

Promote legislation that protects human rights


The number of new HIV infections in the Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia is increasing. Although approximately 63% of people living with HIV know their status, treatment coverage is less than 28%, and less than 22% of people living with HIV are virally suppressed [1].

Key and priority populations [2] in conservative societies face a number of barriers that hinder their access to healthcare. These include:

  • Punitive laws that criminalize homosexuality, drug use and sex work and that hinder access to healthcare services
  • Stigmatizing cultures that force key and priority populations to strive for invisibility, complicate understanding of their needs and interfere with the delivery of an effective healthcare response
  • Lack of a reliable, consistent and anonymous data collection system
  • Lack of funding that interferes with the delivery of effective treatment and care
  • Restrictions on NGO operations by governments that constrict outreach and services
  • Lack of political commitment that prevents positive change and preserves the status quo.

Participants of the Third High-Level Consultation on HIV in Conservative Social Settings, held in Beirut, Lebanon, on 25-26 January 2018, issued an appeal for governments, lawmakers and stakeholders in countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and South East Asia to adopt the following call to action:

1. A legal framework that protects safety and dignity of key and priority populations

Development and implementation of legislation that protects safety and health, ensures respect and dignity, and outlaws all forms of discrimination and violence directed against key and priority populations.

2. A comprehensive, sustainable and coordinated response to HIV

Establishment of a health system response that:

  • Protects against stigma and discrimination
  • Sensitizes healthcare service providers at local, national and regional levels
  • Designs and delivers services that are informed by the needs and perspectives of key and priority populations
  • Provides differentiated health services, delivery models and comprehensive prevention approaches that are adapted to the diverse needs of key and priority and populations
  • Educates key and priority populations on the benefits of HIV prevention, treatment and care programmes
  • Builds standardized and anonymous data systems that document prevalence, assess risks and provide data-informed prevention and intervention services
  • Develops and maintains innovative, collaborative and diversified financing models to ensure sustainability of HIV programmes
  • Engages faith-based leaders in advocacy on behalf of people living with HIV
  • Protects safety, dignity and health of immigrant and refugee populations by providing access to HIV prevention and treatment services wherever they are.

3. A collaborative partnership between all stakeholders

Participants underscored the need for collaborative governance approaches to sustain an effective, efficient and coordinated response to HIV. Such approaches would leverage expertise and resources, foster mutual understanding among all stakeholders, and ensure a strategic and inclusive approach to HIV prevention and treatment.

Stand with us and add your name to the call to action.

We, the undersigned, appeal to government leaders, lawmakers and stakeholders in countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and South East Asia to remove legal barriers to health and to promote legislation that protects human rights.



Arash Alaei, IIHE
Brooke Wurst, The TRIAD Trust
Binod Gurung, SATHI SAMUHA; Community-led Organization of Positive People Who Use Drugs in Nepa
Ibrahim Jammas, Proud Lebanon
Bertho Makso, Proud Lebanon
Bensaid Souhaila, Tunisian Association of Positive Prevention
Willis Obonyo, Decobi enterprises
Elie Ballan, M-Coalition / AFEMENA
Thuria Ibrahime, Y-PEER
Katharina Dr. Koppinfo, One Health Pathogenomics Consulting Dr. Katharina Kopp
Станислав Колисниченко, Активист
Justine Abenaitwe
Sebastien Morin, International AIDS Society
April Randhawa, HIV Vaccine Trials Network, Fred Hutch
Peter Garang Ngor, The Peer Project and IAS member
Patrick Grossmann, International AIDS Society
Andrea Nannipieri, International AIDS Society


[2] Key populations refer to people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, sex workers and transgender people. Priority populations refer to people living with HIV and groups outside of key populations who may be at increased risk of acquiring HIV, for example, migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons, and people in prisons and other closed settings.

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