Zero Discrimination Day 2023 theme – Save lives: Decriminalise

On Zero Discrimination Day this year, under the theme “Save lives: Decriminalise”, UNAIDS is highlighting how the decriminalisation of key populations and people living with HIV saves lives and helps advance the end of the AIDS pandemic.

Criminal laws targeting key populations and people living with HIV violate people’s human rights, exacerbate the stigma people face and put people in danger by creating barriers to the support and services they need to protect their health.

In 2021, the world set ambitious law reform targets to remove criminal laws that are undermining the HIV response and leaving key populations behind. Recognising decriminalization as a critical element in the response, countries made a commitment that by 2025 less than 10% of countries would have punitive legal and policy environments that affect the HIV response.

However, despite some encouraging reforms, the world is far from achieving the target. In fact, today there are 134 countries explicitly criminalising or otherwise prosecuting HIV exposure, non-disclosure or transmission; 20 countries criminalise and/or prosecute transgender persons; 153 countries criminalise at least one aspect of sex work; and 67 countries now criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity, according to UNAIDS. In addition, 48 countries still place restrictions on entry into their territory for people living with HIV, while 53 countries report that they require mandatory HIV testing, for example for marriage certificates or for performing certain professions. 106 countries report requiring parental consent for adolescents to access HIV testing.

Criminalisation drives discrimination and structural inequalities. It robs people of the prospect of healthy and fulfilling lives. And it holds back the end of AIDS.

We must end criminalisation to save lives.

On Zero Discrimination Day, 1 March, we celebrate the right of everyone to live a full and productive life—and live it with dignity. Zero Discrimination Day highlights how people can become informed about and promote inclusion, compassion, peace and, above all, a movement for change. Zero Discrimination Day is helping to create a global movement of solidarity to end all forms of discrimination.

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