Photo Credit: UN ESCAP

The HIV epidemic in Asia and the Pacific continues to outpace the response. New infections are primarily concentrated in urban centres and among key populations at higher risk of HIV exposure - sex workers, people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men (MSM), young people, transgender people, migrants and prisoners. Individuals from these groups face legal and policy barriers that impede their access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support and drive stigma and discrimination. While many countries in Asia and the Pacific have taken concrete steps to reform national laws that impeded universal access to HIV services, punitive laws, policies and practices remain widespread. Laws and policies that are rights-based, fully-resourced and implemented are needed to ensure we leave no one behind.

According to latest available data:

  • 17 countries known to specifically criminalize HIV transmission or exposure
  • 13 countries known to impose some form of restriction on entry, stay and residence on the basis of HIV status
  • 18 countries known to criminalize same-sex sexual activities between consenting adult males
  • 33 countries known to criminalize some aspect of sex work
  • 15 countries known to impose the death penalty for drug-related offences
  • 11 countries known to maintain compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres for people who inject drugs
  • 13 countries without explicit supporting reference to harm reduction measure for people who inject drugs in their national policies
  • 4 countries known to ban cross-dressing

In pursuance of the 2011 Political Declaration, ESCAP resolutions 66/10 and 67/9 and the ESCAP Roadmap beyond 2015, ESCAP provides technical support to governments and other stakeholders in:

  • Creating inclusive platforms to promote regional cooperation among Asia-Pacific governments, with active participation of key populations, civil society and private sector groups;
  • Providing technical assistance to Asia-Pacific governments to carry out national multisectoral consultations on policy and legal barriers to universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support;
  • Providing technical support to Asia-Pacific governments to carry out participatory and inclusive national reviews on implementing ESCAP resolutions 66/10 and 67/9, and the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS;
  • Providing technical support to Asia-Pacific governments to undertake national stakeholder consultations on access to affordable medicines, diagnostics and vaccines, as well as evidence-based national HIV investment cases and sustainability plans;
  • Strengthening the evidence base on good practices and lessons learned in meeting regional and international commitments on HIV and AIDS.

To assist member States in carrying out national reviews and multisectoral consultations, ESCAP together with the UN Regional Interagency Team on AIDS (UN-RITA) and its subsidiary Ad-Hoc UN Regional Interagency Team on Enabling Legal Environments (Ad-Hoc RITA) produced a Guidance Document for Asia and the Pacific Region on Creating Enabling Legal Environments: Conducting National Reviews and Multi-Sector Consultations on Legal and Policy Barriers to HIV services (2014).

ESCAP’s response to HIV and AIDS is guided by the ESCAP roadmap beyond  2015 adopted at the Asia-Pacific Intergovernmental Meeting on HIV and AIDS convened from 28 to 30 January 2015 in Bangkok to assess national progress in meeting the commitments contained in the 2011 Political Declaration and in ESCAP resolutions 66/10 and 67/9 as well as to evaluate the outcomes of national reviews of policy and legal barriers and to review measures to enhance the financial sustainability and effectiveness of AIDS response. The Meeting was convened by ESCAP in partnership with UNAIDS and UNDP and with support of UNESCO, UNFPA, UNODC and WHO.

The ESCAP roadmap beyond 2015 features:

  1. Continuing national reviews and multisectoral consultations on legal and policy barriers, and introduces new value-added elements on:
  2. National stakeholder consultations to promote access to affordable medicines, diagnostics and vaccines; and
  3. Evidence-based national HIV investment cases and sustainability plans.

The regional framework beyond 2015 builds on the previous ESCAP roadmap to 2015 endorsed by ESCAP member States at the Asia-Pacific High-level Intergovernmental Meeting on the Assessment of Progress against Commitments in the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS and the Millennium Development Goals convened by ESCAP in cooperation with seven UN entities from 6 to 8 February 2012 in Bangkok.