Reviewing laws and policies for a more effective HIV response in Sierra Leone

Feb 8, 2018

HIV Testing Center, UN Day 2016 in Sierra Leone © UNDP Sierra Leone/John Terry

A review of laws and policies in Sierra Leone identified key areas for reform in creating a more effective HIV response.

Findings of the Legal Environment Assessment for HIV in Sierra Leone, conducted by the Sierra Leone National HIV/AIDS Secretariat and with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), were examined by 80 stakeholders at a two-day validation workshop from 11-12 December 2017.

The assessment is a follow up to commitments by Member States at the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS, as well as the recommendations of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law that urged governments to promote laws and policies grounded in evidence and human rights in order to turn the tide against HIV.

“Punitive laws and discriminatory practices can undermine progress against HIV,” said Ghulam Sherani, Team Leader for Inclusive Growth, UNDP. It is crucial to conduct these assessments to reveal specifically which laws and policies support eradicating HIV in Sierra Leone, and to identify gaps in the laws and policies that require reform to ensure prevention and control of HIV and AIDS.”

The report recommends strengthening the legal environment in a number of areas, to promote a more effective national HIV response, and to ensure this is achieved in accordance with the National Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS 2016-20. Areas targeted for reform include the legislative branch of the government, delegated authority and the existing law.

During the workshop, participants discussed examples of traditions, cultural sensitivity and stigmatization that are persistent impediments in the HIV response.  

The second day of the workshop featured contributions from representatives of key population communities. They informed the workshop of the challenges they face in their daily life. 

The study found that in the majority of cases, the legal infrastructure is aligned with best practices, but the laws and policies are not implemented as intended.

“In order to protect Sierra Leoneans and fast track the national response in ending AIDS, it is essential that the Government of Sierra Leone examines its laws and policies that work against the national efforts in ending the epidemic,” said Mr. Abdul Rahman Sessay, Deputy Director of the  Sierra Leone National HIV/AIDS Secretariat.

The first of its kind in Sierra Leone, the Legal Environment Assessment is an activity of the Japan-funded project, "Strengthening Access to Health Care and Community-Led Development”, and conducted in partnership with the UNDP Regional Office, with funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. 

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