Hour 8: The greatest crime of all

Initially little was known about HIV, other than that it affected men who had sex with men. Once it was understood that the virus was sexually transmissible, many countries reacted by making it a criminal offence to pass it on, hoping that this would stop its spread. Thirty years on, there are countries that refuse to recognise the existence of HIV because doing so acknowledges that some of their nationals are homosexual or inject drugs or do sex work. The criminalisation of HIV remains a major barrier internationally in an effective response to the epidemic. Media have often sensationalised legal cases involving the transference of HIV, thus reinforcing stigma and driving people away from seeking treatment and disclosing their status.

Dean Beck speaks to one of the world’s leading academics and advocates against the criminalisation of HIV, Professor Matthew Weait from the School of Law at Birkbeck College, University of London. Matthew’s research centres on the impact of law on HIV prevention efforts and on people living with HIV and AIDS, the legal construction of responsibility, and public health. He is committed to ensuring that research and scholarship are responsive to the needs of policy-makers and civil society, and has provided research support for a number of organisations in the HIV and AIDS sector on legal matters. Matthew highlights examples from his recent empirical study of HIV criminalisation and activism in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

Dr Mandeep Dhaliwal, Director of UNDP’s HIV, Health and Development Practice, joins James Findlay to further discuss the global impact of HIV criminalisation. The urgency of the need to decriminalise HIV has led to Mandeep convening an innovative and robust initiative called the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, consisting of leading political, legal and human-rights minds.


Professor Matthew Weait
Professor of Law and Policy and Pro-Vice-Master for Academic Partnerships at the School of Law, Birkbeck College, University of London
Dr Mandeep Dhaliwal
Director of HIV, Health and Development Practice, United Nations Development Programme

Hosted by Dean Beck and James Findlay

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