​Unlawful policing: A crisis crippling the HIV response

Frontline AIDS/Gemma Taylor/2018

A new report from Frontline AIDS reveals how unlawful policing impacts on human rights, access to justice and the HIV response.

A new report from Frontline AIDS, produced in partnership with Alliance for Public Health (APH), Ukraine; AIDS Foundation for South Africa (AFSA), and Gender Dynamix, South Africa, reveals how unlawful policing impacts on human rights, access to justice and the HIV response. 

The report, titled Protectors or Perpetrators?, draws on evidence provided by community-based monitors in six countries across Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) and South Africa. Through real life stories, it highlights the resilience and courage of marginalised people and communities in the face of persistent stigma, discrimination and violence.  

In five of the six EECA countries analysed, people who use drugs reported disproportionately high levels of unlawful policing, ranging from harassment, intimidation and use of excessive force, to extortion and blackmail and denial of protection.  Aggressive police targeting of people accessing opioid substitution therapy was also a significant problem in EECA, while in South Africa police practices had a disproportionate impact on homeless people and on transgender women, with many reporting excessive force and destruction of property including HIV medicines and safe injecting equipment. 

Victoria Kalyniuk, REAct Coordinator in EECA region says,

“The data we have collected shows that the rights of people living with and affected by HIV are violated very broadly, in every sphere and by many different abusers. But what is clear, is that the police and law enforcement agencies are the key perpetrators in every single one of the countries we work in.”

 The main role of the police is to protect our rights. But when the police are the perpetrators, who can you go to for help and support? 

“As seen in the Global AIDS Report released by UNAIDS this week, key and vulnerable populations represented 70% of new HIV infections in 2021. Criminalisation is not only denying millions of marginalised people access to justice and accountability, it is undoing and undermining an effective response to HIV”, says Oratile Moseki, Human Rights Advocacy Lead at Frontline AIDS.

Community-led human rights monitoring tools such as Frontline AIDS’ Rights – Evidence – ACTion (REAct), are empowering communities to monitor and act on rights violations. Without capturing evidence of abuses, marginalised communities will continue to face discrimination and violence with no access to justice, and will continue to face barriers to life-saving HIV and health services. 

Frontline AIDS and their partners are calling upon donors, governments and UN agencies to invest in community-led monitoring and end unlawful policing practices in order to remove the human rights barriers to HIV services, and to ensure a more effective AIDS HIV response. 

Read the new ‘Protectors or Perpetrators?’ report here.


DecriminalisationHIV preventionHuman rightsPeople who are marginalisedPeople who use drugsREActStigma and discrimination