|Expanding on a recent paper, “Legal Protection of Children Orphaned or Made Vulnerable by HIV/AIDS: International and Selected Domestic Law,” Rudy Van Puymbroeck, Lead Counsel for Public Health and HIV/AIDS in the
Legal Advisory Services group of the Bank’s Legal Vice Presidency, discussed ways to enhance legal infrastructures—with regard to particularly vulnerable groups—for effective and lasting action against HIV/AIDS. The presentation took place at World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C., on June 2, 2005 and was sponsored by the HIV/AIDS Teams of South Asia and Europe and Central Asia.
Some laws create disincentives to good public health practices or responsible personal behaviors, while others allow stereotyping and bigotry, Van Puymbroeck said. The government must pay special attention to groups that are especially vulnerable to being infected and therefore more likely to pass the infection on. He identified the vulnerable groups, based on the definitions from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, and the Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework for HIV/AIDS. The common thread among all groups is discrimination, marginalization of legal status, and inadequate human rights protection. He also highlighted some lessons learned from the Bank’s involvement in the Caribbean and in Australia.
During the question and answer session that followed, audience members inquired about the best way to reach out to vulnerable groups, especially since the efforts of institutions like the Bank are undermined by local law enforcement. Others questioned how social stigmas should be handled, and one attendant asked if there exists an “overinterpretation” of the role of law. Shantayanan Devarajan, Chief Economist for the Bank’s South Asia Region, moderated the session and Patricio Marquez, Lead Health Specialist in the Health Development Sector of the Bank’s Europe and Central Asia region, offered his assessment of Van Puymbroeck’s arguments.