How the Legal Environment Assessment opened our eyes for systemic change in Moldova

According to UNAIDS, People living with and affected by HIV in Moldova face serious legal and human rights issues, stigma and discrimination and unsynchronized/ outdated legislation, which remain important barriers to accessing essential services and to the full enjoyment of live. The 2018 Human Rights Perception Study reveals that the right to health is the most violated human right, while the 2018 Stigma Index shows that four out of ten people living with HIV reported experiences of discriminatory treatment in the last 12 months and disclosure of their status to third parties.

Against this background and building on the 2018 Supplement of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, UNDP Moldova completed a Legal Environment Assessment (LEA) on HIV (to be launched in May 2021) that analyzed the level of compliance of national legislation with international standards, guidance and practices. The LEA findings revealed that further efforts are needed to ensure a practical, standardized and evidence-based focus of national legislation and practice to support the national response to HIV aimed at the protection of public health and respect for human rights.

Stigma, discrimination and marginalization of people living with HIV, criminalization of HIV transmission and exposure and penalization of drug use and sex work remain some of the main legal barriers for accessing HIV prevention, treatment and care services. The national criminal law outlaws the use of drugs in penitentiary settings, limiting the access of users to syringe exchange programmes and methadone substitution treatment, despite their availability in prisons. Personal data protection of people living with HIV is not fully ensured and respected, while the practice of requesting an HIV test during the employment process is still present. 

Therefore, the over 70 eye-opening recommendations included in LEA extensively map the areas and directions of change, representing a source of information and guidance for national authorities, civil society organizations and/or KP communities in undertaking or advocating for sector-wide reforms compliant with international human rights standards and best practices to ensure inclusion, better protection under the law for people living with HIV and key populations at higher risk of HIV (including people who inject drugs (PWID), men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender (TG) people, sex workers, prisoners, migrant workers and other).

UNDP LEA findings and recommendations serve now as a roadmap for systemic changes meant to enhance the protection of people living with HIV and enhance the national HIV response. Priority interventions defined by the LEA are included in the draft 2021-2025 HIV/AIDS/STI National Programme and the 2021-2023 Global Fund application. They are at the heart of the renewed Roadmap on eliminating stigmatization of people living with HIV and are part of the HIV Scorecard developed to monitor and periodically review progress on the most relevant HIV-related indicators.

UNDP has partnered with the NGO Positive Initiative to promote and advocate for the removal of legal barriers ensuring that the rights of PLHIV are fully protected. Based on the LEA findings, two legal issues concerning access to health services and family and private life were addressed. 

Firstly,  regulatory restrictions on the access by women living with HIV to in vitro fertilization were removed to ensure that any woman or couple living with HIV can benefit from this procedure under clearly defined and fair conditions (strict adherence to treatment, viral load, absence of immunosuppression).

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Secondly, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Social Protection has issued clear instructions that the HIV-positive status of potential adoptive/foster parents cannot be invoked as grounds for refusing adoption or guardianship of a child. This regulation has established a uniform practice and excludes acts of discrimination in the process of adoption and determining guardianship. 

The LEA exercise is an ‘eye-opener’ for all. It is a great instrument that helps better understand where the gaps are and how these could be addressed. It also offers a wealth of opportunities to engage with a number of stakeholders and especially key populations to make their voices heard, which contributes to more inclusion, sustainable solutions, and results.

For more information about work on HIV and human rights in Moldova contact Alexandru Cocirta, Programme Analyst, UNDP Moldova – 

Comments (1)

Rosemary Kumwenda
Rosemary Kumwenda

Dear colleagues, please take advantage of Legal environment advances in Moldova. Within a short time, the country office has demonstrated very high inclusion results by engaging with a number of stateholders in the development of the LEA including with key populations. Human rights are universal.

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