Re-thinking criminalization: drugs, sex work, same-sex relations and HIV

Dialogue 3 | Speakers and Facilitators

  • Judy Chang
    Judy Chang

    Judy Chang is the Executive Director of the International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD). She has worked in the HIV, community health and development field for ten years and harm reduction and drug policy for six years. She brings decades of lived experience as a woman who uses drugs, and centres the need for decriminalisation and combatting stigma and discrimination. Judy has worked across India, China, and Thailand and holds a Master’s in International Development and a Bachelor of Arts in Writing and Contemporary Cultures.

  • Nataliia Isaieva
    Nataliia Isaieva

    Nataliia Isaieva is the director of LEGALIFE-UKRAINE, an organization run by sex workers. She has been living with HIV for over 23 years, has 15 years of experience as a sex worker and activist. She speaks openly about her HIV-positive status and her history as a sex worker. Natalia began her work in activism and human rights 16 years ago, first by talking about the rights of people living with HIV and then becoming actively involved in the development of the sex worker movement in Ukraine. Around the same time, she joined the Sex Worker Advocates Network (SWAN), where she was the chair of the Steering Committee from 2011 to 2015. In 2016, she was elected to the European Region Council in the Global Network of Sex Worker Projects (NSWP), as well as to the International Steering Committee of the Red Umbrella Fund.

  • Lucas Ramón Mendos
    Lucas Ramón Mendos

    Lucas Ramón Mendos (he/him) is the Research Coordinator at the International LGBTI Association (ILGA). He is a lawyer, lecturer and researcher, specialized in international human rights law and sexual and gender diversity issues. Lucas earned his LLB degree with a focus on international law from the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) and his LLM degree on sexuality and the law from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA). He has worked as an attorney with the LGBTI Rapporteurship of Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Williams Institute International Program. He has served as a defence attorney for asylum seekers with the Office of the Defender General (Argentina) and as an adviser on SOGIESC issues to the Human Rights Secretariat of the Province of Buenos Aires.

  • Charles Hawthorne
    Charles Hawthorne

    Charles Hawthorne (they/he) is a part of National Harm Reduction Coalition’s California capacity building team as a Capacity Building Manager. Their role entails leading the NHRC’s harm reduction training work for the state of California and supporting harm reduction programs with technical assistance. In their prior role, Charles led the San Francisco Harm Reduction Training Institute, providing harm reduction education and support to programs that serve people who use drugs, people who do sex work, and unhoused populations. Charles received their B.S. in Biochemistry from Purdue University and is currently pursuing their Master’s in Public Health from Johns Hopkins. They are a Bloomberg American Health Initiative fellow focusing on addiction and overdose.

  • Edwin J Bernard
    Edwin J Bernard

    Edwin J Bernard is the founding Executive Director of the HIV Justice Network, a global advocacy organisation that plays an essential leadership role in combatting HIV criminalisation and convening diverse partners to resist punitive legal and public health responses to people living with HIV. He is also the Global Co-ordinator of the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE coalition – led by a nine-member Steering Committee and supported by over 100 civil society organisations – which campaigns to end HIV criminalisation. His focus is on pragmatic solutions to laws and policies at the intersection of public health and human rights, including combating ignorance, misinformation, and stigma through science, rationality, and collaboration. Notably, Edwin has been contributing to global knowledge of, and advocacy against, HIV criminalisation since his first book on the subject in 2007, Criminal HIV Transmission. He published a second book, HIV and the Criminal Law, in 2010. Edwin, who was born in the UK and is now based in Amsterdam, and who acquired HIV in 1983 at the age of 21, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in film and literature from the University of Warwick.

  • Adrian Jjuuko
    Adrian Jjuuko

    Dr Adrian Jjuuko is a Ugandan human rights lawyer, researcher and activist, with over 12 years experience. He is the founder and Executive Director of Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), an organisation that operates the only specialised legal aid clinic for LGBTI persons in Uganda, and advocates for legal change in favour of marginalised groups. Adrian coordinated the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, which led civil society opposition to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009, and for this, won the US State Department’s Human Rights Defenders Award 2011. The Coalition successfully prosecuted the case that led to the nullification of the Anti-
    Homosexuality Act, 2014 and pursued the first completed case on LGBT issues in an international Court in Africa – the case that challenged Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act at the East African Court of Justice. His research interests are in the area of legal reform for marginalised groups.

  • Naomi Burke-Shyne
    Naomi Burke-Shyne

    Naomi Burke-Shyne is the Executive Director of Harm Reduction International. She brings more than 15 years of international experience at the intersection of law, harm reduction, HIV and human rights. From 2014 to 2017, Naomi worked for the Open Society Foundations’ Public Health Program, leading a portfolio of funding and policy engagement that supported civil society to challenge the negative impact of drug policy on access to controlled medicines, and strengthen access to justice for people who use drugs. Between 2009 and 2014, Naomi worked in a regional capacity for the HIV and Health Law Program at the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), posted in Jakarta, Kathmandu, then Kampala. Naomi is a member of the Strategic Advisory Group to the UN on HIV and Drug Use, a member of the Global Fund Technical Review Panel for Human Rights and Gender, and a member of the World Health Organization Guidelines Group on ‘Ensuring Balance in National Policies on Controlled Substances.’

“When there are laws that criminalize and persecute different groups of people who do not live or behave according to the norm, it affects us, our loved ones, and society as a whole. Because the services that we receive—while we are persecuted for our choices, our lives, our genders—are going to have neutral effects.” Nataliia Isaieva

The third dialogue in this series explored criminal laws and law enforcement mechanisms, machinery, and practices that have led to harmful physical and mental health outcomes for the world’s most vulnerable groups. This panel examined how the human rights framework can be used to overcome structural and punitive forms of oppression.

The panelists discussed existing policies that target and disproportionately impact vulnerable and marginalized communities. These policies have led to the ongoing criminalization of sex work, same-sex relations, and HIV transmission, as well as the global war on drugs, which has resulted in the mass incarceration of Black and Brown people.

Vulnerabilities and identities intersect in complex ways (poverty, sex work, substance use, mental health conditions, gender, disabilities, race, and ethnicity), and as such, an intersectional perspective is needed. This dialogue explored the necessity of intersectional approaches to vulnerability reduction and presented alternative solutions including, and moving beyond, decriminalization.



Discussion Paper


UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health