Joint statement by the Head of the Armenian Office of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS Rosa Babayan and the chairman of the public organization "Real World, Real People" Zhenya Mailyan:

"As we observe International Candlelight Memorial Day 2023, it is important to honor the lives lost
to AIDS-related illnesses and reflect on what can be done to save every life.
Globally, over 84.2 million people have become infected with HIV, and more than 40.1 million have
died from AIDS-related illnesses since the beginning of the epidemic.
Laws criminalizing HIV transmission were enacted in many countries during the early stages of the
epidemic in response to panic.
These laws were based on the fear of the rapidly developing epidemic and lack of knowledge about
the new virus. Many people believed that individuals living with HIV could intentionally spread the
virus and that criminalizing HIV transmission would deter people from engaging in high-risk
However, scientific breakthroughs have led to a greater understanding of HIV biology and
transmission, resulting in the development of new treatments, diagnostic tools, and prevention
strategies. Highly effective antiretroviral medications that suppress the virus and prevent HIV
transmission have been developed.
Today, over 28 million people globally receive treatment. People living with HIV who get
antiretroviral treatment and achieve viral suppression can live a normal long life the same as
people without HIV, can have partners, family, and healthy children, and cannot transmit the virus.
As our understanding of HIV has improved, it has become clear that HIV-specific criminal laws are
discriminatory, stigmatizing, and do not effectively prevent new infections. In fact, they can have
the opposite effect by discouraging people from getting tested and seeking treatment for fear of
persecution or prosecution.
The scientific consensus is clear: criminalizing HIV does not reduce HIV transmission or improve
public health outcomes. The international community, researchers, and lawyers agree that it is
necessary to remove HIV-specific criminal laws.
In Armenia, the Criminal Code criminalizes HIV transmission with a potential prison sentence of up
to five years. However, enforcement of this law has been limited, with no cases of imprisonment
for HIV transmission in the past five years.
Nonetheless, the existence of such a law contributes to stigma and discrimination, hindering access
to HIV testing and treatment. This is evidenced by the practice of the Real World, Real People NGO,
an organization that works with people living with HIV, and other NGOs. They actively collaborate
with the government to offer essential services like HIV testing, counseling, peer support, and
engage in advocacy efforts to protect the rights of people living with HIV.
Armenia has made significant progress in building effective HIV response, doubling the coverage of
antiretroviral therapy in the past decade. In 2022, 77% of those aware of their HIV status were
receiving treatment, and the country provides free treatment to all within its territory. Armenia
has adopted WHO and UNAIDS protocols and recommendations for HIV prevention, including
community-based testing, self-testing, condoms, and harm reduction programs.
As a signatory of the Political Declaration to End AIDS by 2030, Armenia is committed to taking
action to end the AIDS epidemic. The country's National HIV Program for 2022-2026 aligns with the
UNAIDS Global Strategy, emphasizing the removal of legal and policy barriers, such as
criminalization of HIV transmission, and advancing the human rights of people living with HIV.
Armenia aims to accelerate progress towards ending AIDS by aligning policies with the goals of the
Decriminalizing HIV transmission is part of the Committee on Rights and Gender's work plan for
2023-2024. The government's recent decision to remove legal barriers to the stay of people living
with HIV in nursing homes is a positive step towards eliminating stigma and discrimination.
Together, we must ensure that everyone, regardless of HIV status, has access to prevention,
treatment, and care for a healthy life".