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Legal services for people living with HIV and vulnerable populations in Benin

On 14-15 October and 25-26 November 2010 the Beninese Association of Development Law (ABDD) held two workshops on "HIV, law and human rights" in Cotonou, Benin, with technical and financial assistance from IDLO.

These workshops were attended by 80 participants: Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV), experts involved in policy-making for PLHIV, health and social services officials, judicial staff (judges, lawyers, and clerks) and judicial police officers.

The workshops provided a unique opportunity to bring together for the first time in Benin judicial staff with PLHIV. This initiative was welcomed by the coordinator of UNAIDS, Dr. Pascal Baruani, who stressed that "the absence of a legal service component in the response to HIV has left a vacuum that the pilot project is aiming to fill." Participants were able to enhance their knowledge about the relationship between HIV and human rights, the role of justice and law in reducing discrimination and stigmatization and about legal services related to HIV. In the evaluations participants reported having improved their awareness of their rights and their ability to assert such rights, as well as to identify the available legal aid centers.

These workshops are among the activities being carried out as part of the pilot project "Strengthening HIV-related legal services for PLHIV in Benin", implemented by the Benin Association of Development Law, the local partner of the project in collaboration with UNAIDS and UNDP. The pilot project is part of IDLO’s program on HIV and Health Law, funded by the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID). The project is currently underway in seven countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Nepal and Papua New Guinea.

The Benin project was officially launched in June 2010 after an exploratory mission and a needs assessment study that took place in 2009. The objective of this two-year project is to improve the legal and political environment for a favorable response to the HIV epidemic by promoting legal services for PLWHA and other vulnerable people.