Law plays critical role in advancing public health

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28 Nov 2016

HIV is a daily reality for over 6 million South Africans, therefore, law professionals can – and must – play an active role in the fight against the epidemic by advising those that are infected and affected with HIV/AIDS.

This is according to respected law, public health and human rights consultant, Amelia Vukeya Motsepe, who spoke at the Johannesburg launch on 10 November of a seminal, new publication dissecting South African legislation, regulations, policies and case law on HIV/AIDS.

HIV and the Law in South Africa: A Practitioner’s Guide, published by LexisNexis South Africa and edited by Motsepe, includes contributions from some of the foremost practitioners and theorists in the field. The book is intended to serve as a useful resource to enable legal practitioners to provide professional, efficient, quality legal advice to people living with HIV (PLHIV).

“HIV/AIDS, human rights and the law manuals and pamphlets have been produced by HIV/AIDS organisations, however, these information tools are targeted towards all legal, non-legal organisations and the public and do not meet the requirements and needs of legal practitioners and those that are being trained as lawyers in universities,” she said.

“The aim of the guide was not to reinvent the wheel but to make sure that legal issues covered in the guide are relevant to people living with HIV and those that are affected by HIV,” she added.

The book’s official launch comes ahead of World AIDS Day on 1 December and follows South Africa’s hosting of the 21st International AIDS Conference in Durban earlier this year.

The keynote address at the book launch was given by Advocate Nokukhanya Jele, Legal Advisor to Deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa.

Respected Chief Justice Edwin Cameron of the Constitutional Court of South Africa – who in 2005 wrote a prize-winning memoir, Witness to AIDS, about his own experience of living with AIDS – participated in a robust panel discussion at the event, while Simphiwe Mabhele, Technical Specialist on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work at the International Labour Organisation, was the MC.

Commenting on the new handbook, for which he also penned the foreword, Cameron said: “The practical legal advocacy this guide supports and inspires is a deeply important contribution. Clients with HIV turn to lawyers when their privacy has been violated, their bodies bruised, their rights trampled on, their medical needs denied.”

He said serving these clients effectively demands knowledge of areas of law that remain unfamiliar to many lawyers, particularly those in private practice.

LexisNexis Commercial Director Thabo Molefe said that LexisNexis was proud to be associated with a body of work that aims to make the practice of law around HIV/AIDS more accessible and easier.

“Discrimination of any kind has a foundation in a lack of understanding. With this book, interpretation of the law relating to HIV and AIDS is set to be enhanced greatly,” said Molefe.

Editor Motsepe said HIV-related stigma and discrimination continued to undermine the efforts in prevention, treatment and care for PLHIV all over the world.

“The law has the ability to impact health outcomes and thus has a critical role to play in advancing public health in general, and in promoting the health of marginalised populations in particular. The Global Commission on HIV and the Law, for instance, has documented the positive role that strong legal protections can play specifically in addressing HIV,” she said.

She said publication of the guide was made possible through support from the M.A.C AIDS Fund Leadership Initiative at Columbia University, in collaboration with the University of California and Los Angeles, the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa, HIVOS People Unlimited Collaborative Funds for Leadership and HIV Prevention Programme, as well as other partners in South Africa.

Motsepe and LexisNexis South Africa are donating a portion of royalties from sales of the book to Positive Women’s Network South Africa, which is active in the fight against HIV/AIDS in South Africa.

HIV and The Law In South Africa: A Practitioner’s Guide [ISBN 9780409127829] can be purchased in print or as an e-book at a cost of R 500.00 inclusive of VAT and excluding delivery. It is available through the LexisNexis online bookstore at

About the Editor

Amelia Vukeya Motsepe

Amelia Vukeya Motsepe has extensive consulting experience in Law, governance, public health and human rights. She was previously employed as an Assistant Program Manager at the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa’s (OSISA) HIV and AIDS program and the Law and Health Coordinator for the Open Society Foundation’s Public Health Programme. Her work included managing the OSISA /LAHI Core Grant Initiative, a multi-year initiative to provide institutional support and capacity strengthening to six leading law, HIV and AIDS and human rights organisations in Southern Africa. Amelia holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of the Witwatersrand and a Master of Laws degree (“LLM”) from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington D.C, U.S. (“Georgetown”). After completing her LLM at Georgetown, she interned at the American Bar Association’s Individual Rights and Responsibilities project on HIV and AIDS. She did her articles of clerkship at Deneys Reitz Attorneys (now Norton Rose Attorneys) and later worked as a researcher for the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Human Rights and International Law. She completed a years’ clerkship with the Honourable Justice Kate O’ Regan in the Constitutional Court of South Africa. Upon her return from the U.S, Amelia worked as a researcher and project lawyer for the AIDS Law Project (now Section 27).  Prior to working at OSISA, Amelia was a Senior Associate at Bowman Gilfillan Africa Group, practicing in the Competition Law, Lobbying and International Trade department. This position involved working with both large international firms and local enterprises, which contributed in refining her business acumen and knowledge of the inner workings of a corporate structure, an added advantage for her in the field of human rights.

(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)

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