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ICW Global Director Newsletter

April 2016


Tunisian Living with HIV Mistreated at French Airport


On her way to speak at the United Nations Civil Society Hearing for the High Level Meeting on HIV in New York, HIV activist Souhaila Karima Hassan* arriving from Tunisia was detained at Paris Orly airport though she possessed a valid visa for the United States.

*Out of privacy concerns the name Souhaila Karima Hassan is a pseudonym.


Ms Hassan is living with HIV and was carrying her HIV and other essential medicines for her use during her travel. Without any reason given Ms. Hassan was detained for the night. Her luggage was searched without justification or her consent, and she was forced to disclose her HIV status to justify the HIV medication she was carrying. All her medication was confiscated, and she was forced to undergo an unnecessary medical examination without her informed consent. After pleading with authorities she was finally allowed to take her medicine, but continued to be denied water or food to take it.

The next morning Ms. Hassan was not allowed to continue on to her engagements at the United Nations in New York, but put on a plane back to Tunis. French authorities only returned her HIV medications right before her departure and only after she pleaded for them. The reasons for her forced return to Tunis, it since transpires, was that she did not possess a transit visa enabling her to change flights.

Border protection or national security concerns are not carte blanche to compromise on human rights. Being HIV positive is not a threat to security. As networks of people living with HIV, GNP+ and ICW, we are particularly concerned by the rights violations experienced by Ms Hassan including the denial of medical treatment, denial of food and drink, and nonconsensual medical procedures. HIV is a manageable long-term condition as long as we take our medication. Denying our medication is denying our right to health and right to life.

We call on French and other authorities to ensure that their representatives are aware of the dangerous impact that denial of medicine can have on the life and health of people living with HIV. Border security personnel should be educated about accepted international medical guidelines and human rights. Ms. Hassan’s treatment is an affront to the justice, equality, and respect that all citizens of the world deserve.

We regret that Ms. Hassan was not able to speak at the UN this week to share the experiences and struggles of people living with HIV in her region. As a result of the actions by the French authorities U.N. member states have been unable to hear this voice from a region that is often neglected in the HIV response.



Media Enquiries

Contact the Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP+) – Martin Stolk, Senior Communications Officer at or the International Community of Women living with HIV (ICW) – Florence Anam, Advocacy and Communications Manager at

About GNP+

GNP+ is the global network for and by people living with HIV. GNP+ uses evidence based advocacy and community strengthening to improve treatment, rights and involvement for people living with HIV. Want to know more about our work? Website: | Facebook: /gnpplus | Twitter: @gnpplus

About ICW

ICW is the International Community of Women living with HIV. We mobilize, organize and advocate for a world where all women living with HIV are able to realize their full sexual, reproductive, legal, social, economic and health rights. More ICW? Website: | Twitter: @ICW_Global | Facebook

ICW women
ICW - The International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW)is the only global network by and for women living with HIV

Kenyan Based Staff

Rebecca Matheson – Global Director

Velvine Jobiese – Administrative Assistant

Florence Anam – Advocacy and Communications Manager

Maurine Murenga – Global Fund Coordinator

Rose Adem – Finance Manager

Virtual Staff

Toronto, Canada

Jessica Whitbread – Community Relations & Mobilization Manager

Washington, DC, US

Sophie Brion – Human Rights Attorney

Washington, DC, US

Katie Filous – Legal Fellow

Kampala, Uganda

Margret Happy – Communications and Advocacy Officer

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