More maps for health rights activists

Noaa_theb1713_1A few months ago I wrote a quick overview of some maps of laws that affect the HIV response. I promised then that I’d post an update if more maps came to light. The launch of the new Sustainable Development Goals seems to be sparking a lot of new maps and indicators, so this may become a regular topic.

For now, here’s three new (or rather, new-to-me) maps on health and human rights.

1. The Law Atlas – Led by Prof. Scott Burris at the Public Health Law Research program at Temple University, one of the leading US experts on HIV and the law, the Law Atlas is an outgrowth of his ongoing campaign to get law and policy analysis more systematically considered and integrated into health policymaking. The Atlas is “a platform for the systematic collection, measurement and display of [U.S.] state-level laws” on a range of health issues.

These range from harm reduction policies, criminalization of HIV by state, child car seat safety laws, water quality laws, and much more. Select a topic, and you zip to a map that shows changes in the laws, state by state, over time. Here’s the map of syringe distribution laws, for example.

The site is user-friendly and transparent — all the data can be downloaded and reviewed, and you can contact an expert with questions. I was lucky to get a briefing on how their process works. It seems careful and rigorous, with multiple levels of review.

What the Law Atlas is not, at the moment, is international – though they have ambitions in that direction. It’s going to be challenging to scale this approach up to the global level, where countries have unpublished laws, conflicting laws on the books, diverse legal systems, funky languages, etc. But the Public Health Law Research team seem to have a platform that could make it happen… Stay tuned.

2. MapCrowd, a new site launched by Treatment Action Group and Médecins du Monde to crowd-source global data on heptatitis C. The map shows data on epidemiology of hep C, availability and pricing of diagnostics, data on countries included in Gilead and BMS’s voluntary licenses, HCV policies, and contacts for other organizations by country. Data can be compared between countries. The two groups have also published their first preliminary report on findings based on the MapCrowd data.

It would be great if this site enabled download of data in spreadsheet form (as LawAtlas does), so that researchers could do their own analysis. Some basic explanation of the keys and the significance of technical terms (such as “voluntary license”) would be great for novices to the HCV world. But this is newly-launched, so maybe that is coming in the future. For now, MapCrowd looks like a great tool for the growing global movement for a better response to HCV.

3.’s page on “Legal Prostitution” – ProCon describes itself as “The Leading Source for Pros and Cons of Controversial Issues”, but I wouldn’t recommend it on sex work.

The site presents an oversimplified picture of criminalization of sex work (“legal”, “illegal” or “limited legality” – the reality is just not that simple), and it’s based on outdated secondary sources. In some cases, the data is sourced to years-old U.S. State Department reports, or to news articles.

It’s unfortunate that the researchers did not look at the actual laws on the books…or even find out that the term used by sex workers themselves is “sex work”, not “prostitution”. May that also has something to do with why there are very few quotes or sources cited to actual sex workers (I’m not sure Heidi Fleiss still counts).

If you want to find out why sex workers, UNAIDS, WHO and many others believe that decriminalization of sex work is the way to go, visit the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, and check out the NSWP Consensus Statement on Sex Work, Human Rights and the Law.



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