2012 HIV/AIDS JusticeMakers Fellow, Liberia
Fighting stigma related to, and represent legally, the accused living with HIV/AIDS
“I have lost two close friends and relatives from HIV/AIDS for lack of legal representation and they were left on their own to die. I want to stop this from continuing to happen to others”
Christian Zarweah, an educator and community activist in Ganta, Liberia, has seen first-hand the deathly toll of a flawed criminal justice system on people living with HIV/AIDS. Often, people living with HIV/AIDS in the Liberian criminal justice system simply languish in prison or pre-trial detention because they do not have access to an attorney to plead for their legal and healthcare rights. Mr. Zarweah devoted the early part of his career to improving Liberia’s education system through a retraining program for former child soldiers and the establishment of a community college. His personal experiences of the ravages of the criminal justice system convinced him to turn his teaching skills towards the training of attorneys and volunteers to better defend people living with HIV/AIDS within the criminal justice system.
To this end, his project will consist of training specifically targeted volunteer defense attorneys,
sending these attorneys to courts to defend people living with HIV/AIDS, and organizing and training volunteers in specifically targeted communities to notify the attorneys when there are cases that need their aid. In this way, people living with HIV/AIDs within the criminal justice system will no longer languish in prison without the legal defense necessary to ensure that they get a fair trial and the medical assistance that they need to stay alive.