Gaspar Sitefane is the Executive Director of MONASO, the Alliance Linking Organisation in Mozambique. MONASO is a network of AIDS service organisations which has more than 1,000 members, mainly community-based and faith-based organisations. These member organisations offer a range of AIDS services including prevention, home based care and visits, educational and nutritional support, treatment and advocacy.
Beatrice Awino is a Regional Coordinator for KANCO, the Alliance Linking Organisation in Kenya. KANCO is a national membership network of non-governmental organizations, community-based and faith-based organisations involved in or that have interest in HIV and AIDS and TB activities in Kenya.
Which key populations does your organisation work with and how do you support them? And what are the main issues around HIV for key populations in your region?
Gaspar: MONASO works with many different key populations since we are a coordinating and advocacy network we have members from all kinds of target groups. These include orphans and vulnerable children, people living with HIV and sex workers. Our role is to support them providing advice and technical training on all areas of HIV and AIDS, as well as representing the interests of key populations in different forums.
The main issues faced by key populations include stigma and discrimination (which contributes highly to a lack of adherence to treatment), limited access to ARVs where people have to travel long distances to access a health unit, and poor nutrition. Most people living with HIV are already very poor and HIV increases their burden.
Beatrice: KANCO works with key populations such as sex workers, men who have sex with men and drug users through programmes that reduce stigma and discrimination, increase access to effective prevention interventions.
The main issue faced by key populations in this region is marginalisation and discrimination by society which often makes it difficult for these populations to exercise their human rights, including universal access to health, HIV prevention, treatment and care. However some have come out to advocate for their rights through HIV prevention and peer education programs. In Kenya there are laws which criminalise the behaviours of many of the key populations that we work with and they are often targeted in police crackdowns. Also current resources devoted to HIV prevention, treatment and care for these populations are not proportional to the HIV prevalence within these groups.
What are you hoping to gain from attending ICASA this year?
Gaspar: We hope that ICASA is going to be a place for fruitful discussions on HIV and AIDS especially as a follow up to the declaration which came out of the UNGASS high level meeting. We expect to share with others our experience of working to promote and advocate for the rights of the less privileged and affected by HIV and AIDS. We also want to learn from the others about how they handle the shortage of HIV funding as well as funding of short period projects which don’t allow enough time to bring about a lasting change in the lives of communities.
Beatrice: I look forward to exchanging ideas and experiences with other delegates from across the world. I will hopefully also learn new things about my area of expertise in HIV/AIDS and STI programming.
It is also a great opportunity to showcase my work when I meet partners and networks at the conference, and to collaborate with others working in the area of HIV programming for coalition building and to advocate for major issues affecting communities. The conference will be an excellent chance to promote achievements in the HIV/AIDS sector’s response and to strengthen partnership amongst all the delegates.
The Alliance at ICASA
Regional conferences such as ICASA provide an important opportunity for the Alliance to reflect on the status of the HIV epidemic and response, to strengthen connections with community based organisations and Alliance Linking Organisations from across the region. ICASA puts civil society and other key stakeholders in the same place giving the opportunity to identify and agree priorities to be taken into the future.
You can see a full list of Alliance activities at ICASA here.
The meeting will also be attended by a team of Key Correspondents, citizen journalists from across the region. The team will be capturing the conference news that matters, as it happens, making sure the voices of those most affected by HIV across Africa are heard.
Come and see us at booth 511 in the exhibition hall where we’ll be for the duration of ICASA.