Jamra primary scholl for children affected by HIV/AIDS, drugs or poverty, Senegal (c) Nell Freeman/Alliance Participants in the Photovioce project, Ecuador © Marcela Nievas for the Alliance
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Barriers still facing people living with HIV in Africa


Aids Alliance

Involving people living with HIV (PLHIV) in shaping and delivering HIV policies and programmes in their countries is essential to an effective HIV response. However, significant barriers to involvement still exist for many groups and individuals in Africa.

This December the Alliance and the Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP+) are co-facilitating a workshop at the International Conference on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) titled How to Get Tangible Results from Applying the GIPA Principle. (GIPA stands for greater involvement of people living with HIV).

Africa is the continent most affected by HIV, out of the total number of people living with HIV worldwide in 2009, 34% resided in 10 countries of Southern Africa.

ICASA (4-8 December 2011) serves as a global platform to promote the efforts and achievements of African countries in combating HIV and AIDS. The conference will also provide an opportunity to further strengthen partnerships between governments, civil society, communities, partner agencies and the global AIDS community.

Barriers to involvement

The GIPA principle is central to a rights-based approach, which is recognised as good practice for programming and policy. The workshop at ICASA will draw upon the Alliance’s GIPA Good Practice Guide and will benefit from a workshop on GIPA which was held in late 2010 in Senegal. You can read the report from that workshop here.

During the workshop in Senegal people living with HIV and Alliance Linking Organisations shared experiences and examples of how they are putting the GIPA principle into practice.

They discussed the many barriers to the greater involvement of people living with HIV, as well as solutions to these.  Some of these solutions depend on comprehensive skills building, resulting in strong leadership of people living with HIV to ensure meaningful involvement at all levels of the HIV response.

An important component of GIPA is the need to overcome HIV related stigma which creates a barrier to openly living with HIV. Participants noted the diversity of people living with HIV  and how barriers to involvement differ within their different country and social contexts, especially women and members of key population groups, such as men who have sex with men, people who use drugs and sex workers.

While many people living with HIV face obstacles to meaningful involvement at national level, those that are also part of marginalised populations may face additional difficulties through criminalising laws or generally discriminatory attitudes by both the state and civil society. Laws which criminalise key populations, such as men who have sex with men can make implementing the GIPA principle difficult, particularly for those who are legally and socially marginalised.

During the discussions in the workshop in Senegal participants made the following observations:

  • Some women living with HIV in Eastern Africa felt that they are not involved in decision making in their national networks of people living with HIV which they find to be male dominated. This can result in the voices of women living with HIV missing from national discourse.
  • Homosexuality is a criminal offence many African countries. Men who have sex with men (MSM) also face intense stigma and discrimination, often being rejected by their families and communities. This results in MSM issues not being tabled in national discussions and their involvement in national networks of people living with HIV being limited.
  • Similarly, young people in Kenya, and especially young people living with HIV reported their lack of inclusion in youth policy development resulting in services which do not meet their needs.
  • In the same vein, sex workers reported multiple barriers to involvement, relating to both their work and HIV status which limits their involvement at national level and in civil society engagement

This does not mean that involvement is impossible, but that people living with HIV should be included in identifying how to ensure that involvement takes place meaningfully and safely.

In some instances participants noted that there is limited knowledge of the GIPA principle at the grassroots level. Increasing knowledge of the GIPA principle, promoting leadership and coordinating representation are vital in ensuring that the needs of all populations of people living with HIV are heard and addressed.

By exploring the role of people living with HIV in Country Coordinating Mechanisms, in National AIDS Councils and in the delivery of services and education programmes, the workshop at ICASA will provide practical strategies for programme officers and coordinators to support people living with HIV in getting tangible results from applying the GIPA principle across their work.

Participants will identify challenges and opportunities to work with organisations and networks of people living with HIV.  Networks of people living with HIV, international development agencies and government representatives will be present to share experiences which have led to stronger community systems and better responses to HIV.

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.

Read what two Alliance Linking Organisations hope to get out of ICASA.

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