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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Tackling stigma: building on progress

31
MAY
2012

Members of a community-based organisation for the rights of men who have sex with men, Kenya © Nell Freeman for the Alliance

Alliance Linking Organisations cite stigma as the single greatest barrier to progress in the HIV response.

This is why addressing the human rights of key populations is one of the four key themes the Alliance is taking to the International AIDS Conference in Washington DC (IAS), 22-27 July. You can read more about our activity at the conference here.

We hope to build on some the success achieved over  the last year to continue to play our part in shaping the future of the HIV response. This involves protecting the human rights of key populations, including men who have sex with men, people who use drugs, sex workers and transgender people.

Lobbying for a human rights based response

The key event of 2011 was the UN High Level Meeting on AIDS in New York. Thanks to the Alliance’s significant contribution, alongside other civil society actors, the Final Declaration reflected the importance of a human rights-based response.

Alison Crockett, senior adviser on most at risk populations at UNAIDS, credited the Alliance's “lobbying and persistence” for “heightening the profile of key populations amongst many member states”.

The declaration outlines new commitments and targets which health advocates can use to hold governments to account. Among them is the commitment to treat 15 million people by 2015.

The journey so far: an African perspective

Our work to affect the outcome began long before national leaders met in New York in June 2011. The secretariat coordinated a global advocacy effort across the Alliance so that Linking Organisations were able to lobby their national governments with common key messages on priority issues identified within their communities.

Baba Goumbala, Alliance regional representative for West and Central Africa, explains why human rights are important to the response in the region: “In West and Central Africa the majority of epidemics are concentrated, with very high prevalence among key populations, so you can’t respond to this epidemic by ignoring key populations and their rights.”

As civil society’s nominated delegate for the region, Baba brought these priorities to the wider Africa Regional Consultation. “At the beginning there was resistance, because there’s a lot of misunderstanding of what human rights mean. But once civil society took time to explain why it’s important to protect human rights, to promote general health, there was understanding,” Baba says. “Discussions lasted five days but at the end of the meeting it was agreed that it is important to protect human rights to end AIDS in Africa.”

Continuing the process

“The biggest difference since the declaration was signed is that it’s easier for civil society to discuss human rights at national level. Governments are more open to hearing it,” says Baba. “The mindset is moving; this is the beginning of the process.”

The process will move forward at IAS when scientists, policy makers and communities affected by HIV meet at IAS with the aim of ‘turning the tide together’. More than 20,000 delegates from nearly 200 countries are expected to convene to help shape the HIV response.

The Alliance is involved in speaking at and hosting events at IAS including:

  • Satellite session: Reaching Key Populations through SRH/HIV Integration: Opportunities for Impact Hosted by India HIV/AIDS Alliance, Sunday 22 July
  • Symposium: Getting to Zero Excuses: Understanding and Addressing HIV-Related Stigma and Discrimination, Speakers include Khuat Thi Hai Oanh, SCDI Director on Vietnam Community Responses to HIV Stigma, Friday 27 July

For a complete list of activities see this page.