The men who had been arrested in December last year found their conviction overturned when it was revealed that the accusations against them had relied mainly on anonymous tip-offs.
The men were members of AIDE, a beneficiary of Alliance linking organisation ANCS. Its programmes are focused on HIV prevention activities for men who have sex with men and funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and malaria.
The men have now been released from jail but they are being protected as public opinion is being whipped up against the courts decision. Homosexuality is illegal in Senegal.
Baba Goumbala, the Alliance’s Regional Representative, said, “We are very pleased with this decision by the courts. However, we are currently very concerned about the safety of the men now they have been released from jail.
“Currently it is too dangerous for the men to return to their homes because of homophobic sentiment. The men are committed AIDS activists and need to be able to resume the important work they are doing to prevent the spread of HIV and care for those who are living positively.
“We have achieved a great result but this is not the time for celebration. We need to be vigilant and mobilised for the battles around the protection of the men, and their right to privacy and dignity when they return home.”
This situation is not unique to Senegal, across Africa AIDS activists face many challenges to their work because of stigma and discrimination.
The sentence originally handed to the men was eight years, the highest ever to be handed down in Senegal for a homosexuality conviction.