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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Alliance Caribbean influences Commonwealth leaders

23
DEC
2009

Aids Alliance

As Commonwealth Heads of State and Ministers gathered last month in Trinidad, civil society presented a range of pressing issues concerning the HIV and AIDS response in Commonwealth countries, including respecting the human rights of sexual minority groups, financing the HIV and AIDS response and supporting an HIV treatment patent pool to help reduce the costs of antiretroviral treatment.

Commonwealth nations are home to around two-thirds of the world’s people living with HIV and the difference they can make tackling the epidemic is considerable.

Thanks to the work of the civil society delegation – supported by the Caribbean Alliance – the UNITAID Patent Pool, the Currency Transaction Levy (an innovative financing mechanism to raise money for the HIV response), and human rights of sexual minorities were all highlighted in the civil society statement presented at Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November.

The Commonwealth HIV and AIDS Action Group (CHAAG), an association of Commonwealth organisations and civil society, attended the civil society pre-meeting of the Commonwealth Peoples Forum and successfully pushed to also see condemnation of the recent Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill, currently tabled in the Ugandan parliament, included in the statement.

At press conferences organised by CHAAG to call for Commonwealth action on the need for law reform in Commonwealth states - 47 of which still maintain buggery laws,  Basil Williams, Executive Director of the Caribbean Alliance said, “This is a wake up call for many, many years of inaction and now there needs to be a time where action is taken across the Caribbean so that we do not see a progression from Uganda to other countries of the Commonwealth and we do not witness a further marginalisation and discrimination of MSM (men who have sex with men), sex workers, and people living with HIV and AIDS.”  He called for a much greater recognition of the impact of repressive laws on effective public health responses and the HIV and AIDS epidemic.

Williams is also a member of the CHAAG steering committee and formed part of the delegation in Trinidad along with John Foster of the North-South Institute, David Hillman of Stamp Out Poverty and the former UN Ambassador Stephen Lewis of AIDS Free World.

    Commonwealth nations are home to around two-thirds of the world’s people living with HIV