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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Human rights issues set to dominate 2011


Aids Alliance

Alliance linking organisations are struggling to deliver community-led health programmes as they continue to experience the impact of punitive laws, and law enforcement practices on their work.

This is one of the messages that Alvaro Bermejo, the Alliance’s executive director, shared during an interview with Global Health TV last month:

As the international community prepares to review progress made in the HIV response over the last ten years as part of the UN AIDS Review 2011, the Alliance is calling for governments to recognise the links between the legal environment and their ability to aid an effective HIV and AIDS response.

"There is a growing realisation that rights issues are important for public health, and impact on the health of vulnerable communities" said Bermejo in his interview.

Already in January 2011, the AIDS world has witnessed:

  • the brutal killing of David Kato, human rights activist in Uganda (pictured above).  David’s death comes directly after the Supreme Court of Uganda ruled that people must stop inciting violence against homosexuals and must respect the right to privacy and human dignity
  • the crackdown on patients receiving drug substitution therapy in Ukraine.  NGOs that are supporting programmes providing substitution therapy are facing harassment and abuse from state authorities in Ukraine in a worrying crackdown on people trying to access health services.
  • a young transgender woman named Cheo stabbed to death in Honduras – the latest in a worrying trend of hate crimes against transgender people in Latin America.

In our report ‘Enabling legal environments for effective HIV responses: A leadership challenge for the Commonwealth’ which was launched on World AIDS Day last year, we drew attention to a new trend of using punitive laws to address HIV.

The report showed how many countries have recently introduced new laws to criminalise HIV transmission, and increased penalties for sex work and sodomy offences.  

The Alliance believes that these are dangerous developments that will lead to more people being infected with HIV, not fewer.  

"In Ukraine, the Alliance’s programme has been considered a huge success and yet the latest orders from the Ministry of Interior’s drug enforcement department just makes public health responses much more difficult. People who use drugs need full access to harm reduction and health information and services" explains Bermejo.

That’s why the Alliance prioritises work on protecting human rights in its strategic framework, to ensure that gender inequalities and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity are addressed.  You can read more about the human rights challenges facing Alliance linking organisations and there partners here.

Keep in touch with the Alliance’s work on human rights as part of its What’s Preventing Prevention? campaign. You can also stay up to date with us on Facebook and Twitter.