AMSHeR Commemorates World AIDS Day

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Johannesburg – African Men for Sexual Health and Rights joins the international community in commemorating World AIDS Day.

Over thirty years into the HIV epidemic and billions of dollars spent, the world has made considerable progress fighting the disease. According to a UNAIDS report on the global AIDS epidemic 2013, the number of new HIV infections has decreased by 33%. At the same time the number of AIDS-related deaths is also declining thanks to earlier testing, increased availability of lifesaving anti-retroviral medications and improved quality of treatment and care. Country statistics reflect these positive developments; with the general HIV prevalence rates halving since 2001 in even the most affected regions of the world.

There is however evidence that new infections among men who have sex with men, along with other key affected populations [KAPs], are important components of national epidemics. Yet men who have sex with men, who are at higher risk of acquiring HIV are not benefiting equally from these gains, underscoring the need to strengthen HIV prevention and treatment efforts with these groups.

Communities of these men are continuously mobilising to close the gaps between those who have access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services and people who are being left behind. But the negative effects of discriminatory legal and public health policies limit their efforts. “Unfortunately there are laws in 36 African countries, and others around the world, that will prove to be barriers to participation and inclusion of key populations, especially men who have sex with men, in the national response. The Gambia is the latest to have “enhanced” its punitive legislations by re-criminalizing same-sex practises with a penalty of up to life in prison”   says Tendai Terrence, AMSHeR Communications Officer. Persecution and gay-hunting in the wake of the enactment of the Criminal Amendment Act, coupled with the country’s refusal to include KAPs in its concept note to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria [GFATM], will not only force these communities underground, but also effectively insulate them from treatment, care and services.​

As the world is embarking on a fast-track strategy to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, several countries on the continent are in the process of submitting concept notes under the new funding model of the GFATM . Steave Nemande, AMSHeR’s Senior Health Specialist explains, “We need to continuously ensure representation of key populations and opportunity to articulate their different health needs in country coordinating mechanisms and consultative processes like country dialogues. Part of the allocated resources must contribute to the development of organisational capacities if we want to make sure that key populations groups become Global Fund sub-recipients in the next two years.”

We also continue to see failure by states that do not have punitive legislations, to effectively protect key populations from human rights violations and abuses. The stigma and discrimination faced by key populations, especially men who have sex with men, is unacceptably high, even institutionalised. According to Kene Esom, AMSHeR’s Director of Programmes, “We continue to advocate for HIV programmes that are cognisant and inclusive of the human rights of all people, and further continue to demonstrate the negative consequences of punitive laws and human rights violations on HIV service uptake. The adoption of SOGI Resolutions at the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and the UN Human Rights Council this year, are important precursors to the creation of an enabling legal and social environment.”

 

For further information contact the African Men for Sexual Health and Rights:
Tendai Terrence – Communications Officer
+27711 482 9201 or tendai@amsher.net