“It is outrageous that, in 2012, when we have everything we need to beat AIDS, we are still fighting prejudice, stigma, and exclusion,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe writes on the Human Rights and HIV/AIDS “Now More Than Ever” blog, adding, “It is my daily reminder that the AIDS response is not just about an epidemic; the AIDS response is, has been, and must be, an instrument to fight for social justice.” He concludes, “[O]ur common aspiration is clear: a world where no one gets infected with a preventable virus, no one dies of a treatable disease, and no one faces discrimination for a health condition. We have tools to stop HIV transmission, deaths and discrimination. Human rights demand that we deliver these tools to every community and person affected. By doing so, we help to transform societies into the inclusive places they should be” (7/25).
LGBT/MSM/Gay and Bisexual
Advocates In Sri Lanka Call For Change To Laws That Criminalize, Stigmatize Sex Work, Same-Sex Relationships
“Sri Lanka has long enjoyed a low 0.1 percent HIV prevalence but, as the number of fresh infections rises steadily, experts are calling for a change in the country’s archaic laws that make sex work illegal and criminalizes homosexual activity,” Inter Press Service reports. “In the first quarter of the current year there were 40 new cases of HIV compared to 32 and 27 in the first quarters of 2011 and 2010 respectively, according to the National STD/AIDS Control Programme (NSACP),” the news service notes, adding “an estimated 41,000 commercial sex workers (CSWs) and 30,000 men who have sex with men (MSMs)” live in Sri Lanka. “‘In the past two years new infections are seen to be rising among those below 24 years, and 50 percent of them are MSMs,’ says NSACP director Nimal Edirisinghe,” IPS writes.
Punitive Laws, Human Rights Violations Inhibiting Global AIDS Response, Global Commission On HIV And Law Report Says
“Punitive laws and human rights abuses are costing lives, wasting money, and stifling the global AIDS response,” according to a report (.pdf) released Monday by the independent Global Commission on HIV and the Law, which estimated the number of new HIV infections worldwide could be halved from 2.1 million to 1.2 million annually with changes in law and public policy, BMJ reports (Roehr, 7/9). The report, “based on 18 months of extensive research and analysis, as well as first-hand accounts from more than 1,000 people in 140 countries,” “finds evidence that governments in every region of the world have wasted the potential of legal systems in the fight against HIV,” according to the U.N. News Centre. The commission comprises “former heads of state and leading legal, human rights and HIV experts, and [is] supported by the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) on behalf of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS),” the news service notes (7/9).
African Leaders Should 'Take Action' To Implement Human-Rights Based Laws, Policies To Enhance HIV Response
Noting the release of a report (.pdf) from the Global Commission on HIV and the Law showing that “punitive laws are standing in the way of effective AIDS responses,” Festus Mogae, former president of Botswana, and Stephen Lewis, co-director and co-founder of AIDS-Free World, both members of the commission, write in a health-e opinion piece, “We cannot hope for an HIV-free generation when we have laws that marginalize and punish those most vulnerable to the disease.” They state that certain laws and customs in Africa “undermine the ability of women to protect themselves” and marginalize sex workers and men who have sex with men (MSM).
In a special series called “AIDS: A Turning Point,” NPR reports on global progress against HIV/AIDS ahead of the AIDS 2012 conference taking place in Washington, D.C., this month. As part of the series, NPR’s “Morning Edition” examines Botswana’s response to the epidemic, writing, “A decade ago, Botswana was facing a national crisis as AIDS appeared on the verge of decimating the country’s adult population. Now, Botswana provides free, life-saving AIDS drugs to almost all of its citizens who need them.” According to the show, “Part of the reason Botswana’s HIV treatment program has been effective is that the country moved relatively quickly to address the epidemic” and “over the course of the epidemic, Botswana has steadily increased its own spending on HIV” (7/9).
HIV transmission in China is increasing faster among men who have sex with men (MSM) than in any other population, a trend that “cannot continue,” a group of researchers working in China write in a Nature commentary, adding, “Policymakers, public health researchers, clinicians, educators, community leaders and other stakeholders in China must come together to educate everyone, and gay men in particular, about HIV prevention and treatment — before any more people become infected as a result of ignorance and fear.” They continue, “Chinese people aren’t uncomfortable just in discussing homosexuality” but “sex in general,” which has resulted in “a pervasive stigma against people with HIV, a lack of general sex education for young people, and poor epidemiological data about the spread of HIV in some populations around the country,” as well as “a hidden population of individuals who are afraid to seek out HIV information resources or testing and counseling centers.”
More Research Needed Into How Transgender Persons In Asia, Pacific Affected By HIV, Stigma, Report Says
A report released Thursday in Bangkok by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN) says more research needs to be conducted to determine the extent to which transgender persons in Asia and the Pacific are affected by HIV, are socially ostracized, and lack fundamental rights, including access to basic health care, a UNDP press release reports. The report, released to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, is “a comprehensive review of material gathered from across the region over the past 12 years” and “emphasizes that inclusive research, designed and implemented in partnership with the transgender community, is critical to enable governments, community-based organizations and supporting organizations to enhance HIV and sexual health care services specific to the needs of transgender people, and foster action by governments to adopt more socially equitable policies and practices to protect their rights,” according to the press release (5/17).
NPR's 'All Things Considered' Examines How Greater Acceptance Of India's Gay Community Helps HIV Fight
NPR’s “Shots” blog includes an “All Things Considered” story that examines how “a 2009 benchmark ruling in Delhi’s High Court,” which “struck down a 148-year-old law known as Section 377, a holdover from British colonial rule that made homosexual acts illegal,” has led to a wider level of HIV outreach to Mumbai’s gay community. Vivek Anand, CEO of the Humsafar Trust, “which provides free HIV tests and other health services to Mumbai’s gay community,” said the ruling has helped health workers gain a better understanding of HIV prevalence among India’s gay population, the blog notes.
“[D]espite high prevalence rates of HIV among [men who have sex with men (MSM)], funding for HIV prevention, treatment and care consistently neglects these populations, often due to stigma and discrimination,” Owen Ryan, deputy director of public policy at amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, writes in this guest post in the Funders Concerned About AIDS blog. “In our report, ‘Achieving an AIDS-Free Generation for Gay Men and Other MSM,’ we found that MSM are neglected and marginalized by national HIV responses throughout the world, even in countries where MSM are a significant proportion of all HIV infections,” he notes, concluding, “As a funding community, we still have more to do. Our investments can be transformative. Whether establishing best practices, funding civil society advocacy, or investing in program delivery, this funding helps establish a bridge from policy to practice and often creates the kind of pressure that makes neglecting MSM very difficult” (4/24).
PRI’s “The World” examines the role of churches in the fight against HIV in Swaziland. The news service highlights several church-run HIV programs, writing, “Churches have long played an important role in caring for the sick, but in terms of HIV prevention they’ve been at odds with the public health community. It has often come down to one issue: until recently, Swazi church leaders publicly rejected the use of condoms by their congregants. But now you hear many comments that suggest a change in thinking.”