In a side meeting at the recent ICASA conference in Abidjan, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights launched its report, HIV, the Law and Human Rights in the African Human Rights System: Key Challenges and Opportunities for Rights-Based Responses. An early version of the report is online here. (to be updated when the final is posted online.)
Led by Commissioner Soyata Maiga, chairperson of the African Commission, the process brought together African human rights experts, civil society groups, and UN and other legal experts to review the extent to which African human rights systems address HIV-related human rights violations. Continue reading
Activists describe “closing civic space” at African AIDS meeting – but also energy and inspiration to continue the fight
Civil society protest at Saturday plenary, ICASA 2017. Photo: Allan Maleche
A networking zone for men who have sex with men (MSM) at the African regional AIDS conference was vandalized Thursday night, with posters torn down and boxes stolen. The International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) met in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire from 4-9 December 2017. Despite numerous logistical problems and what some activists called “shrinking civic space”, civil society presence was strong and energetic throughout.
“We packed everything together neatly and covered it with a banner the night before,” in the MSM networking zone, said Delane Kalembo of African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR), which coordinated the zone. “When we arrived at eight the next morning, the stand that we used had been pulled out, material we had posted had been ripped off, two boxes of materials were stolen, and chairs were all over the show. It looks like our booth was targeted.” The vandalism was one of several incidents raised by civil society groups, who described “closing space” for communities at ICASA.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted two years ago, making it an opportune time for a first stocktaking. The SDGs make the central promise to Leave No One Behind and include a dedicated goal to reduce inequalities. Human rights advocates have put great hopes in the SDGs as an instrument for transformative change. But do they bring about the much-needed paradigm shift? Or were the extensive consultations and negotiations much ado about nothing?
In the fight against HIV, data is becoming a critical stake in the struggle. My new article in the International Journal of Human Rights explores how in the global HIV response, data invisibility for hidden populations fuels inequality – and how some hidden populations are fighting back. Continue reading
Civil society groups are under attack: in many countries, new laws and police crackdowns make it harder for groups to register, hold meetings, organize events, even to post online. CIVICUS found “serious threats to civic freedom” in 100 countries last year. This is disastrous for countries facing a high burden of HIV, where civil society has often led the way, and it especially affects the criminalized, hidden populations most vulnerable to HIV: sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people, and people who inject drugs. This report, which I wrote for Global Philanthropy Project last year, documents case studies of LGBT groups facing closing space in four countries, including Kenya.
Under the circs, it’s great news that the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights has recognized the threat in a new resolution on human rights defenders in Africa.
Wealthy countries need to invest every penny they can to combat global epidemics. Massive inequity in access to health care means that millions of people die each year of preventable, treatable diseases like HIV, TB and malaria. But who should be eligible for global health aid? Not so easy to answer. We’re stuck with some 20th century tools that don’t fit our high-velocity, globalizing world.
In the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UN has called for the world to end AIDS by 2030. But the global AIDS response may be a victim of its own success, or of its snappy slogans — donor countries are starting to de-prioritize funding for HIV, in part because they think that the end is near.
So how near are we, really, to the end of AIDS?
My article with William Goedel, John Emerson and Brooke Skartvedt Guven was published in the Journal of the International AIDS Society this weekend. Working with data on laws and HIV from 154 countries over seven years (2007-14), we found that criminalization of same-sex sexuality is associated with implausibly low or absent size estimates of men who have sex with men (MSM) reported by countries to UNAIDS.
Low size estimates may contribute to official denial that MSM exist; to failure to adequately address their needs; and to inflated HIV service coverage reports that paint a false picture of success.
We didn’t use this term in the article, but in my head I’ve been calling this “quantitative deconstruction” — using numbers to peal back the facade of other numbers, revealing the politics that drive what countries report to the UN.
Stop TB Partnership’s workshop on TB and human rights this week fired up a diverse group with plans for action. The meeting brought lawyers and community activists together with UN agencies and donors to brainstorm ways to use the law and community empowerment to mobilize faster action on TB.
A recent letter to the Lancet argues that mathematical modelling on cost-effectiveness of tuberculosis control efforts fail to account for real-world challenges: “Political determinants such as … political disruptions, migration, poverty…which are at the root of existing tuberculosis and emerging anti-tuberculosis drug resistance in the world.”