AIDS 2018: Award to Allan Maleche, a “tireless crusader”


Standing ovation for Allan Maleche, winner of the Elizabeth Taylor Human Rights Award.

The second of a series of four articles for Health and Human Rights on the 2018 International AIDS Conference


July 23, 2018

AIDS 2018 is honoring human rights advocates and acknowledging their work is becoming ever more challenging in many countries. At the opening ceremony, the Elizabeth Taylor award went to Kenyan rights advocate Allan Maleche, executive director of KELIN. He won the award for KELIN’s successful litigation for the rights of people living with HIV and TB in Kenya.

In accepting the award, Maleche said, “There are many days when the challenges we face in Kenya and globally can seem endless. Human rights are never really secure—they must be fought for every day. Even with the advancements in science in the HIV world, the stigma and human rights violations remain the same.”

He said the award would be a huge boost to his organization to continue their work serving affected communities in Kenya.

“The story of HIV is a story of social justice and human rights,” said Quinn Tivey, grandson of Dame Elizabeth Taylor who took up AIDS activism in the 1980s, founding organizations and foundations in outrage over the treatment of her friends and colleagues. International AIDS Society (IAS) president Linda-Gail Bekker called Maleche a “tireless crusader” for the rights of people living with HIV and affected by TB, noting that KELIN had “used the law as a powerful tool.”

Maleche affirmed the cause of 23 women who have written to UNAIDS about sexual harassment, saying, “I believe them and I stand in solidarity with them. We look to the UN to set the standard on human rights and gender equality. We are not there yet.” Maleche also leads the Developing Country NGO Delegation to the Global Fund Board.


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AIDS 2018: Warnings of a resurgent pandemic

IMG_4635I covered the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam last week for the Harvard University Health and Human Rights journal – here are a few of the blog posts.

July 23, 2018

The International AIDS Conference opens today in Amsterdam, with up to 19,000 scientists, activists, and officials coming together from around the world. The world has come a long way since the last time the meeting took place here, in 1992, with old and new challenges on the horizon.

In 1992, an old world order was giving way: South Africa was dismantling apartheid, Russia was an emerging democracy, and the European Union was newly founded. HIV was a global crisis and fast becoming a leading cause of death, with an estimated 1.5 million cases. Twenty-six years later, although there are an estimated 36.9 million people living with HIV globally, the world has become complacent about the epidemic. That’s in part because of widely available antiretroviral treatment, and global institutions that fund and distribute treatment and prevention in low resource countries.

But delegates and activists gathered here in Amsterdam say a crisis is imminent as a result of donor withdrawal from middle-income countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia; human rights violations driving transmission among key populations; and cases on the rise among hard-to-reach young people. All this means, according to UNAIDS, that HIV is at risk of becoming a resurgent global pandemic.

Read more

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“Everyone Said No”: Key Populations and Biometrics in Kenya


CDC researchers working in Kenya

From the Harvard Health and Human Rights journal:

By Sara L.M. Davis and Allan Maleche


Hands off our fingerprints! That was the message from Kenyan civil society activists who blocked the use of biometric data, such as fingerprints or iris scans, in a government HIV study.

This case study of rights advocacy is the subject of a report, Everyone Said No: Biometrics, HIV and Human Rights, a Kenya Case Study, published by KELIN and the Kenya Key Populations Consortium.“Key populations” in HIV are defined by WHO as sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who inject drugs, and people in prison or other closed settings. The case study was written by the authors of this blog and researchers at KELIN and the Key Populations Consortium. It provides an overview of the HIV epidemic and data gaps on key populations in Kenya, an analysis of the legal and human rights issues in use of biometrics in HIV research, and documentation of the advocacy by key populations groups in Kenya. It also makes recommendations to global health donors, Kenyan authorities, and civil society groups who face similar debates in other countries.

The purpose of the government HIV study was to fill critical gaps in data on key populations in Kenya, to enable better targeting of resources. The government research team aimed to use biometric data to manage the risk of double-counting, given that key populations tend to be highly mobile. As soon as Kenyan key population groups learned about the plan to use biometrics, they became vocal in their opposition, citing concerns about criminalization. In Kenya, sex work, drug use, and same-sex sexual behavior are all criminalized. Through persistent advocacy, they successfully blocked any use of biometrics in the study. It will proceed using other methods.

Read the full blog. 

We will launch the report with a Twitter chat at 15:30 CET (16:30 EAT) Thursday 5 July – join the conversation with @KELINKenya.



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Key populations: Lost in the data desert

Along_the_rail_road_-_Iran_-_Shahroud_-_panoramioI’m writing a book on the politics of data for key populations, and it’s led me to think about “data deserts” – areas where no data is produced, so no programs or social services are provided.

It’s a particular problem for key populations (sex workers, men who have sex with men [MSM], people who inject drugs, trans* people and prisoners) in low-income countries. But surprisingly, it’s a problem for countries with higher income too.

Out of the 58 countries that the World Bank classifies as upper-middle income:

  • 17 countries had NO official HIV prevalence data for ANY key population group
  • 8 countries have HIV prevalence data for only ONE key population, but not the others

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A taste of Mexico City

IMG_3402I recently, unexpectedly found myself living in Mexico City for ten spring days. I found it has a hot art scene, independent bilingual bookstores, lovely leafy neighborhoods with old colonial architecture, and world-class food. As soon as you sit down at most restaurants, the chef sends out homemade hot sauces and tortillas. Then you sit back and enjoy the ride. Some of the best meals I scarfed down were at:

Pasillo de Humo– On the second floor of a food hall in colonial Condesa, this modern, airy restaurant specializes in Oaxacan food, including fiery, earthy moles. I went there on my first day, a Monday, and was impressed by the family that had a full mezcal bar wheeled out to their table. At lunch. Continue reading

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Remembering Riyadh

Sky bridge pano, Kingdom Center

Sky Bridge, Kingdom Center in downtown Riyadh © Davis 2018

In February, I gave a talk about the course I teach on sexual violence at the first Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum. I’ve been remembering that trip since learning of the recent arrest of women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia.


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What works to respond to sexual violence?


Zainab Bangura, UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Photo: FCO

The new special issue of Global Health Governance has several articles that chart the gaps in human rights and global health governance. I co-authored this one, with Doris Schopper and Julia Epps, on monitoring and evaluation (M&E) indicators used by humanitarian organizations to track interventions that respond to sexual violence in conflict settings. We compared indicators used by leading humanitarian organizations for programs that provide medical care, mental health care/psychosocial support, and legal aid to survivors. Continue reading

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Changes to the Global Fund Eligibility Policy: An overview

Lorrie Graham Assignment for Ausaid China 2006

Harm reduction outreach in China. Photo: Lorrie Graham/AusAID

On May 9-10, the board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria will meet in Skopje, Macedonia to approve a new policy on which countries are eligible for funding.

I’ve been immersed in this labyrinthine policy as a consultant for the three civil society delegations on the board of the Fund: Developing Country NGO Delegation, Developed Country NGO Delegation and Communities Delegation. They came together to press for an overhaul of the policy. For a variety of reasons, that didn’t happen.

But there has been some progress; there are some big questions for civil society to weigh in on before May, and some critical areas to monitor if the current version is approved.  Here’s an overview: heads up, it’s a long blog.

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Impact of closing civic space on HIV in East Africa

Restrictions on registration, financing, and operations of civil society organizations go beyond reasonable limits recognized in human rights law and create a chilling climate for organizations working on HIV response in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. That’s the finding of a new report by the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL). I was proud to be part of the international writing team for the report, with lawyers and advocates from all three countries and from UNAIDS.

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Sexual Violence in Conflict Settings and Emergencies – 2018 courses


Mogi Wokorach, Refugee Law Project

I’m pleased to share the 2018 dates for Geneva Center for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action (CERAH)’s much-in-demand short courses on sexual violence in conflicts and emergencies. I coordinate the courses, with speakers from the Red Cross, Médécins Sans Frontières, UN and more.

Combining cutting-edge research and practical experience from experts in the field, the course is tailored to emergency program managers, and one of the few courses to address male and female survivors of sexual violence. Participants in the Uganda session meet with activists from the Refugee Law Project to hear about their experiences first-hand.

  • March 19-23, 2018, in Geneva
  • September 10-14, in Geneva
  • November 25-30, in Uganda

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