Posts Tagged 'AIDS'

Statement from Ambassador Deborah Birx, M.D., U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, on the Passage of the HIV Prevention and Control Act by the Ugandan Parliament

From The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief

I am deeply concerned by yesterday’s passage of the HIV Prevention and Control Act by the Ugandan Parliament. From all reports, among the legislation’s most troubling provisions is the criminalization of “attempted transmission of HIV” and “intentional transmission of HIV” with penalties of up to ten years imprisonment. In addition, the bill makes HIV testing mandatory for pregnant women, their partners, and in cases of rape and allows for disclosure of a person’s HIV status under a court order without consent.

Over the past 30 years, we have witnessed time and again how stigma, discrimination, and fear – and the misguided policies that stem from them – further fuel the epidemic by deterring those most in need from accessing lifesaving HIV prevention, treatment, and care services. We have also learned from experience that creating programs that respect and uphold the dignity of every human being and provide care to all who need it not only increases the numbers of people who access HIV services but also decreases the numbers of new HIV infection. The cause and effect are clear.

We are at a critical juncture in the fight against HIV/AIDS. After three decades of hard won progress against the disease the dream of an AIDS-free generation is within our grasp. The good news is that we know what works. We have developed and implemented effective HIV prevention programs and are providing lifesaving treatment to millions of people in Uganda and around the world. The bad news is that a return to antiquated, discriminatory, and non-science based approaches to preventing and controlling the epidemic will quickly erode all the hard won gains we have made.

Ironically, Uganda was one of the first countries in Africa to break the silence on HIV/AIDS. The leadership of President Museveni, the Ugandan Parliament, and the extraordinary community response across the country was the exemplar of best public health practice. These efforts were also grounded in compassion, social justice, and access for all. The HIV bill passed yesterday, alongside the recently enacted Anti-Homosexuality Act, threaten to undermine that legacy of leadership and drive an already expanding epidemic in the country.

I join with the many health practitioners, HIV/AIDS and human rights activists, multilateral institutions, and individuals everywhere – in Uganda and around the world – in calling for the people and the Government of Uganda to reject this regressive bill. Sound public health, an effective HIV/AIDS response, and the protection of fundamental human rights demand it – and the lives of millions of Ugandans are at stake.

UNAIDS expresses deep concern over impact of Ugandan bill on the rights of gay men

Press Statement from UNAIDS

If signed into law the controversial bill would toughen punishments against gay people in Uganda

GENEVA, 18 February 2014—UNAIDS is deeply concerned about a bill in Uganda that would further toughen punishments against gay men.

The controversial bill, which was passed by the country’s parliament in December 2013, calls for a 14-year jail term for a first conviction, and imprisonment for life for the offence of ‘aggravated homosexuality’. The signing of the bill into law would have serious human rights implications.

“Uganda was the first country in Africa to break the conspiracy of silence on AIDS—and to give voice to the most marginalized—but now I am scared that this bill will take Uganda backwards, relinquishing its leadership role in the AIDS response,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “I strongly urge the Ugandan authorities to reject the bill and ensure the human rights and dignity of all people in Uganda.”

The bill also has public health implications; studies show that when gay people face discrimination including abuse, incarceration and prosecution—they are less likely to seek HIV testing, prevention and treatment services.

In 2012, there were 1.5 million people living with HIV in Uganda and 140 000 new HIV infections. Globally gay men are around 13 times more likely to become infected with HIV than the general population, emphasizing the urgent need to ensure safe access to HIV prevention and treatment services for all people everywhere.

UNAIDS urges the government of Uganda, and all governments around the world, to protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender people through repealing criminal laws against adult consensual same sex sexual conduct; implementing laws to protect people from violence and discrimination; promoting campaigns that address homophobia and transphobia; and ensuring access to health services including HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services.

Uganda headed toward passing draconian anti-gay legislation

Repost from The Washington Blade

Movement on a draconian anti-gay bill in Uganda is raising concerns the legislation may be headed toward passage in the coming weeks, although it’s questionable whether the infamous death penalty provision remains in the bill.

Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality in the United States, said the legislation — which has drawn the ire of the international community for its proposed incarceration of gay people and concerns it would institute the death penalty for homosexual acts — seems likely headed for a floor vote in the coming weeks before the legislature adjourns on Dec. 14.

“All indications are that it’s really going to come up for a vote this time,” Bromley said. “We hear from several sources that it won’t come up until at least mid-week next week and probably maybe even a little bit later, but everyone we’ve talked to is pretty concerned that it really is going to come for a vote before the parliament recesses for the holidays, so sometime before mid-December.”

Media reports indicated that the bill on Friday had passed the committee of jurisdiction in the Uganda parliament.

Frank Mugisha, an activist coordinating Sexual Minorities Uganda, issued a statement to supporters on Friday decrying the legislation just before the committee acted on it.

“The bill does little more than to entrench stigma and prejudice, which will polarize the Ugandan society further and undermine public health efforts to combat the spread of HIV,” Mugisha said. “It places a total ban on public discussion of an issue whose existence cannot be wished away. If the bill is adopted, it will make Uganda a pariah in the international community. We therefore urge the Ugandan Parliament to reject this bill in its entirety.” Continue Reading

Scope of Interagency Influence and Authority

The Council for Global Equality - Scope of Interagency Influence and AuthorityOver the past three days, we’ve laid out a number of key issues to be grappled with as the U.S. government meshes its foreign assistance programs with the goals laid out in the President’s December 6 memorandum and in Secretary Clinton’s speech the same day. These issues will require more than energy and thought: they will require clear and determined support from department and agency leaders, which we trust will be given.

As referenced earlier, USAID’s development assistance programs represent, in fact, only part of a larger set of assistance programs scattered across the U.S. government. The President’s memorandum references a baker’s dozen agencies that have such programs. Apart from USAID, two of our largest assistance programs were established under the Bush Administration: the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which we mentioned in yesterday’s blog, was established as a government corporation under the direction of a public/private board; PEPFAR, which operates under the Secretary of State’s oversight, oversees our international HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs. Smaller grass-roots development assistance programs are managed by the Inter-American Foundation and the African Development Foundation. Even the Pentagon carries discretionary funding that can buttress our overseas development assistance efforts. Continue reading ‘Scope of Interagency Influence and Authority’

Achieving an AIDS-Free Generation for Gay Men and Other MSM

amFAR John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health  Achieving an AIDS-Free Generation for Gay Men and Other MSDownload Reports in PDF format below

For Immediate Release

Media Contact:
Cub Barrett, Program Communications Manager
(212) 806-1602

NEW YORK, January 18, 2012—Funding to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS consistently fails to reach programs designed to control the disease among gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM), according to a new analysis released Wednesday by amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research and the Center for Public Health and Human Rights (CPHHR) at Johns Hopkins University. The report finds that resources dedicated to addressing the epidemic among MSM are grossly insufficient, and that funding intended for this population is often diverted away from MSM-related services.

Despite Obama Administration leadership in setting bold new targets to tackle global AIDS and highlight the human rights of MSM and other sexual minorities, U.S. government aid intended to prevent and treat HIV infection among MSM continues to encounter obstacles throughout the world.

The new report, “Achieving an AIDS-Free Generation for Gay Men and Other MSM,” provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of HIV-related funding and programming for this population. Focusing on eight countries, the report finds that national governments have failed to adequately tackle the epidemic among MSM. The findings are especially dire in countries that criminalize MSM. In those settings, governments spend fewer resources on HIV-related health services for MSM, do less to track and understand the epidemic, and are more likely to repurpose donor funds intended to fight the epidemic among MSM. Continue reading ‘Achieving an AIDS-Free Generation for Gay Men and Other MSM’

Secretary Clinton “Creating an AIDS-free Generation”

Watch Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s address an audience at the National Institute of Health on working towards an AIDS-free generation. You can also read her remarks here.

Update: Read the blog posting “Secretary Clinton: Thank You, and More, Please” written by Zoe Hudson, Senior Policy Analyst with Open Society Foundations

LGBT trends in Africa

In the context of Secretary Clinton’s recent speech on LGBT rights, where she emphatically declared that “gay rights are human rights” and welcomed four LGBT activists from Africa to the State Department, it is important to reflect on the hostile view of LGBT rights that dominates the discourse in many parts of Africa.

Follow the links to read these two recent articles on LGBT trends in Africa by two notable South African commentators.
Homosexuality and the battle for Africa’s soul

by Mark Gevisser |Mail&Guardian |http://www.mg.co.za/

LGBTI* Freedom and Equality in Africa: a Different South African Perspective

Page 4 | By Zackie Achmat | International AIDS Society | http://www.iasociety.org/

UNAIDS and the Global Fund meet with Chair of the African Union

Press Release Issued by UNAIDS and Global Fund

Executive Directors discuss the Millennium Development Goals and human rights as they complete joint visit to Malawi

LILONGWE, Malawi, 25 May 2010—In a joint official visit to Malawi, the Executive Directors of UNAIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria commended President Bingu wa Mutharika on Malawi’s progress in the AIDS response and his leadership as Chairperson of the African Union on AIDS, health, food security and development.

“President Mutharika’s vision for the African Union is essential to a sustainable response to AIDS and the Millennium Development Goals,” said Mr Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS.

“As Chair of the African Union, President Mutharika can showcase Malawi’s achievements in health,” said Prof. Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. “President Mutharika can be a strong voice for Africa as the international community focuses on achieving health-related and other Millennium Development Goals.”

During their meeting with the President, the Executive Directors emphasized the pivotal role of African voices in advocating for strong leadership in the response to HIV and health. The Executive Directors also emphasized the link between sustaining progress in the AIDS response and ensuring a fully funded Global Fund.

Mr Sidibé and Prof. Kazatchkine also expressed their concern over the recent conviction of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, two men in Malawi who were sentenced to 14 years in prison with hard labour for “indecent practices between males” and “unnatural offenses.” They discussed with President Mutharika the health, societal, cultural and human rights ramifications of this case, which has attracted international attention.

“Criminalizing sexual behaviour drives people who engage in same-sex relations underground and hampers HIV-related programmes aimed at addressing their needs,” said Prof. Kazatchkine.

“Evidence from several countries in Africa shows a significant number of new HIV infections occurring among sex workers, people who use drugs and men who have sex with men. Opening a societal dialogue on these sensitive and critical issues is the only way to guarantee access to health services and restore dignity to all,” said Mr Sidibé.

President Mutharika expressed his appreciation to Mr Sidibé and Prof. Kazatchkine for raising these issues. He said that he is confident the cultural, religious and legal dimensions of the debate generated around this case will lead to a positive outcome. He also recognized the importance of good health and development and proposed to serve as a strong advocate for the replenishment of the Global Fund, and work towards an HIV-free generation in Africa.

[END]

The Council for Global Equality releases a study on the impact of PEPFAR on LGBT communities

CFGE and CAP Pepfar ReportThe President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has saved many lives and profoundly shaped the global response to HIV. But like the proverbial Trojan Horse, it has been let into the gates with a belly full of hidden contradictions—insufficient attention to marginalized communities, earmarks for unscientific programming, and forced “pledges” that both undermine sound reproductive rights programming and challenge basic rights to freedom of expression.

In this report, Washington insider Scott Evertz takes a serious look at the politics of one of our country’s signature foreign assistance programs. Scott is the former director of President George W. Bush’s Office of National AIDS Policy and an openly gay Republican, and his analysis reflects a degree of experience and honesty that is too often obscured by the rigid ideology and partisan policymaking that have—up until now—been the cornerstones of PEPFAR and the Bush administration’s bilateral funding strategy.

Read the complete report here.

How Ideology Trumped Science: Why PEPFAR has Failed to Meet its Potential

Next week, the Center for American Progress will publish a scathing critique of how PEPFAR – the Bush Administration’s signature initiative to combat the spread and impact of HIV and AIDS in Africa – ignored by design the HIV prevention needs of LGBT communities.

“How Ideology Trumped Science: Why PEPFAR has Failed to Meet its Potential” is written by Scott Evertz, a Bush Administration appointee. The Council for Global Equality sponsored Evertz’ refreshingly honest research, the thrust of which is to advocate a more inclusive, science-based program that ultimately will make more effective use of taxpayer dollars.

PEPFAR is rightly praised for having provided anti-retroviral medicines to some 2.1 million people who otherwise may have lacked recourse to them. It has made HIV testing and counseling available to millions more, while providing care to orphans and others with little means to provide for themselves. But PEPFAR’s assistance pipelines largely have bypassed LGBT communities, leaving gaping holes in the logic of efforts to stem the disease.

At a pre-holiday preview of his report, Evertz demurred on whether PEPFAR’s exclusion of LGBT needs was a deliberate reflection of anti-gay bias. But PEPFAR’s emphasis of abstinence until marriage amounts to a built-in exclusion of gays and lesbians, for whom marriage isn’t presently an option. Indeed, only negligible funding has been targeted at prevention outreach to men who have sex with men – a population that remains, at least partly of consequence, highly vulnerable to HIV infection.

Dogma-over-science has undermined PEPFAR’s effectiveness in other ways as well. PEPFAR grantees must explicitly oppose prostitution – thereby undercutting outreach to commercial sex workers, a major avenue of HIV infection. Averting needle exchange programs for injecting drug users has torn another hole in PEPFAR’s impact. And by giving overriding primacy to “abstinence” and “be faithful” messages, with little attention to correct condom usage, PEPFAR programs have reduced sex education to an asterisk.

The most detailed and disturbing portions of Evertz’ report relate to how PEPFAR may have contributed inadvertently to the unraveling of Uganda’s previously successful fight against HIV/AIDS. The Ugandan Government readily adopted PEPFAR’s de-emphasis of condoms and related sex education as effective means of HIV prevention. Evertz also reveals tell-tale signs that some faith-based PEPFAR sub-grantees may have helped nurture the anti-gay climate in Uganda that has spawned a horribly homophobic draft law that may be put to a vote in the coming days. Those of us of the Christian faith should be first to speak out against this subversion of religion to justify state-sponsored homophobic hate, imprisonment, and even death.

Larger questions fleetingly emerge, without answer, from Evertz’ work. For example, how could the UN Security Council not have recognized until the year 2000 – almost 20 years into this health crisis – the global security repercussions of the spread of HIV/AIDS? But the most disturbing question is this: how were those who ran PEPFAR allowed to break the wall of public policy separation our Founding Fathers rightly erected between church and state – thereby infusing a ground-breaking public health program, and indeed America’s national foreign policy interests, with sectarian dogma?

This is less a question for historians to dissect, or even for the previous Administration to defend, than one that public policy experts must ensure can never rightly be asked again.

View the panel discussion about this report held on December 15, 2009 at the Center for American Progress:


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