Tag Archives: international

We will lose the battle against #HIV without #LGBT decriminalisation!

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We have made huge progress in the fight against HIV/Aids in the last few decades, but there are still significant challenges. Communities most affected by the virus – sex workers, transgender people, men who have sex with men (MSM), and gay men – still face stigma and discrimination. Global infection rates have not fallen as much for these people as they have for the general population.

Article via The Guardian
guardianlogoIn fact, MSM and gay men are 19 times more likely to be infected with HIV than the general population. HIV infection between MSM and gay men ranges from21% in Senegal, to 13.5% in Nigeria and 16% in Kenya.

Transgender women (people who are born as men but identify as women) carry the biggest burden of the virus, being 49 times more likely to contract HIV. UNAids understands this and has been encouraging the increased involvement of trans people in the fight against HIV.

Many will argue that risky behaviour is the main cause of the high rates of infection among the MSM, gay, trans and sex worker communities. While it is a factor, these people face so much stigma and discrimination that it can be challenging for them to access the healthcare they need.

When I was diagnosed with HIV in 2004, I was afraid to start treatment despite working in the field for more than three years. I was afraid because of the shame, the stigma and the discrimination. Even when I moved to the UK, I could feel the pressure of the stigma I carried with me from Nigeria. – 

In 2000, the International Aids Conference in Durban provided a turning point in the fight against HIV/Aids. Jeffrey Sachs, a world-renowned professor of economics and senior UN adviser, gave a moving call for the creation of a global fund for Aids. The following year, funding and political connections were secured and The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria was formed. This single act of putting money in the mouth of the political dragon changed the landscape of the global HIV epidemic.

At that time, 28.6 million people were estimated to be living with HIV, yet just 690,000 (2%) of them were receiving treatment through anti-retroviral therapy (ART). By 2014, the number of people living with HIV had risen to almost 37 million, but nearly 15 million people (40%) had access to treatment. By mid-2015, 15.8 million people were receiving ART, meeting and exceeding the millennium development goal.

Now we know that we can treat and manage HIV, our biggest challenge in the fight against the virus is people’s reaction to those living with it. This must be addressed as the International Aids Conference returns to Durban in July.

The increasing criminalisation of LGBT people – especially in African countries – puts people’s lives at risk as they pursue sexual pleasure. Of the 52 countries in Africa, 35 criminalise same-sex relationships, with penalties ranging from five to 14 years’ imprisonment. Efforts to decriminalise LGBT people’s relationships and lives must be at the forefront of discussions in Durban. We do ourselves a disservice if we think the battle against HIV will be won without a global call for decriminalisation.

The continuous global criminalisation of sex work also needs to stop. Sex work is work is not just a slogan, it is the reality for men and women who sell sex, and they too need a safe work environment.

There must also be an increased focus on sensitive and humane care and support for people living with HIV inAfrica – this is the only way we will drive the epidemic down further.

Aids 2016 should also be the place where discussion around pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for the most affected populations moves away from talking shop to action. We must not leave Durban without a proactive policy and a process of implementation for PrEP for the sex worker, trans , MSM and gay communities. It has been shown that if taken correctly, PrEP will work. Now is the time to take a bold step and provide access to those who need it, and follow in the footsteps of organisations such as Amsher and MSMGF, which work hard to make access to treatment a universal right.

As we prepare to return to Durban to discuss “Access equity rights now”, we need to commit to ending stigma and discrimination, including eliminating legalised discrimination. Until we do, HIV prevention and treatment will not be accessible or equitable for all.

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Canon Gideon Byamugisha visits Leicester (7th July to 13th July)

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A week of opportunities to build your knowledge and understanding about HIV and other social issues from a personal perspective with Canon Gideon Byamugisha

Who is Canon Gideon Byamugisha?
Rev Canon Dr Gideon B. Byamugisha is an ordained priest in the Anglican Church of Uganda. In 1992, he became the first African religious leader to openly declare his HIV-positive status. He has since devoted his life to an HIV / AIDS ministry which has taken him to over 40 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and many other parts of the world.

Gideon is driven by a passion for the dignity and rights of all people, especially those marginalised, stigmatised and discriminated against because of their HIV positive status. He has played leading roles in the Church of Uganda’s AIDS program, the Uganda AIDS Commission, World Vision International, the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, Christian AID, special conferences of the United Nations, and in founding the African Network of Religious Leaders Living With or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS.

Rev. Canon Dr Gideon Byamugisha in Leicester
Canon Gideon is in Leicester & the area supporting different LASS events from 7th July to 13th July. Canon Gideon’s visit theme is “Love (in any language) fluently spoken heals”. “Reaching & sustaining zero new HIV infections, zero household level poverty, zero youth unemployment & zero socially sanctioned violence”

The following are open to the public and you are very welcome to come to one or more of these.

HIV & Belief Session
Wednesday 9th July 2014: 10 – 1pm
Venue: LASS (53 Regent Road, Leicester LE1 6YF)
Canon Gideon will lead this session on HIV and Belief – exploring issues about stigma, self-stigma, support for testing and condom use and reducing discrimination and prejudice.
The session will be of interest to people whose faith / belief plays an important role in their life also for those with an interest in the role that faith and belief have on people’s lives to help them cope or otherwise with a long term condition like HIV.

An audience with Canon Gideon
Thursday 10th July: 4pm – 8pm:
This is an opportunity for Faith leaders and elders to meet Canon Gideon at LASS. Come along and find out more about his ministry and the theme of this visit. Light refreshments will be served.

Football & Faith
On Saturday 12th July: LASS is holding a Football & Faith Event for all the family at Emerald Centre, Gipsy Lane, Leicester LE5 0TB. 6 football teams will compete for the LASS “Know your HIV Status” trophy; we will be entertained by Gospel choirs; there will be family entertainment including a Bouncy castle; address and prize giving by Canon Gideon. There will be different health information and testing available at the event including HIV testing, information about prostate cancer and blood sugar checks. Tasty food will be available to buy from different stall holders.

For Further information or a training session booking form:
Please contact LASS on 0116 2559995.

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Pope Francis I & Interactions with HIV/AIDS Patients

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Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been elected the Catholic Church’s Pope, taking the name Francis, (The first time a pope has taken that name). The 76-year-old from Buenos Aires is the first Latin American and the first Jesuit to be pontiff.

Appearing on a balcony over St Peter’s Square in Rome yesterday, he asked the crowds to pray for him, with cheers erupting as he gave a blessing. Messages of goodwill have poured in from around the world. The Pope’s inaugural Mass will be next Tuesday.

As Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he showed compassion for HIV/AIDS patients, when in 2001 he visited a drugs rehabilitation centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina where he is from and washed the feet of twelve recovering drug addicts, diagnosed with HIV during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

Each year, repeating the gesture, said to be done by Jesus at the Last Supper with the Apostles, is a reminder of the attitude the church says it should have.

The following video contains photo slides from the event.

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East African Parliament Pushing for HIV/AIDS Bill

As the East African Parliament winds up their term, the members are pushing for the passing of the East African Community HIV & Aids Prevention and Management Bill 2010 so that the new Assembly starts on a fresh plate.

Speaking during the stakeholders meeting in Kampala on Friday, the EALA committee on general purposes said the Bill should be passed before June when their five-year term of office elapses.

The Bill, almost similar to the one handled by the Ugandan Parliament, seeks to get interventions to achieve zero new HIV infections, zero Aids-related deaths and zero discrimination taking into account the special needs persons, the most at risk and other vulnerable groups.

Statistics from Burundi show that 3 per cent of the 8.5 million estimated population are living with HIV/Aids. According to the United Nations Aids Service Organisation in Bujumbura, majority of the infected persons are women while the coverage of the Prevention of Mother to Child Infections is very minimal.

In Uganda, there are an estimated 1.2 million people living with HIV/Aids, including 150,000 children. An estimated 64,000 people died from Aids in 2009 and 1.2 million children have been orphaned by the scourge.

HIV/Aids burden
Meanwhile, at the East African National Networks of Aids Organisation, statistics indicate that as of 2009, East Africa had an existing burden of an estimated 4.5million persons living with HIV/Aids, 338,800 annual new HIV infections, 286,000 Aids-related deaths and 4m orphans left due to HIV-related deaths.

Although most partner states already have their own legislations like Uganda’s HIV/Aids Prevention Bill 2009, the regional law if passed, does not criminalise the transmission of the scourge like the Ugandan Bill proposes but offers shelter to people living with the infection.

The Bill is inspired by the successes of the EAC integration which includes the coming into force of the Custom Union and the Common Market Protocols.

The regional Bill also differs from the Ugandan Bill in mandatory testing and mandatory disclosure. The committee led by Margaret Ziiwa was in Uganda to consult on the country’s Aids Bill.

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Ambassadors on ‘HIV Heart to Heart’ campaign face death threats

English: The Red ribbon is a symbol for solida...

Reverend John Kwashie Azumah, Minister of the Gospel at Mount Zion Evangelical Ministries and member of ambassadors on HIV Heart to Heart campaign has said “the team had received threats on their lives since they went public with their HIV status”.

He said “those who attacked him included both Christians and non-Christians and they accused him of being a false prophet and a disgrace to the pastoral calling and therefore vowed to eliminate him, his wife and children”.

Rev Azumah who is also the National Chairperson of the International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS, Ghana Chapter (INERELA+gh) disclosed this in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Accra.

He said “although he was worried about the development, but was not afraid because he believed God was using him to tell a story to all those who were pretending to wake up to the reality that HIV and AIDS was no longer an issue of morality but a medical condition“.

Rev Azumah said “while it was globally accepted that HIV was no longer an issue of morality but a medical condition, many were yet to comprehend that the disease was no respecter of persons and its mode of transmission was diverse”.

He said “there was no need to cry over spilt milk, nor [lose valuable ideas], but to hold the bull by the horns and deal ruthlessly with the problem and help give hope to the many people living with the disease and further help eliminate stigma and discrimination”.

Rev Azumah said “stigmatising a person with HIV was in itself sin against God and encouraged all who were affected and infected with HIV and AIDS to strictly adhere to their medication and nutrition guidelines instead of substituting them for prayers from purported ‘Men of God'”.

He said “he was determined and committed in spite of the difficulties they faced from all angles including family, friends, communities to use the “Heart-to-Heart Media Campaign” to eliminate stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS and achieves“zero discrimination” and ultimately a “zero infection””.

Rev Azumah appealed to the media, especially the electronic media to be circumspect in the their diction on issues relating to HIV and AIDS and give accurate reports devoid of all the unnecessary colouring that demean and further stigmatizes people living with the disease.

Mrs Mercy Acquah-Hayford, National Coordinator of INERELA+gh, appealed to religious bodies to offer positive messages that would give hope to persons living with HIV and not condemn them especially those who had boldly and openly declared their status and champion the fight against stigma and discrimination.

She said “some purported religious leaders often deceive unsuspecting and desperate people living with HIV to abandon their medications and substitute them for prayers and after they had deteriorated, were sent off to die away from their prayer camps”.

Mrs Acquah-Hayford advised people living with the disease to take their medications and support them with prayers for spiritual fulfilment and the possibility of total cure.

She appealed to Ghanaians to understand the fact that HIV was real and could affect anyone without caution, therefore the need to support those who had been bold to tell their story and encourage others to follow suit for treatment and care to help halt the spread of the virus and save a generation from the pandemic.

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The Mustard Seed Project – Workshop & Presentation

The Mustard Seed Project was set up in Zimbabwe in 2002 as a response to the needs of orphaned and vulnerable children.  In 2006, the population of Zimbabwe was approximately 13 million, of whom 1.7 million were estimated to be living with HIV.

This resulted in the increment of orphaned children and child headed family systems.  The prevalence of HIV infection rose in the 15-49 year age group to between 20 and 30 percent of the population.

Chipo Muteve, previously a support and advocacy worker at LASS and founder of the Mustard Seed Project won the Zimbabwe Spar ‘Mother of the Year’ overall prize last year.  She has also gained the International Rotary Paul Harris award and was a finalist in the Zimbabwe National Builder award for her volunteer work in communities.

The Mustard Seed Project which monitors the well-being of orphans and vulnerable children. It ensures provision of Food, Clothing, School Fees and uniforms, Medicines and medical care, Moral, spiritual  and psycho-social support and Residential Care for 15 children at a “Safe House” with an additional 105 beneficiaries of the Project who live in separate places and are visited on a regular basis by project staff.

Workshop & Presentation (15th March)

A Workshop and Presentation about Zimbabwe’s Mustard Seed Fountain of Life Project is being held at LASS on Thursday 15th March commencing at 11:00am and will last an hour.  (This is free).  The Mustard Seed Project supports vulnerable people affected by HIV/AIDS including child headed families.

If you would like to attend, please contact LASS on 0116 2559995 or by email to: training@lass.org.uk so we can have an indication of numbers.

You can find out more about the work of the Mustard Seed Project from their website: http://mseedfountainoflife.org

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International Womens Day!

The 8th March is a day when women throughout the world come together and celebrate life as women, the progress made to advance equality for women and to assess the challenges that remain.

UN Women, in collaboration with UNAIDS, have created a comprehensive online resource to provide up-to-date information on the gender equality dimensions of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The site aims to promote understanding, knowledge sharing, and action on HIV/AIDS as a gender and human rights issue.

While HIV/AIDS is a health issue, the epidemic is a gender issue. Statistics prove that both the spread and impact of HIV/AIDS are not random. HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects women and adolescent girls who are socially, culturally, biologically, and economically more vulnerable.

The figures are alarming: At the end of 2009, slightly more than half of the estimated 33.3  million adults (aged 15-49) living with HIV/AIDS were women and girls. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more women than men are living with HIV, and young women aged 15-24 years are as much as eight times more likely than men to be HIV-positive.

In the Caribbean, approximately 53 per cent of people living with HIV are women. Globally, the incidence of HIV/AIDS among women has risen at a shocking rate. In 1997, 41 per cent of HIV infected adults were women and this figure rose to nearly 52 per cent at the end of 2009. Women’s empowerment is one of the only HIV vaccines available today. By integrating gender equality and human rights components into UN Women’s HIV/AIDS strategies, plans and policies, we hope to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS among women and girls.

UN Women is committed to addressing underlying factors, such as violence against women, feminized poverty and women’s limited voice in decision-making, to increase access to HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention programs, and stop the spread of HIV/AIDS among women and girls.

For more information, please visit: http://www.unwomen.org/

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