World Aids Day: Red ribbon rights for all

Published on Pambazuka News, Issue 508, by Joel Nana, Dec. 1, 2010.

Twenty-two years after the first World AIDS Day, it’s time to acknowledge that African governments have officially ‘disappeared’ the existence of three highly vulnerable populations – sex workers, people who inject drugs, and gay and other men who have sex with men (MSM). It’s time for the denial to stop, urges Joel Nana … //

… In recent years, various accounts of human rights violations resulting from these laws and directly stopping MSM and transgender people from accessing HIV prevention, treatment and care services have been documented. 

From the mass arrests of gay men in Cameroon (resulting in the death of one of them due to denial of AIDS medication despite his visible need for attention), to the arrests and sentencing of activists working to provide and advocate for HIV services to MSM in Dakar, and the forced testing of alleged gay men in Egypt, many African states have failed to meet their human rights commitment in the context of the fight against HIV.

All African governments have signed and ratified a range of declarations, covenants and treaties that guarantee the full enjoyment of all human rights, including the right to the highest attainable standard of health by everyone. Although the realisation of these rights is still out of reach for many Africans, it is even harder to attain by MSM and transgender people in the context of state sponsored homophobia.

The level of attention given and protection afforded to MSM and transgender populations should be the yardstick for measuring state commitments to human rights and the fight against HIV. A commitment to respecting human rights principles in the context of the fight against HIV is not only shown through the ratification of treaties; it is also and most importantly by ensuring that everyone, and especially minorities, enjoy access to adequate and equitable services.

Before you appear in public with the red ribbon pinned on your chest, remember that it is not only a must-have fashion item aimed at portraying your social consciousness. It epitomises the solidarity with people affected and infected by HIV, including MSM and transgender people in Africa. It represents a commitment that you are making to work to ensure that your government’s performance in providing HIV is not just assessed by the number of condoms it has made available, but also on the steps taken by your government to foster an environment that is enabling for equitable access to HIV services by all. Always remember that the red ribbon, although just a sign, signals an aspiration for a life free of stigma and discrimination. We all deserve this. Let’s all work to make it happen. (full text).

Link: Time for new direction in fight against AIDS, on Pambazuka News, Issue 508, by Dibussi Tande, Dec. 2, 2010: In recognition of World AIDS Day, Dibussi Tande brings a message from the African blogosphere to think positive, and stand in solidarity with those infected and affected.

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