January 15, 2014
The Global Fund and UNAIDS are worried that the passage of a new law criminalizing homosexuality in Nigeria will harm progress against HIV/AIDS.
The new law could prevent access to essential HIV services for LGBT people who may be at high risk of HIV infection, undermining the success of the Presidential Comprehensive Response Plan for HIV/AIDSwhich was launched by President Goodluck Jonathan less than a year ago.
The health, development and human rights implications of the new law are potentially far-reaching. Homosexuality is already criminalized in Nigeria. The new law further criminalizes LGBT people, organizations and activities. The law states: “A person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisation, or directly or indirectly makes public show of same sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and is liable to conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment.”
The law also criminalizes any individuals or group of people who support “the registration, operation and sustenance of gay clubs, societies and organisations, processions or meetings in Nigeria.” The conviction is also 10 years imprisonment.
The provisions of the law could lead to increased homophobia, discrimination, denial of HIV services and violence based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. It could also be used against organizations working to provide HIV prevention and treatment services to LGBT people.
Nigeria has the second largest HIV epidemic globally––in 2012 there were an estimated 3.4 million people living with HIV in Nigeria. In 2010, national HIV prevalence in Nigeria was estimated at 4 percent among the general population and 17 percent among men who have sex with men.
In the 2011 United Nations Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, all UN Member States committed to removing legal barriers and passing laws to protect populations vulnerable to HIV.
UNAIDS and the Global Fund call for an urgent review of the constitutionality of the law in light of the serious public health and human rights implications and urge Nigeria to put comprehensive measures in place to protect the ongoing delivery of HIV services to LGBT people in Nigeria without fear of arrest or other reprisals. UNAIDS and the Global Fund will continue to work with the Nigerian authorities and civil society organisations to ensure continued and safe access to HIV services for all people in Nigeria.
Global Health and Development Beat
Women - A women’s group says the military in Burma is still using rape as a weapon of war, with more than 100 women and girls raped by the army since a 2010 election.
UHC - The rollout of universal health coverage in Indonesia has been greeted with public enthusiasm, but health experts warn that inadequate funding could undermine the quality of care.
Haiti - Thousands of Haitians sought refuge on the island of La Gonave after the earthquake, but little help arrived reports the GlobalPost.
Syria - NGOs pledged $400 million in support of the humanitarian response to the crisis in Syria, in Kuwait. International donors are expected to pledge more today.
WFP - Is very concerned about food security as Zimbabwe enters the peak of its so-called hunger season — the last three months before the traditional harvest.
HRW - Human Rights Watch called on international donors to demand access for relief deliveries to Syrian civilians trapped by the fighting.
WFP - The WFP delivered rations to a record 3.8 million people in Syria in December, but civilians in eastern provinces and besieged towns near the capital remain out of reach.
Spotlight on PSI
Despite a decreasing prevalence of HIV/AIDS among commercial sex workers, stigma and the harsh laws are undermining sex workers’ access to HIV-related services. IRIN spoke to PSI, UNAIDS and others about the challenges:
“Prevalence has been decreasing in all risk groups other than drug users,” Anne Lancelot, director of the Targeted Outreach Programme at Population Services International (PSI) confirmed.
Surveys reveal that in 2008, prevalence among sex workers stood at 18.4 percent, whereas 7.1 percent of sex workers were HIV positive in 2012.
While government data estimates that there are currently 60,000 sex workers in Myanmar, PSI puts the real number at closer to 80,000. The national HIV infection rate is 0.5 percent, making HIV/AIDS a concentrated epidemic, said Murphy, adding, “However there have been quite a lot of deaths due to a lack of access to treatment.”
The stiff penalties for commercial sex work contained in Myanmar’s Suppression of Prostitution Act (1949) are a major barrier to accessing HIV treatment. The punishment is one to three years in prison for sex workers, but clients are not punished under the law.
“Very harsh laws are in place against sex workers, instead of the mobilizers, the traffickers and the gangs who push women into sex work,” said Sid Naing, the country director for Marie Stopes, an international NGO working to improve sexual and reproductive health.
Even possessing a condom could be used as circumstantial evidence of prostitution until 2011, when the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a directive to the contrary, yet according to UNAIDS most of the public are unaware of the directive.
“People are still not comfortable about carrying large amounts of condoms because they could be targeted as sex workers,” PSI’s Lancelot noted.
Another barrier to the prevention and treatment of HIV is the stigma surrounding commercial sex work – the word “prostitute” literally translates to “bad woman”.
“Myanmar isn’t like other countries where sex work is more organized, with red-light districts which are brothel-based. There’s a great deal of indirect sex work, such as in massage parlours and karaoke bars,” said Krittayawan Tina Boonto, the UNAIDS investment and efficiency advisor.
Buzzing in the Blogs
The cross-cutting effects of NTDs make it crucial that the international community prioritize them in the post-2015 development agenda, says Neeraj Mistry in the Guardian.
To build on these commitments, we must ensure that endemic countries have the capacity to deliver medicines to the most at-risk communities and achieve sustainable progress. Endemic countries have a critical role to play in demonstrating political will to prospective development partners by expanding “last mile” access and raising in-country support for NTD control and elimination efforts. This increase in demand will encourage donor governments to include NTDs in their future global health and development investments. As the millennium development goals expire in 2015, we have a great opportunity to focus on NTDs and identify effective areas of integration of NTD control into broad development programmes, but to take advantage of that opportunity, three things must happen:
The first step is to encourage UN decision-making bodies to embrace the recommendations issued by the UN high-level panel of eminent persons on the post-2015 development agenda, and incorporate NTDs in the revised post-2015 development framework and related sustainable development goals.
Civil society organisations and individuals must also continue to play a key role in influencing the discussion. Last autumn, over 3,000 people worldwide urged the UN to include NTDs in the post-2015 development agenda. The UN secretary general’s special adviser on post-2015 development planning positively responded: “I share your view that the fight against NTDs is paramount to the global efforts to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development.”
It will take broad resources to overcome the current funding gap of approximately $300m (£220m) each year (pdf). WHO’s regional director for Africa Luis G Sambo emphasised this in October: “We need sustained support from all stakeholders.” This requires intensive advocacy that urges policymakers in donor and endemic countries alike to recognise how NTD control and elimination will help advance progress in many of their current health and economic development priorities.
Ultimately, endemic countries must self-finance NTD programmes within existing budgetary structures to ensure sustainability; however, leadership from both donor and endemic countries is needed now to quickly develop and expand programmes.
By including NTDs and specific targets in the post-2015 development agenda, we will support country-led efforts to reach control and elimination goals, improve the health and well-being of hundreds of millions of people, and accelerate progress in global poverty reduction by 2030 and beyond.
10:00 AM - Powering Africa – A Conversation about Progress and Prospects - CGD
2:00 PM - Subcommittee Hearing: A Report on the G-8 Dementia Summit - US House Committee on Foreign Affairs
2:00 PM - Global Youth Workforce Development - CSIS
4:00 PM - How Social Movements Succeed: Lessons from HIV/AIDS - CGD
12:00 PM - The Organization of Islamic Cooperation: Free Speech Implications of a Proposed Ban on “Islamophobia” - Hudson Institute
By Mark Leon Goldberg and Tom Murphy
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