On Human rights Day thousands of activists are demanding access to HIV programmes for marginalised communities.
Today (10 December) is Human Rights Day and in Cape Town, South Africa, thousands of activists are dedicating their march to Nelson Mandela’s HIV legacy.
As part of the 17th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (7-11 December), the demonstrators are demanding universal access to HIV treatment and prevention.
The demonstration include sex workers, people living with HIV, TB advocates, transgenders, men who have sex with men, lesbians, women and children and people living with disabilities. With songs and dances the activists are calling for full recognition and respect of their human rights, particularly in relation to their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Violence, stigma and discrimination
There is a universal outcry from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people who are lobbying for the repealment of harsh and severe laws which violate their human rights in their countries. As marginalised communities they are requesting the elimination of all forms of violence towards and hate speech towards them.
“The only way we can get to zero [discrimination] is if our governments uphold our human rights,” said one of the demonstrators, a male sex worker from Kenya. “One of the ways to achieve this is by decriminalising sex work.” According to this activist, criminalisation not only prevents them from accessing HIV and sexual and reproductive health services but it also fuels stigma and discrimination.
Barriers to health services
The activists claim they experience barriers that limit their access to health and social services especially people living with disabilities, who have also been left out from HIV programmes and services in most African countries.
The demonstrators are also demanding equal access to health care without any stock out of essential medicines especially for TB and antiretrovirals to treat HIV. They want African governments to invest in resources for health besides being accountable for health issues.
“Our governments should come up with framework that will address structural issues related to HIV and TB,” said Sipho from Swaziland, one of the demonstrators.
Sidi Sarro lives in Kenya and is a member of the Key Correspondents programme which focuses on marginalised groups affected by HIV, to report the health and human rights stories that matter to them. The programme is supported by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.
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Photo caption: HIV activists demonstrating in Cape Town
Photo credit: Sidi Sarro