Tell the EU: take the lead to end AIDS

A few weeks ago, we asked you to demand the EU to take the lead to end AIDS.

We wanted the EU to play its part in “creating an AIDS-free generation” and make this clear in its policy and financial mechanisms.

We wanted the EU to renew its Programme of Action for HIV, TB and Malaria, or at least develop a Global Health strategy which would address the three diseases.

And thanks to your efforts, the EU has reacted!

The European Commission (EC) has assured to us that a Programme of Action on Global Health will be ready in early 2013 and that civil society will be able to contribute to it. The EC has also guaranteed us that the principles of the ‘EU Programme for Action to confront HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis 2007-2011’ will continue to guide the EU response to the three diseases, notably when it comes to responding to the needs of key populations.

The EC has also reassured us that HIV remains a priority for the EU; that the EC will sustain its contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (GF) in the coming years; and that it will call on other donors to step up their contributions to the GF.

This is good news, but now we are working with all major European organisations that work on health to get the broadest endorsement possible to make sure that the European Union:

1) Includes specific and measurable objectives on HIV and AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis in the new Programme of Action on Global Health. And that the plan underscores the importance of a human rights and community based response to HIV and in broader health.

2) Continues to provide leadership by allocating additional funding to meet the urgent needs of the Global Fund before the International AIDS Conference in July 2012; and calls on EU Member States to live up to their pledges and to ensure the Global Fund continues to work in lower and middle income countries (where the bulk of the epidemic is).

3) Upholds its commitment to allocate at least 20% of its official development aid to health and education and introduces a European financial transactions tax (FTT) that raises additional resources for development, health and HIV.

4) Strengthens human rights-based financing mechanisms for communities who are at higher risk of HIV, TB and Malaria in those countries that the Global Fund will no longer be funding, including middle-income countries.

5) Includes concrete measures in the new Programme of Action on Global Health to increase policy coherence for development across the EU’s trade, external action and development and human rights policies, ensuring that its trade agreements do not undermine the rights of people to access affordable essential medicines.

Thank you for your support, we will keep you posted!

Commonwealth law reform: THANK YOU! THIS ACTION HAS NOW

Thank you for taking action to demand reform of discriminatory laws that undermine HIV treatment and prevention.

This unjust legislation includes laws which discriminate against people living with HIV, or criminalise drug users, sex workers and homosexual or transgender people.

Together we sent over 18,000 emails and letters to Commonwealth Ministers of Foreign Affairs, putting unprecedented pressure on the Commonwealth and its institutions to make legal reforms for a better response to HIV.

With your help we have succeeded again!

Foreign Affairs Ministers from across the Commonwealth met in New York on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly last Saturday (29 September 2012) and agreed to adopt in full the outstanding recommendations of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG).

Thanks to your support the recommendation to “take steps to encourage the repeal of laws that may impede the effective response of Commonwealth countries to the HIV/AIDS epidemic” has been taken seriously.

This was by far the most contentious recommendation made by the EPG. We are grateful that with your help we managed to get it through.

It is vital now to maintain momentum as we move into the implementation stage of the Commonwealth reform process. Our next challenge is to ensure that the Commonwealth Secretariat include this work in their organisational strategic plan which they are currently developing.

To find out more on the Commonwealth Ministers of Foreign Affairs meeting in New York please read:
Ministers take steps to strengthen the Commonwealth
Foreign Ministers agree on Draft Commonwealth Charter and EPG Recommendations

This action was supported by Peter Tatchell Foundation, Terrence Higgins Trust, Alliance India, Alliance Uganda and Alliance Linking Organisations across the Commonwealth including the Alliance Zambia, Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), Kenya AIDS NGO Consortium (KANCO), the Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) and the Network on Ethics/Human Rights, Law, HIV/AIDS Prevention, Support and Care (NELA) in Nigeria.

Stop homophobic legislation being passed in Uganda

The anti-homosexuality bill has been adjourned indefinitely in Ugandan parliament today (13 May 2011). There is no fixed date for its return, but please bookmark this page and sign up to the Alliance e-newsletter to stay informed.

Thank you to those of you who have already signed Avaaz petition which is still open so you can add your name to support the campaign.

The proposed anti-homosexuality bill could have seriously violated the human rights of sexual minorities in Uganda. It stated that if the accused person was HIV positive or a serial offender, or a “person of authority” over the other partner, or if the “victim” was under 18, a conviction could result in the death penalty. It also included the obligation for members of the public to report any homosexual activity to the police.

The Constitution of Uganda provides for the protection and promotion of fundamental and other human rights and freedoms. Among others, it guarantees the rights to equality and freedom from discrimination, the right to life, the right to privacy, and the rights of minorities.

However, under current legislation, “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” is classified among “unnatural offences” and is punishable with life imprisonment. Attempt to commit “unnatural offences” is liable to seven years imprisonment. The proposed bill contained even harsher penalties.

The introduction of the bill has left a legacy of hatred and intimidation against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) population. According to the organisation Sexual Minorities Uganda, more than 20 LGBT people have been attacked over the past year, and an additional 17 have been arrested and are in prison. Those numbers are up from the same period two years ago, when about 10 LGBT people were reportedly attacked.

Uganda’s HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Bill is also due to be debated today in parliament. This bill also has the potential to violate human rights and its provision to criminalise attempted transmission of HIV could prove highly problematic for control of the epidemic.

In June, world leaders will be meeting for the 2011 UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS to commemorate 30 years of the HIV epidemic and commit to the vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths. It is important that the Ugandan government does not pass these bills in order to protect the right to non-discrimination for all people affected by HIV and to help prevent the spread of the epidemic.

Background information: Commonwealth Ministers of Foreign Affairs Meeting

The Alliance fears that the Commonwealth has brushed human rights and health issues under the carpet in advance of the Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers meeting in New York on 29 September 2012.

This is very disappointing, as previously it seemed that the Commonwealth was making great strides towards improving the human rights and health of people living in Commonwealth countries, and proving its relevance.

In 2009 an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) of respected experts was established to examine the Commonwealth’s future and relevance. At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) the EPG presented their recommendations. As a result of intense advocacy, including by the Alliance’s ‘What’s Preventing Prevention?’ campaign, most of their recommendations on HIV were adopted.

However, other key recommendations were deferred. These recommendations could have a huge impact on the lives of people in Commonwealth countries, particularly key populations at higher risk of HIV, such as sex workers, people who use drugs and LGBT people, for whom criminalising laws are a major barrier to accessing HIV prevention, treatment and support.

Key recommendations were:

– For the Commonwealth to “take steps to encourage the repeal of laws that may impede the effective response of Commonwealth countries to the HIV/AIDS epidemic”.

– The creation of a Commonwealth Commissioner for Democracy, the Rule of Law and Human Rights.

– The development of a new Commonwealth Charter, which should underpin core human rights principles and the commitment of the Commonwealth to fight HIV and other major health challenges.

These recommendations were passed to a Ministerial Task Force to develop further and present at the Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Meeting. Rather than accepting the above recommendations, the Alliance understands that the Task Force has requested further guidance from the Ministers at the September meeting on how to pursue them – potentially opening the issues up to further delay, and possible dismissal.

A lack of transparency and commitment

We’d hoped that the discussions by the Ministerial Task Force would exemplify the core Commonwealth principles of transparency, accountability and civil society participation. That has not happened. Discussions on the new charter, which should have involved every Commonwealth country, only happened in the UK, Canada and Australia to our knowledge.

And now everything seems to be done and dusted. The draft Charter which representatives of the task force have agreed to present contains no mention of freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Nor does it include the creation of a Commonwealth Democracy and Human Rights Commissioner or refer to HIV and other public health threats.

The task force has also subscribed to the Commonwealth Secretariat’s approach to its Strategic Plan 2013-2016, described in the Secretariat’s First Discussion Paper. The paper proposes health to be an “area of diminished focus”. This is in spite of health being prioritised profusely in the CHOGM Perth Communiqué, including a commitment to universal health care. Was this all just empty rhetoric?

The task force is also going to request further guidance from the Ministers at the September meeting on how to pursue the recommendation to take steps to repeal discriminatory legislation undermining the HIV response – potentially opening the issues up for further debate, and possible dismissal.

Don’t miss this opportunity !

There is still time for the Commonwealth the do something to address the key human rights and health challenges it’s citizens are facing. Ignoring the recommendations that the Commonwealth leaders themselves have made will simply add to the ever growing questions among Commonwealth citizens about the impact and added value of the institution.

The ‘What’s Preventing Prevention?’ campaign has launched an action for the Commonwealth ministers of foreign affairs, who meet on 29 September, to approve the recommendation to “take steps to encourage the repeal of laws that may impede the effective response of Commonwealth countries to the HIV/AIDS epidemic”. Take action here

Don’t stop now, we can end AIDS!

The International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) takes place in Washington D.C., 22 -27 July, and is a highly significant event for those working in the field of HIV, bringing together HIV activists, governments, donors and other key institutions.

An HIV awareness play is performed in Zambia (c) Gideon Mendel for the Alliance. The conference theme, ‘turning the tide together’, reflects that this is a unique moment in history: if we take the right approach, we can bring an end to AIDS.

For that, we have to invest in community-led approaches, centred on human rights.

Are you ready to end AIDS? Then sign the Washington Declaration.

The declaration recognises the fact that we stand at a unique time in the history of the AIDS epidemic. Through new scientific advances and societal, political and human rights gains, it is possible to turn the tide against the AIDS and begin to end the epidemic in our lifetimes.

On 24 July we joined the We Can End AIDS march, which brought together activists who fight AIDS and work for economic justice and human rights, to demand political will to bring an end to AIDS.

Check out photos from the march below. Visit for more details.

Our key messages for AIDS 2012: Don’t Stop Now! Community-led approaches are essential to universal access to quality HIV services

We’re calling for communities at higher risk of HIV to fully participate in the response, including in National AIDS Plans and Global Fund coordination mechanisms. Read more here.

Don’t Stop Now! A human rights approach must be the foundation of the HIV response

We’re campaigning for national laws which do not criminalise those most affected by HIV and protect them from human rights violations, stigma and discrimination and lack of access to HIV services. Read more about human rights at AIDS 2012.

Don’t Stop Now! We must invest in a combination of interventions that are proven to work best

We demand that governments and donors make strategic investments that combine HIV interventions focused on those most at risk, community mobilisation and human rights-based HIV programmes. Read more here.

Don’t Stop Now! Globally agreed financing targets for the HIV response must be met

We’re calling for the Global Fund to be fully funded and for donors to scale up their global response. You can TAKE ACTION by endorsing the WECARe+ petition for the replenishment of the Global Fund.

Treatment as prevention: new policy briefing

There are rapid developments in the field of HIV prevention.

Treatment as prevention (TAP) is one emerging issue that is causing great debate. The International HIV/AIDS Alliance has conducted a partnership-wide consultation on the topic in order to inform its own programming and advocacy messages. The ‘What’s Preventing Prevention?’ campaign has produced a briefing paper which draws on the results of that consultation and on an extensive desk review of the available literature.

The briefing paper highlights some of the key questions that communities most affected by HIV and the organisations that support them are currently discussing, and outlines our eight points to remember to make TAP work.

Download the briefing paper here.

New blog: Protecting the rights of sexual minorities as national values

The work of national human rights commissions shows us that rights for sexual minorities are ingrained in the religions, cultures and traditions of nations argues ‘What’s Preventing Prevention?’ campaign manager, Enrique Restoy, in a new post on the Alliance blog.

You can read the full article here, please feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you think!

Commonwealth: crunch time for committing to ending AIDS

As Commonwealth Day 2012 approaches (12 March) HIV and AIDS remains a major challenge that the Commonwealth must commit to addressing.

This year Commonwealth Day marks Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th anniversary as the head of an institution which, over the years, has become a strong association of independent nations that share common values.

In these 60 years, Commonwealth nations have encountered few challenges as formidable as the HIV and AIDS epidemic. Although the Commonwealth contains only 30% of the world’s population, a shocking 60% of all people living with HIV live in Commonwealth countries. No other group of nations has been so disproportionately affected by the epidemic. It is time to reflect on the role the Commonwealth needs to play to better tackle HIV.

The story so far

Last year the ‘What’s Preventing Prevention?’ campaign worked hard to ensure that the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group (EPG), a group established to examine options around Commonwealth reform, made essential recommendations to deal with the challenge of HIV and AIDS.

They did, and Commonwealth Heads of Governments (CHOGM) who met in Perth in November last year agreed the following: to ensure that HIV and AIDS is prominent on the agendas of all relevant Commonwealth meetings; to develop HIV programmes with the private sector; and to advocate for more access by Commonwealth countries to global funding mechanisms to fight HIV and AIDS.

We know that a legal, policy and social environment which protects those at higher risk of HIV is essential in responding to the epidemic. The Commonwealth, with its shared language, common history and constitutional and legal system is uniquely placed to play a vital role in creating an enabling environment to tackle HIV.

However, across the Commonwealth outdated discriminatory and criminalising laws hinder effective HIV responses among men who have sex with men, transgender women, people who use drugs, sex workers and other key affected populations, and increase the vulnerability of people living with HIV.

EPG recommendations

Three of the most crucial recommendations made by the EPG were left for a ministerial taskforce to develop and present at the Commonwealth Foreign Affairs meeting in New York in September 2012. The recommendations are to:

• Take steps to encourage the repeal of discriminatory laws that impede the effective response of the Commonwealth countries to the HIV/AIDS epidemic
• Create of a Commonwealth Commissioner for Democracy, the Rule of Law and Human Rights.
• Consider the implications of global laws regarding intellectual property protection (patents) for Commonwealth countries that face the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Together with our partners, the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) and the Commonwealth HIV and AIDS Action Group (CHAAG) the Alliance will keep campaigning for these key recommendations to be fully adopted.

A new Commonwealth Charter

Commonwealth governments are also currently working on a new Charter, which will be presented at the New York meeting. A draft text is open for consultation during March.

At the UN High Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS last June, the world’s governments committed to a human rights-based response to HIV. Some world leaders, such as the US administration, have committed to make ending AIDS a priority and to uphold the rights of those most vulnerable to HIV.

The new Chapter represents a unique opportunity for the Commonwealth to take a lead and commit its shared values to ending AIDS.

What do we want from the new Charter?

We are campaigning for the text of the Charter to:

• Expressly oppose all forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
• Create a Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law.
• Commit to eliminating AIDS and prioritising malaria and tuberculosis as main health threats across the Commonwealth.
• Commit to creating a legal environment which protects people at higher risk of HIV and enables them to access HIV services.
• Support the production and trade of essential generic medicines between Commonwealth countries.
• Commit to the full participation of civil society in Commonwealth institutions and processes.
• Make sure that the Commonwealth Secretary General, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, and other Commonwealth Institutions are fully accountable for their work.

A real impact

If all of these aspects are included in the Charter, and the recommendations of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group are acted upon, the Commonwealth could make a real impact on HIV across the world.

In the coming weeks the International HIV/AIDS Alliance will be consulting Alliance Linking Organisations, Key Correspondents and other partners in Commonwealth countries as to how best they can advocate for these recommendations to be agreed by the Commonwealth.

If you’d like to get in touch about this campaign, please email Enrique Restoy, Campaign Manager at the Alliance Secretariat: