by Ebony Johnson
The NGO Delegation particularly appreciates paragraphs 54-58 of the Strategic use of Anti-retrovirals paper that highlight barriers to HIV testing, treatment and care presented by Human Rights violations, stigma and discrimination. Similarly, our NGO report has provided an even more in-depth and sobering reality check illustrating the gross impacts of the access barriers, isolation, criminalization and fear and overwhelming exclusion from HIV services, healthcare and basic human rights faced by so many of the communities we belong to and those we represent. We stress that we must go beyond merely highlighting these atrocities. We must be vigilant in our response and remedies! We must reform punitive laws, expand social protections, change harmful social norms and eliminate all forms of inequity if we are to truly expand HIV testing and use of anti-retrovirals.
The dialogue on Strategic Use of ART cannot be relegated to bio-medical or financial discourse because even wherein state of the art testing and life-saving ART therapy is available; many people, people like ME – live in perpetual fear of punitive laws, social exclusion and criminalization based on our sexual orientation, HIV Status, drug-use, because we are young people or for merely being a women in cultures wherein women are under-valued and void of rights.. essential rights that allow us unrestricted access to HIV testing, treatment and care and overall Sexual and Reproductive Health services. As well CSE that both provides invaluable information to help us prevent acquisition of HIV for those of us who are negative and inform the abilities to make informed decisions about sex, health seeking behaviors and using ART for those of that live with HIV. In our pursuit of HIV treatment and care, we – governments, policy-makers, thought-leaders and community must first be committed to the overall well-being and rights of people. ALL people. While we redouble our investments in ART commodities, we must also exponentially build, renew and expand our commitments to people! Ensuring the rights, access and equity of all people including those whose sexual orientation, HIV status, occupation or lifestyle may differ from ours without judgment or exclusion.
There are many pathways addressing these barriers ranging from increased investments in community services delivery to expanded training for medical providers. However, our remedies can be most effective when we apply the full scope of our human capital, political will and legal frameworks to foster social norms, laws and policies that that not only affirm equal access to HIV services; as well as laws and policies that create equality in ALL areas of the life of ALL people.. Lesbians, Sex workers, Men who have sex with men, poor people, migrants, drug users, village girls, city boys and ME! As said by the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy to Africa on HIV and AIDS, Speciosa Wandira, “Health doesn’t begin in clinics, It begins in homes” Therefore, we can ill-afford to limit this dialogue or our actions to financing commodities or bio-medical considerations… We must also be focused on and committed and reform the social and legal barriers limit or exclude access to any person from HIV testing and care and aggressively address the social drivers that are both cause consequence of HIV infection. With this we again invite the Board to implement key human rights and legal remedies outlined in out NGO report decisions all decisions from the UNAIDS 28th and 30th PCB Meetings as well as the Thematic on Discrimination. We have good roadmaps that can move use toward increasing strategic use of anti-retrovirals and testing… Now, we must put them into action.
We hope that this has been REALITY Check is reality: Buying more pills will increase availability. Fair IP agreements and production of generics will increase affordability. However, it will take addressing stigma, discrimination and harmful laws and policies to increase ACCESS! Access to all!