CALLING UPON GOVERNMENT TO ADDRESS SOCIO-LEGAL BARRIERS TO ACCESS TO HIV/AIDS SERVICES FOR MARGINALISED COMMUNITIES
Commemoration of World AIDS Day 2019
“Communities Make the Difference”
As we commemorate World AIDS Day, let us heed this year’s theme, “Communities Make the Difference.” The spirit of this theme, as highlighted by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), is the appreciation of the advocacy efforts that are employed by the different actors in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic, including communities that are living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, as well as those that are most at risk of contracting it. Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) thus calls upon the Government of Uganda to take cognisance of such efforts, and to create a conducive socio-legal environment for their sustainability.
In Uganda, one of the groups that are most at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS are Key Populations. Their vulnerability arises from the fact that they are criminalised, and such criminalisation buttresses the social stigma and discrimination that they face. The negative implications of criminalisation of key populations stretch as far as infringement on their right to freedom of association, expression and assembly, which are essential for effective advocacy interventions in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This has been evidenced by the continuous closure of events aimed at addressing barriers to access to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services for Key Populations. Among these are: the 2016 ‘Pride Week’ pageant, the 2017 ‘Pride Week’ celebrations, the 2017 ‘Queer Film’ festival; the 2018 and 2019 International Day Against Homophobia, Bi-phobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) celebrations, the 2018 Key Populations Conference, as well as the 2018 National HIV Prevention Symposium. According to the annual reports published by HRAPF on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, such actions have had a trickle-down effect, wherein various organisations advocating for the rights of key populations have been subjected to unwarranted attacks by both state agents and private individuals. Recent examples of such violence are the police raids on three organisations working with Key Populations, mass arrests of persons, and in two incidents, murder of persons who are part of Key Population groups.
Legal interventions such as Civil Appeal No.195 of 2014 that seek to address these human rights violations have also stalled due to court delays. This has undermined advocacy efforts by Key Populations communities in Uganda to combat HIV/AIDS, which is a major setback in countrywide efforts to fight the epidemic.
We therefore implore government to take positive steps towards addressing such structural barriers to ending HIV/AIDS by ending marginalization and combatting stigma against these groups.
Taking human rights to all