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Welcome to the fourth newsletter of Bridging the Gaps - Health and rights of key populations.
 
        IN THIS EDITION:

Bridging the Gaps wants to achieve universal access to HIV/STI prevention, treatment, care and support for sex workers, LGBT people and people who use drugs. These key populations are typically 10 to 20 times more likely to become infected by HIV while only 8% have access to HIV services. In our approach we want to create added value by focusing simultaneously on all 3 key populations and on the crossovers between them in one single programme. Through our newsletter we keep you updated about the activities and results of Bridging the Gaps, which consists of 21 key population projects in 16 countries as well as 4 global advocacy projects.
 
This fourth edition of our newsletter zooms in to our activities in Latin America, where we have projects focusing mainly on LGBT in Costa Rica, Ecuador and Brazil. Arjos Vendrig, International Project Officer for COC Netherlands is closely involved in these projects. We have asked him to write a journal about his latest visit to the region which gives a good impression of the diversity of his work. Marieke Ridder, Programme Manager Sex Work Projects at Aids Fonds also travelled to Latin America. In an interview she tells us how her visit to Bolivia has inspired her in her work for Bridging the Gaps. With this newsletter we also want to present to you our latest video, which shows how Francisco Madrigal, who works as advocacy director for our partner CIPAC, uses research as an instrument to advocate for the health and rights of LGTB people in his country. But there is more, so enjoy reading!

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ADVOCACY IN PRACTICE

Using Research Findings to Advocate  for LGBT Friendly Health Services in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is known to be a pioneer in Latin America when it comes to human rights. However, for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people in this country, it is a completely different story. Discrimination still widely exists, even in health care settings. This limits their access to much needed health services. Bridging the Gaps partner organisation CIPAC, with support from our alliance partner COC Nederland, is trying to change this. In this video, Francisco Madrigal, who works as an advocacy director for CIPAC, shows the importance of using research and collaborating with institutions such as the Ombudsman Office to advocate for improved human rights of the LGBT community.
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IMPROVING THE RIGHTS OF THE KEY POPULATIONS - A TRAINING ON UPR FOR LGBT IN CENTRAL AMERICA

A training on UPR for LGBT in Central America

One of the objectives of the Bridging the Gaps programme is improving the rights of key populations. To realise this aim, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are encouraged to do advocacy work around the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). COC Netherlands will, therefore, conduct a training on how to engage with the UPR mechanism. Participants will include activists from countries that will be up for review in the near future, namely Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, and possibly Bolivia and Ecuador. The UPR was introduced by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UCHCR), to review the human rights records of all 193 UN member states on a regular basis, that is every four and a half year. It is intended to be a cooperative instrument, designed to assist states in fulfilling their international commitments and improving their human rights situation.
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IMPLEMENTING BRIDGING THE GAPS IN LATIN AMERICA - ARJOS' JOURNAL

Guest blog by Arjos Vendrig, International Project Officer for COC Netherlands

Meeting the LGBT community in person is really inspiring. I travelled to Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, and saw their pride, warmth, and boldness. Responsible staff at the partner organisations of the Bridging the Gaps alliance visit the in-country work once or twice a year. But what is actually happening during these country visits and what is the added value of implementing them? In this diary I flag some of the things I encountered during my last visit to Central America. During the trip, I visited three Bridging the Gaps partners and investigated a potential ally in the lobby work. Read more

SEX WORKERS IN BOLIVIA: THE PROBLEM OR THE SOLUTION TO HIV?

By Jorien Hart, Research Master in International Development Studies

In September 2013, a female sex worker in Bolivia was convicted for continuing in sex work while living with HIV, for not attending the regular health check-ups, and not undergoing the supposedly voluntary HIV treatment. According to the judge, the main crime committed was the transmission of HIV to another person, a crime taken up in the Penal Code of Bolivia (art. 277). For months, the woman was portrayed in the media as a threat to public health, with living with HIV as a ‘dangerous weapon’ that harms others. This case demonstrates that the legal frameworks concerning HIV can do more harm than good, up to the point of structural human rights violations of sex workers. Sex work is not illegal in Bolivia and the Bolivian government follows a regulatory approach which frames sex workers as a threat to public health that must be controlled.
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GOVERNMENTS OF BRAZIL AND THE NETHERLANDS MEET TO DISCUSS SRHR

Last October, during a meeting in Brazil, the Bridging the Gaps programme was presented as a good practice example of how the Dutch government funds civil society organisations to implement international development work at a large scale. Representatives of the Brazilian government were surprised to hear about this funding structure, because it also funds organisations that oppose government policies. Representatives of the Brazilian and Dutch government, together with civil society organisations explored the opportunities for trilateral cooperation on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) between Brazil, the Netherlands and another country. Among the attendees were Lilianne Ploumen, Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Lourdes Bandeiro, Brazilian Vice-Minister of the Secretariat of Policies for Women, and Lambert Grijns, Dutch SRHR and AIDS Ambassador. Aids Fonds, Promundo Brazil, Rutgers WPF, and Plan were among the civil society organisations that were represented.
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'WE ARE IN A POSITION TO INSPIRE OTHERS WORK TOGETHER'

An interview with Marieke Ridder, programme manager Sex Work Projects at Aids Fonds.

You recently travelled to Bolivia. What was the purpose of your visit?

The purpose of this visit was to exchange expertise between Aids Fonds and ICCO Cooperation. The two organisations form an alliance to run the Stepping Up, Stepping Out Project (SUSO), which focuses on the economic empowerment of sex workers as a means to improve their health, safety, and well-being. During this visit we learned about economic programmes for vulnerable groups, a key area of expertise of ICCO, while we could inject our expertise from the sex work projects at Aids Fonds, on how to support sex worker leadership and ensure sex workers’ participation in programme design.
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