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Welcome to the first newsletter of Bridging the Gaps - Health and rights for 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 this 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. In future newsletters we will zoom into each of the 16 countries that we work in, by featuring our local partners and providing you with the ins and outs of the work we are doing on the ground. Moreover, through our newsletter we will keep you informed about the stories of people such as Bongani and Elliot as well as other key population ambassadors. On our blog they tell you about the issues they face in terms of human rights violations and accessing health services. Their stories represent the dramatic reality for many sex workers, LGBT people and people using drugs across the world. A reality that Bridging the Gaps wants to change!

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LAUNCH OF HIVGAPS.ORG

Bridging the Gaps launched its website www.hivgaps.org. The site is the hub of the programme’s initiatives across the world, and keeps you updated on all the work that the Bridging the Gaps alliance implements with and for key populations. Examples are our peer education activities for sex workers in Uganda, the advocacy work to expand the reach of health services for LGBT people in Ecuador, and the efforts to improve employment opportunities for people who use drugs in Pakistan.
 
The website offers an overview of the programme’s 21 key populations projects that run in 16 countries and the four global advocacy projects which are conducted to strengthen the work on the ground. The site also contains personal stories of representatives of the key populations. For example Bongani (22) from South Africa, who is gay himself and who works as a peer educator for LGBT people in his community: "I want people to have pride in themselves". Find out what Bongani does to achieve this, through his blog on www.hivgaps.org.
 
Stay up-to-date on the work of Bridging the Gaps and the lives of key populations in different countries – visit www.hivgaps.org.

CHANGING POLICIES IN VIETNAM AND UKRAINE

New laws influence key populations’ lives – positively and negatively
 
Bridging the Gaps partners SCDI and the Noi Binh Yen group have developed a model where sex workers organize themselves and are empowered to protect themselves and their heath. This model is now inspiring the Vietnamese government in developing a new policy on sex work. Recently, the government of Vietnam adopted a law that will end the practice of detaining thousands of sex workers in ‘rehabilitation facilities’.

In Ukraine, however, the parliament is about to pass a bill that would ban the ‘propaganda of homosexuality’. Whereas Vietnam demonstrates an increased understanding for the effectiveness of a rights-based approach for sex work, Ukraine puts the human rights and health of LGBT people at risk.
 
In Vietnam, thanks to the newly adopted law – being in effect in 2013 – sex workers can no longer be kept in detention centres for administrative, rather than criminal, violations. This marks an important step forward in bringing Vietnam’s legal and policy framework in line with the country’s international human rights commitments.

At the same time, in Ukraine, members of parliament want to turn back the tide. While the country was the first former Soviet republic to decriminalise homosexuality, Ukraine is about to sign a law that bans ‘promoting homosexuality’. Under such legislation, publications on safe sex, health rights and HIV prevention for LGBT people could be forbidden and lead to fines and prison sentences of up to five years. <Read More>
WORKING ON A RESEARCH PLAN
 
Workshop participants agreed on five research areas within Bridging the Gaps
 
What motivates people to be engaged in treatment? And what are effective strategies to reach the hard to reach? These are two of the five research areas that were selected during the Bridging the Gaps workshop in Amsterdam, on 14 and 15 November 2012. The aim is to design an overall research plan.
 
Bridging the Gaps is one of the largest programmes that focus on improving the health and realising the rights of sex workers, people who use drugs, and LGBT people. Its scale and comprehensive approach ensure the provision of unique and vital information on the issues. In addition, operational research is needed to demonstrate the impact of the programme and the usefulness of specific interventions. And investigation results can also contribute to filling the knowledge gaps regarding key populations that are present in most countries in which the Bridging the Gaps programme runs.
 
To decide on the contours of the research, a two-day workshop took place, organised by the Bridging the Gaps alliance in close collaboration with the John Hopkins’ Center for Public Health and Human Rights and the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development (AIGHD). <Read more>

FROM OUR BLOG: LIVING MY DREAM AS A GAY MAN

Bongani, South Africa

I am a gay man of 22 years. Together with my mother, three sisters, little brother and my aunt, I live in Pretoria, South Africa. And I have a partner. I work as a peer educator for OUT, which is an organisation that aims to advance the health and well-being of LGBT people. It is every gay guy’s dream to work for OUT, and I am living this dream! The work offers me a platform to understand myself as a homosexual man and to find out what I can bring to the community. This is a stepping stone for me to become a motivation figure. I am learning how to bring about behaviour change and how difficult it can be at times. In South Africa, many people think that when you are a homosexual, you are going to hell, while others think you are an unnatural species. Stigma and discrimination are evident here. The psychological impact of this on individuals is that they start to believe that they are crazy and that something is wrong with them. It also leads to homophobic attacks and hate crimes. Homosexuals are often exposed to danger. <Read More>
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