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Welcome to the eighth newsletter of Bridging the Gaps - Health and rights for key populations. 
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HUMAN RIGHTS ARE THE CORE OF OUR WORK

In 1950, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 10 December as Human Rights Day, to bring to the attention ‘of the peoples of the world’ the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. In order to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, human rights are fundamental. This is particularly important when it concerns key populations. How can people who use drugs get clean needles when they run the risk of being arrested when they visit needle exchange facilities? How can sex workers protect themselves when they are afraid of being beaten up, bribed or sexually harassed? How can men who have sex with men get an HIV test when their medical specialists treat them with disgust and prejudice? Human rights are the core of the Bridging the Gaps programme. On the occasion of Human Rights Day, in this newsletter we like to inform you about ways in which human rights are embedded in our work.

NEW PUBLICATION: ADVOCACY FOR THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF PEOPLE WHO USE DRUGS

By Leon Essink (Mainline)

Under human rights law, governments have the obligation to protect, respect and fulfill the rights of their citizens. Nonetheless, in the case of people who use drugs (PUD) governments often fail to do so. A recent research demonstrates that there is room for improvement of advocacy of human rights practices by partner organisations of the Mainline Foundation and AIDS Foundation East-West in Georgia, Indonesia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Ukraine. <Read about the research report ‘Advocacy for the Human Rights of People who Use Drugs’>

NEW PUBLICATION: GLOBAL ACTION WITH LOCAL IMPACT – WHY ADVOCACY MATTERS

A new report released by the five global advocacy partners within the Bridging the Gaps programme examines the role of global-level advocacy in addressing HIV among key populations, including people living with HIV (PLHIV), people who inject drugs, sex workers, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. <Read more about the report>

ASTOUNDING VICTORY AS BOTSWANA HIGH COURT ASSERTS RIGHT OF LESBIANS AND GAYS TO REGISTER THEIR OWN ORGANISATION

Bt Caine Youngman, (LEGABIBO)

On 14 November 2014, the Gaborone High Court delivered judgment in a case concerning the Department of Labour and Home Affairs’ refusal to register Bridging the Gaps partner organisation Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO). The case was brought by 20 individuals who argued that the refusal to register their organisation violated their constitutional rights, including their rights to freedom of association, freedom of expression, and equal protection of the law. Caine Youngman, LEGABIBO Coordinator: ‘We are overjoyed at the outcome of the case. Lesbians, gays and bisexuals have long strived to be able to form an organisation which can support them and be their voice on matters that affect them. It has been a long and arduous journey towards recognition and we are relieved that the court has protected our rights.’ <Read more>

‘VIETNAM’S RESPONSE TO SEX WORKER ISSUES HELPS US TO THINK ABOUT HOW TO SOLVE THE ISSUES IN CHINA’

By Martine van der Meulen (Aids Fonds)

China and Vietnam have a similar culture and political system, which is why sex workers experience similar challenges. The conference ‘Women and HIV in the Context of Commercial Sex’, taking place last November in Beijing, offered an opportunity to exchange knowledge.

An interview with Lanlan, one of the attendees.

Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Lanlan and I live in Tianjin city, China. I began to work as a sex worker in 2000. During my volunteer work for an AIDS organisation, I became aware of the health risks that female sex workers run, and so in 2008 I established my own organisation, the Tianjin Xin’Ai Center for Female Sex Workers. The organisation provides HIV and STD prevention services for female sex workers in Tianjin as well as legal training and policy advocacy. I was happy that Nguyen Thi Thuy from Vietnam participated in the conference in Beijing, because Vietnam’s response to sex worker issues helps us to think about how to solve the issues in China. <Read the complete interview>

BACK TO SOCIETY – IN GEORGIA SOCIAL BUREAUS SUPPORT PRISONERS AND PROBATIONERS

By Sergo Chikhladze (Tanadgoma)

In Georgia, Social Bureaus effectively support former prisoners and probationers, including people who use drugs, to go back to society. Our partner Tanadgoma, with support from AIDS Foundation East-West, started the project in Tbilisi, the country’s capital, as part of the Bridging the Gaps programme. Thanks to an EU grant and based on the experiences and expertise gained in Tbilisi, three more Social Bureaus have been set up in the largest cities of the country after the capital, namely in Kutaisi, Batumi and Zugdidi. The health-related services include voluntary counselling and testing on HIV infection and viral hepatitis B and C, psychological counselling, and overdose prevention counselling sessions. The social services focus on referrals and social support through accompanying clients to needed health, harm reduction and social services provided by other civil society and state organisations, for instance TB diagnostic centres, an AIDS center, and a drug addiction clinic. Moreover, social skills-building training on interpersonal communications and job search is part of the social services provided by the Bureaus. <Read more about the Social Bureaus in Georgia>

OPERATIONAL RESEARCH IN FIVE COUNTRIES: EVIDENCE TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY AND EFFICIENCY 

By Ellen Eiling (Aids Fonds)

Bridging the Gaps focuses on improving the health and realising the rights of sex workers, people who use drugs, and LGBT people. To capture lessons learnt from this promising programme, operational research is currently (2014-2015) being conducted in five of the sixteen programme countries: Costa Rica, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam, and Kenya. The main objective is to provide implementing partners and in-country partners with evidence that they can use to improve the programme quality and efficiency. How can outreach workers better reach the hard to reach? What are effective strategies to influence policies? These are some of the research questions that were selected during in-country workshops with local partners and stakeholders. ‘Operational research will help us better evaluate the results of our efforts and advocate the rights of key populations for free access to services,’ stated Anastasiya Shebardina, Research Coordinator, AFEW Ukraine. <Read more about operational research>

 

ACT TOOLKIT NOW AVAILABLE IN ENGLISH, SPANISH, FRENCH, AND RUSSIAN

By Trisa Taro (ITPC)

The International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) is proud to announce that their Advocacy for Community Treatment (ACT) Toolkit is now available in three new languages: Spanish, French, and Russian. Originally launched in English in July 2014 at the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, the aim of the ACT Toolkit is to support and train community activists to advocate effectively and passionately on access to treatment for people living with HIV, including those from key populations. Topics and issues covered in the Toolkit include: the science of HIV, treatment initiatives, human rights and treatment, trade and treatment, financing and treatment, and community advocacy planning. The Toolkit has been realised in the context of the Bridging the Gaps programme. <Read more about the ACT Toolkit>

NEW VIDEO: USING DRUGS, REDUCING RISKS

By Martine van der Meulen (Aids Fonds)

Yarali works as an outreach worker for our partner SPIN+, where he provides peer support for people who use drugs in Tajikistan. Yarali very much remembers his first time. Like many youngsters he started using heroin after the fall of the Soviet Union to escape from the unstable society. Yarali’s own experience with drug use helps him to support other people who use drugs, but Yarali doesn’t always know the answer to their questions. This is when he consults the online platform www.afew.tj 

<Watch the video> 

DUTCH FUNDING FOR PROJECTS FOCUSING ON PEOPLE WHO USE DRUGS – A MEETING IN INDONESIA

By Machteld Busz (Mainline)

‘Dutch funding is based on a trustful relationship and a far more equal partnership then we see with other donors. This partnership allows us to use our local knowledge and expertise to co-develop projects.’ Aslam Andi Muhammed, director of LARAS in East-Kalimantan explained this during a two-day meeting in November 2014 in Indonesia. The main objective of the meeting was to determine ways in which the different partners can strategically collaborate to support and strengthen local key population organisations to develop a common agenda for advocacy and involvement in existing HIV and AIDS programmes in Indonesia. The cooperating partners are the Dutch funded NGOs, UNAIDS and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The meeting was organised as part of a tripartite initiative of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Dutch embassy in Jakarta and the Indonesian UNAIDS office. <Read more about the meeting>

KEY POPULATIONS IN MIDDLE-INCOME COUNTRIES ARE AT RISK WHEN DONOR COUNTRIES STOP FUNDING

By Efraïn Soria Alba (EQUIDAD) and Arjos Vendrig (COC)

Traditional donor countries tend to focus more and more on the poorest of the poorest countries in the world. This has an impact on the lives of a large number of key populations. Ecuador is a good example. Given its petrol incomes, Ecuador has developed into a middle-income country and, therefore, more and more countries stop financing development work. One of the remaining donor countries that kept Ecuador as a priority country is Belgium. On 27 November 2014, in Brussels, a hearing took place organised by the Parliamentarians for the Millennium Development Goals. Efrain Soria of the organisation Equidad, a Bridging the Gaps partner in Ecuador, gave a presentation. He explained that Ecuador has a concentrated HIV epidemic of 11 percent among men who have sex with men, whereas in the general population this is 0.6 percent. <Read more>

NINE WAYS OF HARM REDUCTION THROUGH A HUMAN RIGHTS BASED APPROACH

By Ruslan Myatiyev (AFEW) and Machteld Busz (Mainline)

Harm Reduction is usually framed as a public health approach and a cost-effective way to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS and other infectious diseases like Hepatitis C and Tuberculosis. But harm reduction is in essence also a human rights approach! Harm reduction services ensure that people who use drugs have access to health care. This is an essential human right. The Bridging the Gaps programme allows organisations in nine countries to put human rights to practice. In Indonesia, PKNI trains peers to do paralegal work. People who use drugs who are arrested for drug possession get support from a paralegal of PKNI, who will make sure that the person knows his or her rights, for instance. In Georgia, local partners continue to advocate for the rights of people who use drugs by organising various meetings with decision-making stakeholders and discussing the need to change the existing laws and policies related to drug use. <Read about harm reduction in other countries>

BLOG: SEX WORKER RIGHTS PROMOTION IN UGANDA

By Diana (Wonetha)

My name is Diana and I live in Uganda. Although my country has made remarkable progress in reducing its HIV infection rates, HIV and AIDS are still a major challenge, also among sex workers. In Uganda, many sex workers do not know their rights, including their health rights, which is why these are often violated. Some years ago, while I worked as a sex worker, I met a woman called Daisy. She invited me to work with her and mobilise sex workers to fight for their rights. Consequently, I was recruited to serve as a peer educator for WONETHA (Women’s Organisation Network for Human Rights Advocacy). The organisation is a sex worker led organisation which strongly believes in empowerment of sex workers by actively involving them in problem identification, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of all programme activities <Read Diana’s full blog story>

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