New database catalogs human rights violations for the Caribbean’s vulnerable communities
- The Shared Incidents Database (SID) will document violations affecting people with HIV, sex workers, people with substance addiction, gay and bisexual men, trans people, vulnerable youth, migrants, and the incarcerated.
- The database is a collaboration between the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) and the Centro de Orientación e Investigación Integral (COIN), based in the Dominican Republic.
- Human rights and social justice organizations across the Caribbean are being trained in the use of SID, which creators envision as a tool in program development, policy creation, petitioning, and reporting.
“Caribbean’s first online human rights database launched” (The Jamaica Observer | May 2017)
“New Database Aims to Track Rights Violations of Caribbean’s Most Vulnerable Communities” (Global Voices | May 2017)
“Caribbean’s First Online Human Rights Incidence Database Launched” (Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition | May 2017)
India passes nondiscrimination law securing rights for people with HIV
- The first of its kind in South Asia, the law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, education, healthcare, and public accommodations such as restaurants and calls for the establishment of an ombudsman to monitor violations.
- An estimated 2.1 million people live with HIV in India, with some 1 million currently receiving treatment.
- Some advocates for the positive community argued that the law does not go far enough to guarantee free treatment for the afflicted.
“Parliament clears landmark HIV Bill” (The Hindu | April 2017)
“What is HIV/AIDS Bill? All your questions answered” (The Indian Express | April 2017)
“India takes flawed first step towards ending HIV and Aids prejudice” (The Guardian | April 2017)
(Image Credit: Jayanta Dey/Reuters, via The Guardian)
Severe drug shortages leave Venezuelans with epilepsy and their families struggling
- With 85 of every 100 drugs missing, Venezuela faces an acute shortage of pharmaceutical drugs needed to treat a range of otherwise manageable illnesses, including epilepsy, schizophrenia, HIV, and cancer.
- Families report traveling hundreds of miles to obtain necessary drugs, sourcing from abroad, and taking expired or inappropriate medication.
- President Nicolas Maduro has blamed the shortage on a right-wing plot to overthrow him and announced new counteractive investments, although little progress has been seen.
“Epileptics struggle amid drug shortages in Venezuela” (Reuters | March 2017)
“Venezuela Is Falling Apart” (The Atlantic | May 2016)
“‘You name it, we can’t treat it.’” (Caracas Chronicles | March 2016)
“Falta de medicinas descompensa a los pacientes psiquiátricos” (El Universal | August 2014)
(Image Credit: Carlos Garcia Rawlings/Reuters)
The Struggle to Treat Mental Illness in Kenya
Healthcare in Kenya has struggled to reach the portion of the country’s population afflicted with mental illness, particularly those in rural communities. With around one psychiatrist for every 500,000 people in the country, families struggle to find professional support services, and services that do exist are overtaxed and underresourced. Rather than seek medical help, religiously devout communities often turn to faith healers to treat what are commonly accepted as spiritual rather than medical diseases.
People with mental illness find their conditions compounded by poverty and diseases that go unidentified and untreated, facing significant HIV infection rates and vulnerability. Recent efforts by Kenya-based mental health advocacy organizations and foreign investments in the country’s mental health services have created hope for broader treatment and enfranchisement of the community in Kenya, which, like many developing countries, shoulders some of the highest mental health burdens in the world.
“The taboo of mental illness in Kenya” (Al Jazeera)
“Mental Health Care Still a Challenge in Rural Kenya” (Voice of America)
“11mn Kenyans suffer mental disorder – WHO” (Capital News)
“Double-edged stigma for people with mental illness and HIV” (Key Correspondents)
“Kenya benefits from $6.1 million fund for mental health” (Standard Digital)
“Fighting the ‘funk:’ How one Kenyan battles her mental health problems by helping others” (Public Radio International)
Africa Mental Health Foundation
(Image Credit: Osaman Mohamed Osaman/Al Jazeera)
HIV testing in Ireland expands into gay bars
- The Panti Bar, run by LGBT and poz activist Panti Bliss (drag persona of Rory O’Neill), is set to begin offering 30-second HIV tests to patrons.
- HIV infection rates rose 160% in Ireland between 2005 and 2015, including a record high of 182 new cases in 2014.
- With trained counselors on site and the ability to register positive individuals with Ireland’s treatment and counseling program, the Panti Bar will be the first expansion of HIV testing out of clinical settings in Ireland, with similar programs to follow in Cork, Limerick, and other parts of Dublin.
“Dublin drag queen turns pub into HIV-Aids testing centre” (The Guardian)
“Rory O’Neill on living with HIV: ‘Most gay guys don’t understand how far things have changed and how different it is’” (Independent.ie)
Turkmenistan passes law requiring HIV test for foreign workers, couples looking to marry, others
- Testing will be mandatory for foreigners seeing work visas, couples seeking a marriage certificate, prisoners, drug users, and blood donors.
- The law implies those found to be infected will be denied government documents for the status (residency, marriage) they are seeking.
- State media indicated that the law was an attempt to promote “healthy families” and includes a provision that guarantees free treatment for AIDS-infected citizens.
“Turkmenistan To Require HIV Test For Those Seeking Marriage License” (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)
“HIV tests now required before marriage in Turkmenistan” (The Philippine Daily Inquirer)
“Turkmenistan requires HIV test for marriage license seekers” (AP)
LGBT Mozambicans’ Struggle for Healthcare Visibility and Protection
Despite the decriminalization of homosexuality in Mozambique in June 2015, LGBT Mozambicans, particularly those living with HIV, are still struggling for health security in the nation. While international organizations have stepped in to provide support, domestic clinics continue to discriminate while attempting to contain the country’s HIV infection rates, one of the highest in the world. Advocacy groups have begun working to create guidelines for the testing and treatment of the LGBT population as the continued exclusion of the highest-risk population has exacerbated the public health crisis.
“Mozambique’s enduring discrimination leaves gay men untreated for HIV” (The Guardian)
Lambda (Mozambique LGBT advocacy group)
“Dispatches: Mozambique’s Double Speak on LGBT Rights” (Human Rights Watch, January 2016)
“Mozambique decriminalises gay and lesbian relationships” (BBC, July 2015)
(Image Credit: LambdaMoz, via The Guardian)
Singapore repeals ban on short-term stays for HIV+ visitors
- Singapore lifted a two-decade-long prohibition on HIV+ visitors in the country.
- While visitors will be able to stay for up to three months on one of Singapore’s short-term visas, those with HIV will be ineligible for long-term or work visas.
- Singapore, which has 5,000 of its own citizens afflicted with the illness, began repatriating and blocking the entrance of HIV+ travelers through immigration policies similar to those held by Australia and New Zealand.
“While things have improved slightly, we cannot forget that many are still being asked to leave their jobs and are ostracised by friends and family because of HIV infection. Many still suffer alone, and have trouble securing jobs and health insurance.”
Read the full story at the Guardian.
(Image Credit: Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images, via the Guardian)
London HIV clinic accidentally divulges names of nearly 800 patients
- 56 Dean Street, one of London’s biggest HIV clinics, revealed 780 names and e-mail addresses through an e-mail newsletter, which directors said was the result of human error.
- Patients indicated that they saw names of people on the list whose HIV status had been undisclosed to them previously, worrying them about the fallout.
- The Information Commissioner’s Office, Britain’s data protection watchdog, announced it was investigating the breach.
“I am a bit paranoid that somehow the list might be shared or end up published on the internet somewhere. I know that is a bit unlikely but it still terrifies me. I am worried that if there is legal action [for breach of privacy] my anonymity will be further compromised as well.”
Read the full story at the Guardian.
(Image Credit: Chelsea and Westminster NHS Trust/Video grab, via the Guardian)
Treatment program in Ecuador saves newborns of HIV-positive mothers from infection
- In Ecuador, a program driven by the government, Ecuador’s largest maternal hospital, the VIHDA foundation, and Duke University provides antiretroviral medication to newborns of HIV-positive mothers right after birth, significantly reducing their chances of contracting the virus.
- At least 1,000 babies have remained virus-free thanks to the program, when they would otherwise face a 45% chance of infection during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding.
- When their status is known, infected mothers receive treatment throughout their pregnancy, but new programs around the world are pushing for ways to quickly reach women who don’t have prenatal appointments during the limited deterrence window.
“I don’t care if my career as a teacher was ruined by this illness. Today I am happy to see my children healthy and studying.”
Read the full story at the BBC.
(Image Credit: Marc-Grégor Photography, via the BBC)
Cape Town campaign brings HIV testing to busy public spaces
- The Target 5000 Campaign has set up mobile tents at Cape Town’s main train station, where nurses conduct screenings for HIV, tuberculosis, and diabetes and counselors provide sexual health information and tools.
- Coordinators target busy public spaces such as train stations, shopping malls, and taxi stands to maximize convenience and visibility in a nation that still sees individuals falling through the crack as infection rates fall.
- The campaign aims to get 5,000 tested in three months as a part of its work towards UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 targets for 90% of people with HIV to know their status, 90% of positive individuals to be receiving antiretroviral treatment, and 90% of those receiving treatment to have viral suppression by 2020.
“It’s been fantastic. People are getting tested who wouldn’t typically go to a clinic for an HIV test. Over half of the people who have come to get tested are men. Many young people and people who are not aware of any signs or symptoms of disease are popping in. We’re providing early case detection and linkage to HIV care.”
Read the full story at News24.
New campaign pushes for increased visibility and support for the HIV+ community in Moldova
- As HIV+ individuals suffer high levels of discrimination and alienation in the Eastern European country, the Initiativa Pozitiva is showcasing afflicted individuals to banish invisibility and build empathy
- Participants hope the campaign will increase community and prevention awareness, helping to stem the tide of the disease.
- One couple share their stories and work with the communities vulnerable to the disease.
“We are trying to show that we are normal people. We don’t grow horns, we don’t have fangs: we are ordinary, normal people. Sometime in 2003 we decided we would not give any more interviews with the camera showing the backs of our heads or with pixelated faces because there is already too much stigma and discrimination, and this stigma and discrimination creates the perfect environment for the further spread of the epidemic.”
Watch the full story at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
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