Across countries, key populations are between 10 and 50 times in greater risk of HIV infection compared to other adults and they are pushed to the fringes of society by stigma and the criminalisation of same-sex relationships, drug use and sex work. They are marginalised in the health sector with their access to HIV services being limited. As such, SAfAIDS conducted the Justice Sector KP REACH Regional Dialogue in South Africa with eight champions drawn from different justice sectors including representatives from the High Court, law lecturers, magistrates and chief state from Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The Justice Sector Dialogue intends to further prepare and gauge the Political, Religious and Traditional leaders’ knowledge, confidence and readiness to fight for the reduction in stigma and discrimination which are a barrier to HIV prevention, testing and treatment services for KPs.
Ngoni Chibukire SAfAIDS Leadership Gender and Human Rights Team Leader spearheaded the event by addressing the Justice Sector Champions and stressing the need to finalise the advocacy plans for in-country implementation so as to discourse the multiple forms of structural, institutional, inter-personal and ideological oppression and violence that impede the agency of marginalised groups in Africa.
“Let me also remind everyone that ‘advocacy does not die.’ The push for reduction of stigma and discrimination for increased access to services among KP groups- Sex Workers, WSW, TG and MSM is our lifetime commitment until then, no one is being left behind in the national and global HIV strategic responses. Advocacy is certainly not an event, but a process. Along the way, however, we need to have progress markers that we can celebrate on as part of our journey to intended outcomes. For example, putting KP issues on the national agenda like Global Fund processes is indeed a high end achievement on its own which calls for celebration and documentation’’, he stated.
Several Justice Sector Champions actively participated in the advocacy plan by bringing out their different ideologies, beliefs and strategies they experience in their different professional and country experiences. The lawyer and High Court judge assistant, Mamothlasti Vivian Chele from Lesotho emphasised the need to use soft points as entry point by putting the communities at the fore front as they are the core influencers in the advocacy for KP recognition in HIV prevention, testing and treatment services. Several core representatives shared their views as well.