On 7 December, the Love Alliance launched its
Global Advocacy Strategy for 2022 to 2025 during the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA). The Speak out for Health and Rights Love Alliance is a partnership to build a unifying, strong pan-African movement that promotes access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) for people most marginalised and affected by HIV – including sex workers, people who use drugs, LGBTQI+ communities, people living with HIV, including adolescents and young people within these communities.
The launch brought together activists, key population groups, and partners in a hybrid format from Durban, South Africa. The meeting was opened by representatives from UNAIDS, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, and the Global Network of Young People Living with HIV ( Y+ Global).
“Young key populations face many structural barriers such as human rights violations, conservative attitudes about gender, transphobia and homophobia and criminalisation. We face multiple and intersecting barriers when it comes to accessing health care and our rights”, said Fahe Kerubo, Programme Officer for Y+ Global.
“This year governments all over the world committed to supporting community-led service delivery. We cannot leave out the people who are most affected. The Global AIDS Strategy shows us that we must implement supportive laws and policies that combat stigma, discrimination, and gender-based violence “ said Jolijn van Haaren, Senior Policy Advisor on HIV/AIDS of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.
Challenges facing key populations
The first panel, moderated by Sbongile Nkosi, co-Executive Director of the Global Network of People living with HIV, addressed the shrinking civic space and the need to invest in societal enablers, including political leadership, partnerships, advocacy, community ownership in repealing punitive laws and policies and addressing gender inequality and ending gender-based violence and violence towards key populations.
Data presented by Sharonann Lynch and Juliette McHardy, from Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, showed that every country where the Love Alliance is active partially or fully criminalises at least one key population group. Progress is also slow in adopting laws and policies that protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV status.
If sex work was not criminalised in South Africa, we would stop sex workers from experiencing stigma and discrimination, and gender-based violence and improve their access to health and justice services and labour and occupation laws to protect and advance human rights said Kholi Buthelezi of Sisonke.
In addition to addressing human rights violations, funding communities was another key priority discussed.
“Communities are suffocating because they have no resources. This is an opportunity for us to ensure that programming is going to be long-term and sustainable. Advocacy is not cheap,” said Richard Lusimbo of ILGA. Looking to the future: investing in communities and rights
The second panel examined how investments to realise global commitments for HIV and SRHR can be scaled up by promoting community-led health and rights interventions.
“The expertise and brilliance of key populations have been rejected over and over again. The issue is, the experts are not being listened to. We’re calling for a revolution. Pennies, policy, and power is essentially the roadmap for key populations to advance”, said Asia Russell, Director of Health Gap.
The Love Alliance supports and strengthens key population movements to build and organise. This is particularly done by increasing the presence and visibility of young key populations and building the capacity of key population networks at national and regional levels to hold governments and partners to account.
Our networks and partners work to address human rights, gender equality, violence, criminalisation, stigma and discrimination, resource community-led interventions and realise the objectives of global commitments on HIV, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), and Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
“We will be faced with millions of people dying from preventable deaths due to not being able to access healthcare. It is up to us as communities, call on our donor partners and hold them accountable. We need to contribute to building community power,” said Linda Mafu, Head of Civil Society and Political Advocacy at the Global Fund.
We have promised ourselves to protect and promote the rights of key populations. We have a lot of work to do as a collective. We need to tackle decriminalisation. It is important that we collect evidence to make the transformation that we need,” said Samuel Matsikure, from GALZ, in closing the session. Watch video recording of the Love Alliance hybrid side event