In this special edition of the ARASA Newsletter, we look at two key events for the organisation in 2016: the 2016 ARASA Annual Partnership Forum (APF) hosted in April 2016 in Johannesburg, and the 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016), held in Durban in July.  

The Annual Partnership Forum is a key highlight in ARASA’s calendar and 2016 was no exception. The forum presented an opportunity for ARASA’s 106 partners to reflect on the challenges and successes of the past year and plan for the year ahead on joint advocacy priorities. In this newsletter, we give you some highlights from the forum. You can read a comprehensive report of the meeting here.
AIDS 2016 was an excellent opportunity for ARASA to remind stakeholders responding to HIV and TB that human rights should be at the center of addressing the epidemics to ensure that individuals and key populations can prevent HIV infection and that people living with HIV and/or TB can enjoy their right to health and access the treatment, tools and care that they need.
We were of course very busy during AIDS 2016. ARASA served as the African Regional Community Partner on the Conference Organising Committee for AIDS 2016. In this role, we distributed four AIDS2016 Outreach Newsletters and ten blog posts in three languages (English, French and Portuguese) prior to the conference to update delegates on opportunities to participate in the conference.

During the conference, we co-hosted the ‘Beyond Blame’ pre-conference on the criminalisation of HIV transmission, exposure and/or non-disclosure, on 17 July as part of HIV Justice Worldwide, with the HIV Justice Network, Global Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, International Community of Women Living with HIV, Sero, PWN-USA and AIDS Legal Network in collaboration with UNAIDS. We also co-hosted the Human Rights Networking Zone in the Global Village with the Canadian AIDS Legal Network, and the People Who Use Drugs and Harm Reduction Networking Zone with TB/HIV Care Association and the Urban Futures Centre. We co-hosted a session on financing for interventions targeted at key populations and joined the global march for treatment.

As was the case during the previous International AIDS Conference, ARASA staff facilitated, chaired and presented at a number of sessions and showcased ARASA’s work in poster presentations. Two staff members also served on the official Conference Rapporteur Teams for Track D and Track E. This year, we were able to support two  ex-miners to attend the TB Conference preceding the AIDS Conference, as well as 11 representatives of partner organisations to attend the AIDS Conference.

For the full programme of events that ARASA was involved in, see here. You can read more about what ARASA achieved at the conference in this newsletter.
We hope that you enjoy this Special Edition Newsletter.
Should you have any questions, comments or contributions for future editions of the newsletter, please email ARASA Communications communications@arasa.info. For updates and more information on ARASA’s work, visit our website www.arasa.info and connect with us on Facebook @ARASA and Twitter @_ARASAcomms.



ARASA's Annual Partnership Forum (APF) 2016

  • Highlights of the 2016 APF Forum
  • 2016 ARASA HIV, TB and Human Rights Award
ARASA at AIDS 2016 
  • BEYOND BLAME Pre-conference on Challenging HIV Criminalisation
  • Launch of the ARASA 2016 HIV, TB and Human Rights Report
  • Human Rights Networking Zone
  • Key Populations Financing Programme Sessions
  • Laws and Policies on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Southern Africa  


 2016 Annual Partnership Forum (APF) 

From 27 to 28 April 2016, 113 representatives of ARASA partner organisations convened in Johannesburg, South Africa for the 2016 ARASA Annual Partnership Forum (APF).

As the eighth convening of its kind, the 2016 APF provided a platform for the staff and trustees of ARASA to update partners on the achievements of the organisation since the previous APF and for partners to network, share lessons learned and explore ways to address HIV and TB-related human rights challenges facing their countries. ARASA staff reported on the activities of the organisation, including the financials and programmatic progress achieved in 2015.

A case study on the ARASA-supported Zimbabwe HIV, TB and Human Rights Capacity Strengthening and Advocacy Programme was presented by the host organisation (SAfAIDS). Along with the case study, reflections were shared by the Christian Aid Ministries from Zambia and 2015 ARASA HIV, TB and Human Rights Award winner, KELIN about the impact of training and advocyc projects supported by ARASA through small grants.

As in previous years, partners were invited to identify emerging advocacy issues they would like to discuss during the APF prior to the meeting. These issues, which ranged from political commitments and regional mechanisms to the limited access of key populations to HIV and TB services and commodities, guided the thematic sessions of the APF. ARASA partners also engaged in discussion on topics of financing for HIV and TB, gender based violence and enabling legal environments.

Partners agreed that the advocacy priorities, which ARASA should focus on during the year should be stigma and discrimination; TB, HIV and human rights in prisons; and enabling policy and legal environments, as there was still much work to be done to move these advocacy priorities, which were identified as priorities for ARASA to focus on in 2015, forward. In addition, the needs of migrants in the context of HIV and TB was identified as an additional advocacy priority. Kenya was voted as the host of the 2017 Country Programme. 

During a discussion on what it means to be an ARASA partner, representatives of partner organisations shared the following:

“ARASA is an inclusive network and partnership and is a true human rights organisation. It is unique in its symbiotic relationship. The partnership is based on equality, even though some people have more experience: we are a true family where we learn from each other. Being a partner allows us to contribute to achieving collective goals, so that as a region we can make a concerted impact.” 

“As an ARASA partner, we have benefitted enormously, as we tap into the expertise of the ARASA secretariat often. Our capacity has also been strengthened through the online and face-to-face training, so that we are now a force to be reckoned with nationally. ARASA has also allowed us to tap into a regional structure that as a national organisation we would not be able to access, such as SADC, the African Union and other structures."
“We have gained a lot in terms of visibility of our work and credibility of our organisation from being an ARASA partner. ARASA has been providing a platform where we can share experiences, we have received a number of opportunities, as well as a space for networking."

You can read the full 2016 Annual Partnership Forum report here and access the meeting presentations here.

                   2016 AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA)HIV, TB and Human Rights Award
During an award ceremony hosted on 28 April, the Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living with and Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS (MANERELA+) was awarded the 2016 ARASA HIV, TB and Human Rights award at the 2016 Annual Partnership Forum (APF).

The award, which is accompanied by a grant of US $ 10,000, was established in 2007 to recognise and support ARASA partner organisations who undertake ground-breaking work to protect human rights, often in extremely challenging political climates.

MANERELA+ is a Malawian interfaith and voluntary membership network of religious leaders living with or personally affected by HIV and AIDS. The organisation works to reduce stigma, silence, denial, discrimination, inaction and miss-action, through the promotion and involvement of the faith community.

MANERELA+ is the only faith-based organisation in Malawi that is advocating for the human rights of LGBTI groups, including repealing of discriminatory laws, in very challenging circumstances as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) people are often regarded as being cursed or satanic.

The organisation has identified champions among religious leaders and trained them to respond to HIV, TB and human rights challenges. MANERELA+ has also facilitated the establishment of church and mosque-based HIV support groups in 20 districts of Malawi and has supported them with trainings and linkages to health facilities and other services for referral. The organisation has also established peer pressure groups and advocacy committees in various districts to advocate for TB and HIV services to be made accessible to all.

“Most religious leaders have not fully come to understand their potential role in the era of HIV to fight stigma and discrimination and to ensure access to health care services, especially for marginalised groups. This award will help religious leaders recognise their potential of being role models to advocate for all people living with HIV to be accepted in our communities, including people of all sexual orientations,” said Pastor Mataka, Vice-Chairperson of the MANERELA+ Board.

You can read more about MANRELA+ winning the award here. You can watch a short film about the award here. 

ARASA at the 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016) 

 BEYOND BLAME: Pre-conference on Challenging HIV Criminalisation

On 17 July, ahead of the conference, approximately 150 advocates, activists, researchers, and community leaders from at least 36 countries on six continents (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, and South America) convened during the Beyond Blame: Challenging HIV Criminalisation pre-conference, to discuss progress in the global effort to combat the unjust use of the criminal law against people living with HIV. Beyond Blame was convened by HIV Justice Worldwide, an initiative made up of global, regional, and national civil society organisations, including ARASA –– who are working together to build a worldwide movement to end the criminalisation of HIV transmission, exposure and/or non-disclosure.
Moving personal testimonies were shared during the session by Kerry Thomas and Lieutenant Colonel Ken Pinkela, from the United States; and Rosemary Namubiru, of Uganda, who have experienced HIV criminalisation first-hand. Thomas joined the pre-conference telephonically, giving his remarks from behind the walls of the Idaho prison where he is serving two consecutive 15-year sentences for having consensual sex, with condoms and an undetectable viral load.
Justice Edwin Cameron, Judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa encouraged participants to take a stand and ensure that national administrators, officials and politicians attending the AIDS 2016 conference, truly understand the urgency for change in this regard.
Following Justice Cameron’s Jonathan Mann Memorial Lecture on the second day  of the conference, more than 100 activists - among them people with HIV, sex workers, and other criminalised people - joined him on the stage, demanding an end to criminalisation.
You can watch this action here and read the ‘Beyond Blame’ communique here. You can also watch a film about the pre-conference here and download the full report about the gathering here

 Launch of the 2016 HIV, TB  and Human Rights Report
The 2016 HIV, TB and Human Rights Report was launched on 20 July at the Human Rights Networking Zone by Michaela Clayton, Director of ARASA, to a crowd of community activists eager to know more of the state of human rights in the context of the HIV and TB response in the region. The report examines the legal and regulatory framework for responding to HIV and AIDS in 18 countries in Southern and East Africa (SEA) and also provides country snapshots on universal access and human rights. Crucially, the report makes recommendations for action by governments and civil society in order to align HIV, TB and human rights.
Patrick Eba from UNAIDS stated that this report was being launched at a critical time when there was clear evidence of effective tools to prevent and treat HIV, but, due to ongoing human rights violations against people living with HIV and key populations, the advances in the AIDS response were being limited. Michaela Clayton added that, despite the improvements that have been made to ensure access to treatment and care for people living with HIV and TB, there was still a long way to go in terms of aligning HIV, TB and human rights. She added that global HIV targets cannot be met without addressing human rights issues relating to stigma and discrimination and the criminalisation of key population groups.
The 2016 report is the fourth of its kind released by ARASA and focuses on a variety of topics ranging from the criminalisation of HIV transmission, exposure and/or non-disclosure to barriers presented by intellectual property laws to increased access to affordable medicines. Over the next two years, ARASA and its partners will use the report to highlight critical human rights challenges facing the HIV response in the region during their engagement with policy and law-makers as well as other decision makers and potential influencers. 
Human Rights Networking Zone
The Human Rights Networking Zone,  co-hosted by ARASA and the Canadian AIDS Legal Network (CALN) with support from the Open Society Foundations (OSF), was one of the most popular spaces in the Global Village. Conference delegates and members of the public participated in a variety of sessions highlighting the major human rights issues in the global response to HIV and TB. Featuring a full programme of international experts and human rights activists, the sessions were well attended, which made for engaged and lively discussions. You can watch the livestreams of each session via Periscope.
The topics covered during the sessions included sex worker rights, women’s rights, the rights of LGBTI persons, reforming drug policy, HIV criminalisation and funding issues. Conference delegates could also participate in an on-line quiz, make memories in the photo booth and attend daily film screenings.

Key Population (KP) Financing Programme Session
On 19 July, ARASA and the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) co-hosted a session titled: “Show us the money: HIV and TB Financing for Key Populations NOW!” at The Palace Resort in Durban.
The session focused on the engagement of key populations in in-country Global Fund processes such as Country Co-ordinating Mechanisms (CCMs) as engagment in order to increase domestic funding for KPs. The session provided an opportunity for the sharing of lessons learned by partners from Botswana, Malawi and Tanzania, who have been supported by the ARASA/ITPC Key Populations Financing project, funded by  the Robert Carr civil society Network Fund (RCNF) as part of the Global Fund's Community Rights and Gender Special Initiative, to implement activities in their countries.
Since 2015, the project has provided financial and technical support to national coalitions of Key Populations and people living with HIV organisations in the three focus countries to implement activities to strengthen key population advocacy for the best use of Global Fund resources and sustainable funding for HIV and TB in the three countries.
During the session, a film on the project and its achievements was screened and partners from the focus countries reflected on the successes and challenges of this project as well as the realities faced by networks of people living with HIV and key populations in engaging in national funding platforms and processes as well as accessing funding to implement interventions to improve their health and rights.   
The programme continues to support partners to monitor the implementation of Global Fund and PEPFAR programmes in the three countries and advocate allocation and use of resources for policies and programmes that benefit their communities.

Watch the short  film about one of the programme's participants, Maziabi Salum from the Tanzanian Network of People who Use Drugs, share the impact of the programme here

Zinenani Majawa from the Malawi Alliance for Sex Workers (MASWA) shares her experiences in this short film here.

Identifying Injustice: Laws and Policy on Sexual Orientation,Gender Identity and HIV in Southern Africa

ARASA launched a report called Identifying Injustice: Laws and Policy on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and HIV in Southern Africa on 19 July at the Human Rights Networking Zone. The report outlines how laws and policies in ten countries in Southern Africa impact the lives, heath and rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in 10 countries in southern Africa.
During the launch, Michaela Clayton, Director of ARASA, explained that the aim of the report is to provide activists, policy makers, service providers, and LGBTI people with a clear understanding of the legal environment affecting the health and rights of LGBTI people in the region. “[The report] provides clear recommendations and entry points for advocacy towards a committed, clear, and enabling legal and policy environment for the LGBTI community” added Clayton.
The report calls upon states in Southern Africa to conceive and implement strategies to address barriers presented by laws and policies that criminalise and discriminate against LGBTI people, with a focus on how this affects access to health facilities and HIV-related care and services. The report also recommends that states ensure  that  existing  legal protections apply on paper and in practice in every respect for all persons, including LGBTI persons, men who have sex with men and women who have sex with women. It further recommends that states implement   legislation   to   include   sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited grounds of discrimination in all contexts and that there is a regular review of existing legal and policy frameworks impacting  the  human  and  constitutional  rights  of  LGBTI persons   by   country   level   human   rights   commissions, investigative  or  other  bodies,  with  a  focus  on  barriers  in access  to  health  facilities,  services  and  HIV-related  health care and services. The report also calls upon countries to facilitate legal recognition of transgender and gender non-conforming persons, including by facilitating re-issuing of identity documents reflecting their preferred gender and name.
You can read the full report here.  
During the launch of the report, a film produced by ARASA, titled: “Injustice in Malawi: Violations of Human Rights on LGBTI People”, was screened to highlight the issues raised in the report. The film captures the stories of a gay man, a lesbian woman and a transgender women living in Malawi as they express their fears and heartache about the violence, and even death threats they face because of their sexual orientation. They describe how they have been victimised and are too afraid to go to the police for help or to visit health care facilities out of a fear of being victimised, harassed, denied assistance. and discriminated against.
In the film, Gift Trapence, the director of the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP), explains that same sex relationships are criminalised by law in Malawi where one can receive a prison sentence for up to 14 years.  “What we have seen is that the greatest perpetrator of human rights abuse has been the government” says Trapence. “The government has a responsibility to protect its citizens equally and stand on the basis of justice”. 

You can watch the film here.

This report and film accompany ARASA’s other LGBTI advocacy resources such as  the ARASA Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, HIV and Human Advocacy toolkit.