ARASA in 2016

In this final edition of the ARASA Newsletter for 2016, we look at some of the highlights of the work that ARASA and its partners have done in 2016 through our two key strategies of advocacy and capacity strengthening. As always, it has been a very busy year for ARASA, especially as we fight to stop the space for civil society from shrinking in the region. ARASA is truly made up of the amazing work done by our partners (which now stand at 117 civil society organisations) doing incredible work in difficult circumstances to ensure that a rights-based response is at the centre of the HIV and TB responses in southern and east Africa. 

ARASA again hosted its Annual Partnership Forum (APF)  in April 2016 in Johannesburg. 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 partners to reflect on the challenges and successes of the past year and plan for the year ahead on joint advocacy priorities. You can read the full 2016 Annual Partnership Forum report here and access the meeting presentations here.
The International AIDS Conference, 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. ARASA served as the African Regional Community Partner on the Conference Organising Committee for AIDS 2016. 

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.

ARASA was also one of the founding partners of HIV Justice Worldwide, a partnership of organisations working to make HIV Justice a reality worldwide and to ensure that no person is criminalised because of HIV or TB. 

The ARASA 2016 HIV, TB and Human Rights Report was launched on 20 July at the Human Rights Networking Zone. 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. 

ARASA also 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. 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. You can watch the film here.

We continued our work as an Observer at the African Commission on Human and People's Rights. ARASA also began working on the Global Fund African Regional Grant on HIV: Removing Legal Barriers and look forward to continuing to put all our efforts into ensuring that enabling environments exist in Southern and East Africa in the HIV response. Along with the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC), ARASA continued working with Key Population groups to ensure that they are at the centre of funding decisions for Key Population programming. Our Capacity Strengthening Programme also ensured that partners were able to learn new skills to strengthen their advocacy efforts and organisations. You can read more about all of these in this newsletter. 
We hope that you enjoy this newsletter and that you have a restful festive season. Please note that ARASA's offices will be closed from midday 22 December 2016 and will open again on 3 January 2017.
Should you have any questions, comments or contributions for future editions of the newsletter, or need to get hold of ARASA while our offices are closed, please email ARASA Communications For updates and more information on ARASA’s work, visit our website and connect with us on Facebook @ARASA and Twitter @_ARASAcomms.

Lastly, but most importantly, we thank all the organisations and individuals who have supported ARASA's work over 2016. We look forward to continuing to ensure that human rights are at the centre of the HIV and TB response in 2017, with our partners who do incredible work.

Warm wishes, 

Michaela Clayton
ARASA Director 



  • Key Population Financing Programme: Botswana, Malawi and Tanzania
  • Global Fund African Regional Grant on HIV: Removing Legal Barriers 
  • ARASA at the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights 
  • HIV is not a crime: Uganda challenges HIV Law
  • Sex work is work! Malawi Vagrant Law Case
  • ARASA's Capacity Strengthening Programme


Key Population Financing Programme

In 2016, ARASA and the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition's (ITPC) Key Population Financing project continued showing excellent results. The project involves the engagement of key populations in in-country Global Fund processes such as Country Co-ordinating Mechanisms (CCMs) in order to increase domestic funding for Key Populations in Botswana, Malawi and Tanzania.
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.
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.

In August and September, two intensive ‘Video for Change’ training courses for leaders and activists of key population networks in Malawi and Botswana was held under the project. ‘Video for Change’ is the use of film to bring about change in attitudes, behavior and policies. 

Each group will be producing a short advocacy film about Key Population issues. We look forward to sharing these with you in 2017.
                   Africa Regional Grant on HIV: Removing Legal Barriers              

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Fund are hosting a grant to address human rights barriers faced by vulnerable communities in Africa, and facilitate access to lifesaving health care, of which ARASA is one of the sub-recipients. The grant is the first of its kind and covers 10 countries including Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, the Seychelles, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The project will also work at continental and regional levels with the African Union Commission and key Regional Economic Communities (SADC, ECOWAS, EAC) to promote alignment of national laws and policy with regional and international human rights commitments. 

Some highlights of the ARASA's work under this grant for 2016 include the Seychelles National Action Plan Meeting which took place on 3 and 4 August 2016. The meeting convened participants representing civil society, National AIDS Council, UNDP, WHO, the Public Health Commissioner as well as government officials from the Ministries of Health, Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs, and Social Affairs and Employment. 

The Malawi National Action Plan was held on 17 and 18 August 2016. The Action Plan meeting had good government and civil society representation, which included representatives from the Judiciary, Parliament, academia and various other government Ministries.

In November, ARASA and the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI) hosted a Regional Capacity Strengthening Convening of senior representatives of National Human Rights Institutions from 22 countries. The Capacity Strengthening Convening focused on the role that these institutions play in protecting and promoting the human rights of key population groups. The meeting is the first of its kind and further capacity strengthening convenings with the National Human Rights Institutions will be held for the next three years.

 ARASA at the African Commission on Human and People's Rights

After three years of trying to attain observer status at the ACHPRs, ARASA was granted observer status at the 52nd Ordinary Session, held from 9 to 22 October 2012 in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire, under reference number OBS/436. Since obtaining the observer status, ARASA has been engaging its partners in order to utilise the African Commission as a strategic platform to increase visibility around human rights violations, including submitting an activity report of the organisation’s efforts to increase partner’s presence at the sessions, reporting on key human rights issues arising.

In the spirit of promoting right-based approaches to HIV at the African Commission, ARASA has been working closely with the African Commission’s HIV Committee on the Protection of the Rights of People Living With HIV (PLHIV) and Those at Risk, Vulnerable to and Affected by HIV (the HIV Committee) to advance various agendas, focusing on the right to health as it relates to HIV, TB and SRHR. Part of this mandate includes:

(i) Supporting the attendance of ARASA partnerS and aiding them in preparing submissions supporting ARASA. (ii) Proliferation of HIV-related Resolutions that this Committees manages
(iii) Updating ARASA partners at domestic level of upcoming country submissions to the African Commission. Pursuant to this, ARASA has also started engaging its partners (with an aim to provide technical support) in the preparation of shadow reports to the Commission. 

Shadow reporting at the 58th session

At the 58th session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights both South Africa and Namibia’s state reports were up for review. In light of this we proceeded to look at how our partners, especially Key Population organisations, could potentially engage with these reports. As the ACHPR allows for shadow reported, we support partners in Namibia and South Africa to draft shadow reports, and further supported their attendance at the session to hand deliver these shadow reports to the commissioners. In South Africa, two organisations: Gender DynamiX and Iranti-org, compiled a shadow report specifically highlighting the challenges around intersex issues in the country; the specific approach here was to focus on a specific issue in depth. In Namibia, a consortium of KP organisations came together and drafted a shadow report that touched on a broader spectrum of KeyPopulation related issues in Namibia. Two representatives from each country then attended the commission session, supported by ARASA staff as well as key partners who also engage at ACHPR level such as AMsher. During the questions from the commissioners to the states, several questions were asked to the Namibian and South African delegations directly from these shadow reports.

HIV, Law, and Human Rights report

The ACHPR adopted during the 16th Extraordinary Session in Kigali Resolution ACHPR/Res.290 (EXT. OS/XVI) 2014, which mandated its Committee on the Protection of the Rights of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and those at risk, vulnerable to and affected by HIV (The HIV Committee) to ‘undertake a study on “HIV, the Law and Human Rights in the African Human Rights System: Key Challenges and Opportunities for Rights-based Responses to HIV” (the study)’.  Since then ARASA has been, together with AMsHER, UNAIDS, SALC, and the HIV Committee, working on drafting and completing this report. The original aim of the report was for it to be tabled at the 59th session of the ACHPR in Banjul in October. However, the aim of the report was for it to include substantial feedback and inputs from civil society, this process has delayed the report somewhat, and thus it is aimed to be tabled at the ACHPR at the 60th session in 2017.

This year, we have co-hosted a stakeholder consultation post IAC in Durban, to facilitate input on the draft report, and ensured participation of key ARASA partners. Furthermore, a second consultation was organised at the 59th session as a side event, where further engagement took place. Moving forward the aim is to make the draft report available in both French and English online on the ACHPR website, for online contributions and feedback, after which it will be finalised.

Moving forward into 2017

Engagement at the ACHPR will remain a key part of the work that ARASA does. Our aim in this is the leverage our observer status at the ACHPR for the benefit of the partnership. Moving forward into 2017, a new strategic plan will be developed as the old one will lapse in 2017, and this will surely be included herein. What is key, however, is that we utilise the ACHPR as a tool and strategy in the general advocacy work that ARASA does and support. In 2017, we will again seek to provide opportunities for partners to engage in shadow reporting, should their countries’ state reports be up for review at the sessions; furthermore, we will seek to what extend we can support any in-country advocacy around concluding observations or connections and engagement with state representatives at the session that comes from these activities.

As an observer at the ACHPR we are also able to deliver short statements to the commission during the sessions. As of yet we have not utilised this opportunity, but we move forward into 2017 with the aim of seeing how this can be used to amplify campaigns within the ARASA network where such statements at the ACHPR would be strategic to do. Furthermore, this is also an opportunity that can be leveraged for partners, allowing ARASA partners to take up the space and make a short statement under the ARASA observer status in cases where there is an urgent need to bring something to the attention to the commission.

It is important that we ensure that we utilise the ACHPR where it is strategic, and we acknowledge that there are ARASA partners who have also been doing great work at this level. We are hoping that we can move forward in 2017 to collaborate more closely, and provide support where possible, to strengthen such strategic engagement. To this end we hope to convene a side meeting during the Annual Partnership Forum in 2017 with those partners who have engaged at the ACHPR to share experiences, discuss ongoing and future activities, and to see how we can – together – move forward and utilise the ACHPR space and the ARASA observer status to achieve our collective goals!

HIV is not a crime! UGANET challenges the Ugandan HIV Law


ARASA partner, the Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS (UGANET) in coalition with other Ugandan national civil society organisation has been advocating for the amendment of the potentially harmful provisions of the HIV/AIDS control and Prevention Act 2014 which includes section 18e, allowing for the disclosure of a person’s HIV-positive status, either forcefully, at the discretion of a health worker or at a 'concerned person’s’ request.

The Act poses a threat particularly to women who are often first to know their HIV positive status and would then be presumed to have intentionally transmitted or attempted to transmit HIV to their partners.

Other contentious clauses include clause 43 which criminalises “the intentional transmission of HIV” where “a person who willfully or intentionally transmits HIV to another person commits an offence, and on conviction shall be liable to a fine of two hundred and forty currency points or to imprisonment for a term of not more than ten years or both”. Clause 41 penalises the attempted transmission of HIV as ”a person who attempts to transmit HIV to another person commits a felony and shall on conviction be liable to be a fine of not more than twelve currency points or imprisonment of not more than five years or both.”
In July 2016, the civil society organisations petitioned the constitutional court in Uganda amidst throngs and cheers of solidarity that characterised the HIV movement in Uganda in the early days of the HIV response: over 600 advocates and community representatives of groups most likely to be most affected by the contentious clauses of the HIV act such as People Living With HIV/AIDS, colourfully marched through Kampala city to the Nationals’ Constitutional Court as a show of unity. Noerine Kaleeba, the founder of The AIDS Support Organization (TASO) was the chief walker.  

“We are seeking the Interpretation of the HIV Act, in light with Constitution of Uganda which guarantees non-discrimination based on any status, right to dignity and equality of all persons” said Dora Kiconco Musinguzi, The Executive Director of the Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS, the Lead Petitioner.

ARASA supported UGANET to raise public awareness of the potential of the rights violations that this law would cause through working with the media, developing communication materials and being able to speak out.  At the Solidarity Walk on the day of filing this petition several communication materials were developed with support from ARASA small grant.   The media was mobilised to take part in the walk and report, with pre- and post activity dialogues all supported by the ARASA small grant.
Sex work is work! Malawi case study

ARASA supported the Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) in Malawi in a campaign aimed towards the decriminalisation of vagrancy offences through strategic advocacy that is centred on court cases. CHREAA managed to mobilise 100 sex workers from across the country and members of different media houses (television, radio stations and print), to attend the case of Republic v Pempho Banda and 18 others (Review Case No.58 of 2016) in Zomba.
The applicants in the case were convicted by a Magistrate’s Court sitting at Dedza of the offence of living on the earnings of prostitution and were ordered to pay a fine of MK7000 each.  The Southern African Litigation Center (SALC)  provided funding to CHREAA to engage a lawyer to bring a review case before the High Court in Zomba. The Applicants among other things called upon the High Court to interpret section 146 of the Penal Code which deals with living on the earnings of prostitution. The Applicants argued that the offence does not target sex workers but those people who exploit sex workers. The High Court found in favour of the Applicants and held that section 146 of the Penal Code is intended to protect sex workers from abuse. The Court also went further to comment on how sex workers always fall victim of police abuse when they are arrested during the sweeping exercises and in most cases their male counterparts are left out. The court was of the opinion that the arrest of sex workers in this particular case, was just to embarrass and harass them which is unconstitutional.
The bringing together of the sex workers and the media to attend the case in Zomba has resulted in an increased awareness to the general public on the rights of sex workers and the protection under the law. The media was able to report the issues which were raised in the case aimed at protecting sex workers.

ARASA's Capacity Strengthening Programme 

One of ARASA's key strategies to improve capacity to advocate for a rights-based response to HIV and TB in southern and east Africa is to strengthen the capacity of ARASA partners. This is done through a annual face to face Training of Trainers programme that runs for four weeks over the course of the year, ARASA's online training course, as well as the skills exchange programme.

In February 2016, ARASA welcomed a new cadre of 32 Training of Trainers (ToT)  participants during the module 1 workshop hosted in Johannesburg, South Africa. The diversity of the participants has expanded beyond civil society to include health care workers, representatives from National Human Rights Commissions and Ministries of Health. The ToT focuses on interactive learning around the advocacy cycle, working with the media, treatment literacy, key population rights, budget monitoring, gender-based violence, the use of litigation and other topics. 
Pre- and post- training workshop assessment forms from the four modules were completed by the participants to assess the extent to which the workshop has strengthened their capacity in regards to the topics covered. Before the workshop, 80% of the participants indicated that they had minimal information on the key topics that where covered during the training, whereas after the training, all participants reported an improvement in knowledge on the key topics covered during the training. 
“I have gained more knowledge on understanding how HIV virus works, how the immune system works and where ARVs come in and how adherence is important. I have also learnt more on TB and other Opportunistic InfectionsIs and effects of criminalising HIV.” -Anonymous
“The training helped me understand what treatment (HIV/TB) entails and how they interact or affect different body systems in particular the immune system. I also gained thorough understanding on the science of the HIV virus and TB bacteria and the different drugs to be administered as treatment. This shall help inform programming and what I do on a daily basis.” -Melusi Mugomezulu.
Online short courses are one of the strategies ARASA has devised to reach out to more partners and also build capacity and increase knowledge on various specific topical issues such as Intellectual Property, Routine Viral Load Testing, HIV and TB in Prison, media advocacy and monitoring and evaluation, among others. This year ARASA conducted six online training courses to more than 200 learners. 

ARASA also hosted a Skills Exchange programme where individuals from ARASA partner organisations spend six weeks at a host organisation to learn new skills and shadow the workings of other organisations to strengthen their own organisation.