New era dawns for the South African MRC – At a Kaiser briefing Tuesday, a Global Fund representative talked about the “marathon,” rather than “sprint” to the time that countries’ HIV responses become self-sustaining. This Lancet article, with its story of the South African Medical Research Council’s “massive overhaul” in the last two years, and the plans widely lauded incoming president Glenda Gray has to build a new generation of South African researchers, gives one view of a sustainable, if not near future.
Recognized for defending human rights – At an April 3 Congressional briefing from the Population Council and Rep. Barbara Lee examining impacts of and responses to Nigeria’s and Uganda’s new sweeping anti-gay laws, amfAR Vice President Chris Collins pointed to one pivotal factor that will be part of the struggle ahead — the courage of tenacious individuals fighting back against injustice. Zambian HIV treatment and human rights activist Paul Kasonkomona is one of those tenacious individuals, having long fought for access to second line medicines, and for recognition of the impact of laws and practices marginalizing the most vulnerable, including gay and transgender people as well as sex workers. He was arrested last year for discussing the need for such recognition on a television talk show, and while the charges against him were recently dismissed, the Zambian government is appealing. This release from ARASA, (AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa) tells Kasonkomona’s response when the organization he leads Engender Rights Centre for Justice, Zambia, received one of ARASA’s two Human Rights, HIV, and TB Awards last week in Johannesburg. The other recipient, Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, was raided on charges of not being registered as a volunteer organization. That charge, also, has since been thrown out.
The Sexual Minority of Africa Should Also Be Heard – This Global Fund Voices post from South Africa Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron notes the evidence that “the HIV epidemic hits harder where anti-gay laws and prejudice exist.” He also points the the recently released South Africa HIV household survey, which found static HIV incidence rates, to argue this is as bad a time as any to marginalize community members.
Ugandan pastor accused of promoting homosexuality – Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa’s push for the adoption of the more sweepingly restrictive and punitive anti-homosexuality law recently in his country has included showing hard-core gay pornography in churches and at conferences, as well as graphic and imaginative descriptions of gay sex (which he also acts out in front of audiences). Now, with the call from a Ugandan at the Mbarara University of Science and Technology for the pastor to be charged under the act’s provisions against promoting homosexuality, this post by blog editor Melanie Nathan notes that if any good news can come from Uganda’s law, it is “that as much as the laws were designed to shut up the LGBTI human rights defenders, and anyone providing much needed services, they will now also serve to shut up their critics and the anti-gay haters such as Ssempa.” On a more serious note, Nathan adds however, that Ssempa should, instead “be brought to justice for his own crimes against humanity, through his ongoing persecution of LGBTI Ugandans.”
A snapshot of U.S. global health funding – Speaking of contributions that make a difference . . . How much of the U.S. Federal budget goes to global health? Even if you already know the answer — less than 1 percent — it’s still fun to see it in visual images, presented here in this graphic from Kaiser Family Foundation and the Journal of the American Medical Association.