Cuba starts AIDS-free generation, Nigerian state launches oxymoronic HIV law, Mozambique sheds colonial homophobia — but has a way to go, and more . . . we’re reading about policies, health and human rights

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NewWWRWHO validates elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphillis in Cuba . . . and Cuba validates universal health care . . . In 2013, two babies were born with HIV in Cuba, and five with syphilis, according to this announcement from the World Organization. Home to more than 11.2 million people, Cuba became the first country to be receive official WHO acknowledgement that it has eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis following a Pan American Health Organization/WHO-convened mission of experts who spent five days visiting health centers, laboratories and government offices across the island. The visitors, from 10 countries, including the U.S. and Zambia, according to the release, “paid particular attention to the upholding of human rights . . .”  This was critical in a country where people diagnosed with HIV faced mandatory quarantine from 1986 to 1994. PAHO director Dr. Carissa F. Etienne credits Cuba’s health provision policy for the country’s progress against parent to child HIV transmission saying “Cuba’s success demonstrates that universal access and universal health coverage are feasible and indeed are the key to success . . .” The release also quotes UNAIDS leader Michel Sidibé voicing his expectation that Cuba is just the first of what will be many countries ending their epidemics among children.

Nigeria: Ondo State Implements HIV Anti-Stigma Law – And, sadly, Nigeria seems destined to be among the last. The headline of this story might sound positive, but the first sentence dispels that right away, clarifying that the “Anti-stigma” law brings a penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a hefty fine (about $2,500 USD, according to our currency calculator) “for any person who by whatever means transmits HIV to another person.” Potentially interfering with the enforcement of that, it can be hoped, the law also  “stipulates further that anybody who discriminates against people living with HIV commits an offence and is liable to a fine of [roughly $500 USD] or imprisonment of six months or both.”

Mozambique LGBT activists move on to next battle after anti-gay law scrapped – Mozambique doesn’t seem to have enforced the homophobic law it inherited from Portuguese colonizers since gaining its independence four decades ago, but local human rights advocates are glad to see the back of it in any case. Still concerning, though, is the seven-year battle that LAMBDA, the only organization in the country openly advocating for the rights of sexual minorities, has faced getting government recognition that would bring access to funding and tax exemption. That funding and tax relief could support the organization’s provision of services that include counseling and health advice, and that in turn are critical to the country’s HIV fight.

A comparative analysis of national HIV policies in six African countries – This report in a recent World Health Organization Bulletin compares policies affecting treatment access and continuity across Kenya, Malawi,South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. They include policies that include training for HIV testing counselors, access to anonymous testing, and encouragement of couple counseling as well as access to tuberculosis treatment, to “Option B+” access to lifetime antiretroviral treatment for pregnant women with HIV, and whether drugs can be collected by a designee. The range of policies, and some of the conclusions that can be drawn from their corresponding statistics, are interesting, and would only be more so if the report included HIV testing discouraging laws, like Nigeria’s announced above.


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