In Russia a UNAIDS conference setting ignores abuses, while in Bangladesh sex workers supply answers, and in Zambia rules raise questions — We’re reading about HIV and human rights (and Uganda . . .)

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NewWWRAn open letter to UNAIDS on Russia’s drug policies – Leaders of harm reduction and HIV advocacy organizations across Eastern Europe and Central Asia condemn the decision by UNAIDS to participate in, and support a regional conference on HIV set to take place in Moscow, where harsh government policies and laws will bar the participation of people who inject drugs, sex workers and men who have sex with men. The writers reiterate concerns that UNAIDS has abandoned its role to support effective epidemic responses across the region by failing to take a stand on repressive policies that include a new anti-homosexuality law, a refusal to register a sex worker organization, and crackdowns on drug use “where ‘the war on drugs’ stands for a war on drug users.”

Sex Workers help Bangladesh fight HIV – “Awareness lessons work like magic,” this Asia Times article quotes a Bangladesh health promotion program manager saying. He adds, “They cost virtually nothing. Initially we acted as catalysts to train and educate sex workers. Now sex workers educate their peers for their own safety.” It’s a narrative that is catching on and is told here against the backdrop of Bangladesh’s relatively small HIV epidemic, which the article attributes to an early response from government and donors as well as strong collaboration between government and civil society organizations.

Questions that keep Zambian HIV advocate Mannasseh Phiri up at night – AVAC’s latest edition of its P-Values advocacy newsletter is online and includes updates from advocates and partners across Africa, a tribute to AVAC Nigerian advocacy fellow Oladayo Oyelakin who died in mid-April, and musings from Zambian physician and HIV prevention advocate Manasseh Phiri on why HIV efforts fail to reach their goals. Quoting a proverb from eastern Zambia, “When ants are well organized, they can kill an elephant,” he wonders why Zambia’s colonial anti-homosexuality laws stand as a barrier to research on the impact of HIV and men who have sex with men when, at least nominally similar laws don’t in Malawi, Kenya — and even Uganda. He wonders what it will take for Africa to move forward and together against HIV, and what the continent will offer the next generation if it does not.

Ugandan anti-gay law boosts standing of a president in power since 1986 – The headline alone on this Global Post commentary explains a lot, and the rest adds even more. Ugandan native and Roanoke College Public Affairs department chair Joshua Rubongoya asserts that if the new law had been put on a ballot, it would have passed by a large majority. But the author adds, “This is not to say that Ugandans are homophobic. Rather Ugandans need time and space to process such complex social, psychological and cultural changes.” Raising the question if a way to see this coming and respond proactively existed in the last decade of donor HIV responses, this commentary also supplies background that explains the continuing backlash against recognition of gay rights. That backlash most recently includes this news from Reuters last week that Ugandan parliament members are planning further gay rights and civil society restricting legislation.

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