Human rights abuses complicate fight against HIV/Aids
The Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) has asked policy makers to formulate policies to end human rights abuses against gays, commercial sex workers and other vulnerable groups in society.
The centre noted that the practice of widespread discrimination and stigmatisation, particularly, against persons living with HIV, hinders the efforts of such vulnerable groups to access health care.
A senior fellow at CDD-Ghana, Francis Tsegah, [Ghana’s former ambassador to Spain] said at a stakeholder meeting that despite the number of UN conventions on fundamental humans prohibiting sexual identity or orientation, countries still considered issues relating to rights of vulnerable groups as unimportant.
“The situation of key populations, such as commercial sex workers and men sleeping with men are further compounded when religious leaders and politicians pander to prejudice rather than demonstrating the political will needed to proffer policies to protect the rights of such vulnerable groups,” he said.
“This no doubt hinders the efforts of such vulnerable groups to access critical health services,” Mr Tsegah added.
He expressed worry that the challenges if not immediately addressed would derail efforts at ending HIV and AIDS.
He said there is urgent need to strengthen efforts to address the challenges and ensure they are free from human right abuses and have access to treatment by key populations and persons living with HIVs positive.
He expressed the hope that stakeholders would take concerted action to engage policy makers to address the situation so that all persons who find themselves would have the right to access medical treatment guaranteed by the 1992 constitution.
Progress against HIV/Aids doesn’t extend to LGBTI, sex workers
According to [Dr. Stephen Ayisi Addo, programmes manager of the National AIDS Control Programme], the country has done relatively well by steadily reducing the HIV and infection rate drastically from 3.2 percent in 2006 to a very low rate of 1.3 percent in 2013.
He noted that people who are affected by HIV not only suffer personal stigma but the relatives of those affected also suffer discrimination.
A senior research associate at the centre for democratic development, Ambassador Francis Tsegah said despite the consistent decline of HIV over the years, infection rates remain high among certain key populations such as homosexuals, commercial sex workers and drug users.
He said the new UNAIDS Agenda to end HIV/AIDS calls for a renewed focus to ensure that 90 percent of people living with HIV know their status while 90 percent of them are put on treatment to suppress the virus.
Mr. Tsegah called on stakeholders to effectively participate in the campaign to highlight the human right abuses and access to health care by these vulnerable groups in order to harness efforts to address them.
Proposal: Change laws to target anti-LGBTI discrimination
Infection rates remained high due to persistent stigmatization among certain key population in some parts of the country, Dr. Addo added. Stigmatization in his view creates disabling environment for fighting HIV and other health related issues for the key populations.
Mr. Victor Brobbey, a lecturer at the Law School of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), said Ghana had done relatively well by steadily reducing the HIV and AIDS infection rate but stigmatization still persists.
He advocated a targeted legislation and a law that would operationalise the rights of people to help address issues of discrimination.
Parliament already is working on a bill
In a press release published by AllAfrica.com, the Government of Ghana reported:
In a presentation, Mr Kofi Abotsi, Dean of the School of Law, Ghana Institute of Management and Administration (GIMPA), described existing infrastructure at the country’s hospitals as inadequate as far as the protection of the privacy rights of PLWHA [people living with HIV/Aids] and other key populations, as guaranteed by the 1992 Constitution, were concerned.
Mr Abotsi explained that vulnerable groups were discouraged from accessing health care by the nature of patient information and its disclosure, which raised fundamental legal problems about privacy and confidentiality.
He said it was an obligation on government to provide health care for all its citizens, hence there should be no room for discrimination against groups of people like PLWHA.
This, Mr Abotsi said, therefore, called for the redrafting of certain aspects of the Criminal and Other Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) to conform with modern trends and ensure that key populations were not prevented from accessing health services.
In another presentation, Mr Victor Brobbey, a lecturer in Law, GIMPA, said there was the need to begin to see HIV and AIDS as a health issue with legal ramifications.
Mr Brobbey said the law establishing the Ghana AIDS Commission should be reviewed to protect PLWHA from stigma and discrimination and to guarantee them rights of access to testing and counselling.
He announced that a Draft Bill on HIV was already before Parliament.
- World AIDS Day, December 1st 2014 (76crimes.com)
- Anti-AIDS leader loses job for supporting anti-gay laws (76crimes.com)
- World health agency: Fight AIDS by repealing anti-gay laws (76crimes.com)
- Ghana’s HIV prevalence for 2013 declines (GhanaWeb)
- Strengthen efforts to address challenges with AIDS patients – NACP (Ghana Biz Portal)
- Ghana needs policy to protect gay rights – CDD (Pulse)
- Ghana: Draft HIV Bill Before Parliament (AllAfrica.com)
- Let’s Protect The Rights Of Persons Living With HIV & AIDS (Peace FM Online)