SANAC convenes Legal and Human Rights Technical Task Team to address human rights and HIV, TB & STIs

Feb 19, 2019 | News, Press Release

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PRETORIA – 18 February 2019: The Legal and Human Rights Technical Task Team (LHR TTT) had its first meeting in Pretoria  today to discuss, amongst others, human rights-related barriers for people living with HIV, TB and STI’s, key & vulnerable populations as well as scaling up programmes to reduce human rights-related barriers to HIV and TB services.  The meeting consisted of representatives from government, policy makers, service providers and communities.

The need for the establishment of the LHR TTT flows from the National Strategic Plan (NSP) for HIV, TB and STIs: 2017 – 2022. The NSP recognises that, in spite of South Africa being recognized globally for its positioning and response to human rights, there are still important gaps to close with respect to the full implementation of the human rights agenda, particularly those of people living with HIV and TB and key and vulnerable populations.

In order to achieve the goals set out in the NSP, the human rights barriers that prevent people from accessing services must be removed, in particular for women, youth, sex workers, people who use drugs, inmates, LGBTI and people with disabilities.

To reach the goals of the NSP, SANAC’s Programme Review Committee approved the establishment of Technical Task Teams aligned with the new Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs (2017 – 2022), including the re-establishment of the Legal and Human Rights Technical Task Team (LHR TTT).

The LHR TTT will provide an opportunity to strategically build on the latest laws and human rights strategies, review empirical data to inform key programmes and policy decisions and provide guidance on resource mobilisation and allocation to stigma and discrimination reduction programmes.

The LHR TTT met today and discussed a number of issues, including the findings of the human rights survey undertaken – called the Baseline assessment: Scaling up Programs to Reduce Human Rights Related Barriers to HIV and TB services – done by the Global Fund and the Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division (HEARD) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

The Report documents the results of a baseline assessment carried out in South Africa to support its efforts to scale up programmes to reduce human rights barriers to HIV and TB services. The objectives of the baseline assessment were to identify the key human rights barriers to HV and TB services in South Africa, and to indicate what a comprehensive response to existing barriers would comprise in terms of the types of programmes, their coverage and costs.

The Report finds that HIV-related stigma and discrimination, in a variety forms and with different impacts, against PLHIV (people living with HIV/AIDS) and other key and vulnerable populations, remain a dominant barrier for access and uptake of HIV services, with just over one-third of respondents (36%) having experienced some form of stigma in either their personal and social environments. Studies have drawn attention to high levels of stigma, discrimination and violence against sex workers, as well as against gay men, transgender and other LGBTI individuals.

It is acknowledged that, in general, the laws and policies in South Africa are very supportive of access and uptake of HIV and TB services for PLHIV and other key or vulnerable populations. However, challenges remain with regard to implementation and enforcement of these provisions; general knowledge about legal and human rights as they relate to accessing these services; and, the effective functioning of mechanisms giving rise to justice and redress in situations where people have been poorly treated or denied services. In addition, laws pertaining to sex work and laws dealing with drug use were identified as impediments.

With regards to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and its links to HIV, the report mentions that, for example, although PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) is available for survivors, uptake is low because only one out of 13 women chose to report violence against them. Furthermore, for those who do take PEP, adherence rates are low due the compounded stigma around rape as well as HIV infection. Key informants working with LGBT constituencies, particularly lesbian, bisexual and other women-having-sex-with-women, as well as with transgender men and women, drew attention to the ongoing epidemic of SGBV, including ‘corrective rape’ and the similar (or greater) barriers these groups face in reporting to the police and in seeking essential medical, legal and psycho-social support services.

The LHR TT also discussed the formulation of the Human Rights Strategy which is intended to guide the country in its implementation of key interventions to eliminate human rights barriers in the HIV, TB and STI response.

SANAC is confident that the establishment and work to be undertaken by the LHR TTT will go a long way in addressing these and other issues. The LHR TTT and its work is vital to ensure the realisation of the human rights for people living with HIV and TB and key and vulnerable populations.

“We cannot end AIDS without a people-centred, human rights-based approach. SANAC is committed to working with partners to reduce human rights-related barriers to HIV, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections,” said SANAC CEO Dr. Sandile Buthelezi.

“It is imperative that People with HIV, TB and STIs and key and vulnerable populations lead in driving the human rights and access to justice agenda” said Deputy Minister John Jeffery who will co-chair the TTT with a representative from civil society.

For more information, please contact Kanya Ndaki, SANAC Communications Manager 0832986100