HIV Criminalization continues to gain momentum as a unifying global human rights and advocacy issue. The Positive Justice Project (PJP) (http://bit.ly/au71dN) led by the Centre for HIV Law and Policy (CHLP) based in the United States is becoming a key stakeholder in furthering both dialogue and action to protect the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS. The PJP is using a community-driven, collaborative, multi-disciplinary and multi-pronged approach to developing comprehensive strategic approaches to addressing the complex and varied issues related to HIV criminalization. Sound familiar?
Stigma, discrimination, racism, disclosure and homophobia are deeply linked to this issue, and these same challenges can also influence one’s vulnerability and risk of HIV transmission and acquisition. Further, when you consider the disproportionate amount of Black people in North America represented in the criminal justice system, there is a great potential for African and Black populations in the Diaspora to be aware, concerned, and mobilized around HIV criminalization trends.
On November 17th, 2010, the PJP released their first comprehensive analysis of HIV criminalization in the United States entitled “Ending and Defending Against HIV Criminalization: State and Federal Laws and Prosecutions”. This resource is also a guide for lawyers and community advocates working on HIV criminalization issues. A copy of the document is available by clicking here. This is the first volume in a series that PJP will publish as an advocacy tool. While this resource does not address or compile criminal HIV cases outside of the United States, it is a template that could be modified for different regions. This extensive resource which details state-by-state the various laws and criminal cases related to HIV, is an incredible achievement for the PJP and we applaud their commitment to increasing our knowledge and deepening our understanding of this complicated issues.
For a look at HIV criminalization in Canada and around the world, AIDSphobia is an engaging video documentary launched at World AIDS Day in 2009. For the complete 10 part documentary please check our youtube channel. The following is a clip from the video. As you watch the film you will notice that in many of the Canadian criminal cases the defendants are from African and Black communities. The clip starts out with Justice Cameron from South Africa speaking at a conference in Toronto in 2009 where he states that Canada had the unfortunate distinction of being the world leader in HIV related criminal prosecutions.
Continued dialogue and developing stronger links with CHLP, PJP, as well as the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network will be important initiatives for ABDGN to explore to ensure the unique issues facing ABD populations in the context of HIV criminalization are addressed in future strategic planning directions.
For those of you in the Washington DC area, on November 30th the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPA) and the CHLP are hosting a congressional hearing on HIV criminalization. Click here for additional details.
We are the ones we have been waiting for
Established VS Emerging-Who Wins?
Written by Kwaku
02 November 2010
A challenge in the international HIV/AIDS sector is the unspoken tension that can sometimes exist between "established" and "emerging" epidemics. We have heard this dialogue in reference to resource allocation for gay men and men who have sex with men (MSM), who some believe are being neglected as emerging epidemics and populations continue to grow and diversify globally. Yet, our aim is to ensure that "emerging" epidemics don't become "established" ones. But the question remains; how do we invest in populations with a long history of HIV/AIDS, while meeting the needs of newer communities and populations without an "HIV/AIDS infrastructure" in place?
In the context of African and Black populations in the Diaspora (ABD), particularly migrant/immigrant/refugee communities (MIR), ever-changing migration patterns and immigration policies around the world impact the various emerging epidemics in our communities. Developing coordinated approaches in policy, programming and advocacy for these distinct populations is a challenge when evidenced-based data sources and methodologies better designed for "established" HIV epidemics, are ill-equipped to monitor these "moving targets".
So where do donors fit in all of this? Are projects focused on emerging epidemics more appealing because they address current urgencies? Should the lack of published literature on a particular emerging epidemic impact the quality of a grant submission? With a paucity of high-quality research on ABD and MIR populations and sub-groups, these are tough questions we continue to ask ourselves and our partners as we move forward to impact change.
These thoughts came into my head as I was reading a recent Twitter post about Israel's PM Benjamin Netanyahu offering millions of dollars to African countries willing to accept the influx of African migrants coming to Israel via Egypt as refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants. Click the link below for the article.
I began to wonder...what increased vulnerabilities to HIV are these African migrants in Israel experiencing? What is the rate of incidence amongst this population? Will this be the next "emerging" population in our Diaspora work? Should ABDGN begin to establish relationships with organizations in the middle east? How would we address the lack of any evidenced-based data based on this specific population for use in a possible funding proposal?
Take a look at the video below which gives a brief overview of these African migrants in Israel, which paints a picture that is ideal for health disparities, community immobilization, and human rights abuses.
I am still pondering the "established" vs "emerging" epidemics issues and prefer to think of them on a continuum, rather than a dichotomy. Perhaps greater links between established and emerging populations at risk for HIV/AIDS can help to address these gaps. Perhaps more money in the global pot of resources is the answer to meeting the needs of all people impacted by HIV/AIDS. Although I suspect that the solutions run deeper than increased government spending. Re-thinking how we assess, monitor, reward, collaborate and empower distinct and sometimes divergent communities impacted by HIV/AIDS is a start.
I wonder if PM Netanyahu would be willing to fund ABDGN with millions of dollars to support the African migrants already in Israel and those who make it to Israel before any restrictive legislative policies are in place. Hmm...
We are the ones we have been waiting for
The other other city
Written by Kwaku
20 September 2010
Last week I was at the United States Conference on AIDS (USCA) hosted by the National AIDS Minority Council. This is a predominantly Black conference and I had attended the conference in 2006 and was blown away. In Canada, a yearly national HIV/AIDS conference with primarily African/Black PHAs, researchers, service providers, civil society representatives, policymakers and artists does not exist. Yet. The incredible sense of unity at USCA was truly inspirational and invigorating; seeing and hearing so many people of color contributing to their communities filled me with hope.
Mobilizing the diverse communities of African and Black populations in the Diaspora around HIV and AIDS comes with its own unique sets of challenges and opportunities. I had the opportunity to faciliate a session on developing world epidemics in the developed world and participants generated interesting dialouges regarding the missing stories of Black/African migrants not only in the conference, but in their own work. Finding ways to unify the struggles of the African-American HIV expereince with the African migrant HIV experience is critical to the work of ABDGN.
A powerful documentary entitled "The Other City" about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Washington DC was screened at USCA and i cried. and cried. and cried. But through the tears I couldnt help but notice that the other other city was missing. The context of HIV/AIDS for Black migrants in DC was not discussed in the film, and would likely tell stories of even greater struggle for accessing services, medications, stable housing, employment, and other determinants of health that decrease vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. I have included the trailer to the film below. I strongly encourage you to find out how and where you can see this documentary, and use it as a tool to spark your own discussions about the voice of Black/African migrants in the broader national dialogues in the United States regarding HIV/AIDS.
We are the ones we have been waiting for,
Written by Kwaku
19 August 2010
While I recognize I am about to make a generalization, I do believe that African and Black communities in the Diaspora show incredible resiliency despite mounting disparities across the determinants of health because of our ability to "Make Do". While we aim to thrive, not just survive, developing strategies and responses that maximize our often underresourced community-led organizations and programs is a context many of us have adapted to.
With recent global debates around 'donor fatigue' in relation to the flood response in Pakistan, have our communities also become 'fatigued' in advocating and moblizing governements, multilateral donors, and civil society stakeholders to develop effective and well resourced commitments to address HIV/AIDS for African and Black communities in the Diaspora?
What if you had the chance to speak to a global leader about how we could "Do Better than Making Do"? ABDGN works to facilitate opportunities for key global health leaders and stakeholders to dialogue and works to bring greater attention to developing world epidemics in the developed world.
But through an innovative contest linked to the United Nations Millenuim Development Goals (MDG) you might get the chance to become a UN Citizen Ambassador and make a impact on the response to HIV/AIDS in our communities globally, and talk to key leaders directly!
Make a 2 minute video about the MDG, ideally focused on our communities, and submit it to the UN for your chance to "Do Better". Here is the catch...the submissions are due this Monday August 23rd! Now you see where I was going with my thoughts about making do:) Not a lot of time I know but who is up for the challenge?
we are the ones we have been waiting for
The eyebrow effect
Written by Kwaku
23 July 2010
it has been hot here in Vienna and sweating became one of the common threads linking the thousands of delegates together...with air conditioning a luxury few experienced, mental exhaustion from the heat resulting in muted attention spans required presentations and sessions to be particularly engaging and thought-provoking if they were going to have an impact...while we saw numerous barriers to participation in this conference for our communities that we anticipated, mother nature was not one of them...and for this I must whole heartedly applaud the dynamic speakers that delivered our programme of activities...without bias I can truly say that each presentation had the power to inspire, inform, and produce what i call the "eyebrow effect"
the "eyebrow effect" includes intermittent raised eyebrows, the deer-caught-in-headlights expressions, and the occasional gasps or whispers of "wow" or "what?" caused by experiences of enlightenment or wonder...this effect was rampant in our sessions as I scanned participants to see their reactions to the information presented.
While the issue of HIV/AIDS in Africa is a well known internationally, the epidemics of African and Black populations in the Diaspora, who continue to experience disproportionate incidence and effects from HIV/AIDS is not as well known. Our sessions were deliberate in presenting data and experiences from a global perspective and it was clear that as people began to realize and acknowledge the urgency of our epidemics, whether they were in Belgium, Washington, Toronto, London, France, or anywhere else where African and Black people live, the "eyebrow effect" became rampant...a shared understanding more unifying than the sweat but not as visible...
in the coming days I will be posting all the presentations from our sessions as well as reflections on the dialogues that hopefully will produce the same effect for you...For those of you that were in Vienna and attended our sessions I encourage you to send your reflections and experiences to
and I will share them through this blog so others can learn from your insights.
the conference may have come to a close today but our journey to AIDS 2012 and beyond is just beginning...with a renewed commitment and an unprecedented amount of support for the mission of ABDGN from other global networks, government bodies, international donor agencies, and grassroots African and Black organizations and networks across the Diaspora we connected with, I am reminded of the critical role ABDGN has and will continue to play, to ensure the "eyebrow effect" will translate into tangible actions and strategies.
i'll close with a phase used by Phill Wilson, executive director of the Black AIDS Institute and a member of the ABDGN governing council, coined by Alice Walker, the Pulitzer prize winning author of The Color Purple, that I suspect will become the rallying cry for the ABDGN as we march in solidarity with our communities towards 2012...
we are the ones we have been waiting for
Elephants are slow...but thoughtful
Written by Kwaku
19 July 2010
most stories should start at the beginning and work their way to the end...instead today I am going to talk about the present...and will share the incredible events over the past two days in future posts this week...there have been so many unexpected connections, opportunities and outcomes at this conference. As it becomes more and more evident how African and Black populations not only in the Diaspora, but from the continent herself are absent in this conference, the work of ABDGN becomes even more important.
for example, our networking zone in the Global Village is situated in a prime location right beside the main entrance to the venue, with the Caribbean "liming" zone a couple of booths away from us and the sub-saharan African networking zone directly across from us. We were excited about this "segregated" positioning as it brought all of our communities together.
The Global Village openened on sunday and saturday morning we were informed that the sub-saharan networking zone was no longer participating and now a group called "Condomize" has moved in. A great organization that started the condom pin projects as a prevention and education tool, but not African. And just like that, another gaping hole in the conference programme presented itself to those in the know...but for everyone else that entered the Global Village on Sunday when it opened, our loss was invisible...silenced...i guess sometimes what you dont know can hurt you in ways you cant possibly know..
but things are constantly changing in this environment...clouds give way to rainbows...the sun makes room for torrential rains...tomorrow Yvonne Chaka Chaka, sometimes known as the "the African Princess" who recently entertained millions with her world cup performances will be coming to the ABDGN networking zone at 10:50am to make a special announcement. A ray of sunshine envelopes ABDGN once again...
Details on the opening ceremonies for the Global Village where ABDGN was featured and then joined on stage with the incredible performer and activist Sherly Lee Ralph (our original Dreamgirl), pictures and some footage from our sessions are all coming...this elephant will make it to its destination...
Where is the African Elephant?
Written by Kwaku
18 July 2010
Our phrase “The African Elephant in the Room” refers tothe paucity of global research, policy dialogues and coordinated action plans on HIV/AIDS epidemics around the world that disproportionately affect African and Black populations (including established communities that have been living in the Diaspora for generations, as well as those newly arrived, immigrant, migrant, and refugee populations).
Follow the African Elephant as we share daily insights and observations from AIDS 2010 in Vienna! Think the African Elephant will be acknowledged in the room by the end of the conference? Stay tuned to find out!