By Gloria Nakiyimba, RFI News
World politicians meeting in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, have agreed on the need to repeal laws discriminating against HIV/Aids which they say have contributed to an increase in the rate of new infections.
MP's at the Inter Parliamentary Union assembly said laws that criminalize transmission of HIV, laws against sexual workers and those discriminating against sexual minorities need to be repealed.
Speaking during a panel discussion, Professor Sheila Tlou, UNAIDS Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, said “there is a fear that a still highly stigmatized condition such as Aids can, and will, fall out of the agenda of national and global leaders”.
Tlou said early signs of a decreasing commitment to Aids in the form of reduced funding for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support were worrying especially since the epidemic is far from being over.
She said where the law deepens social fractures and inequality, denies access to services and criminalizes those who need these services it becomes an obstacle to the Aids response.
In Uganda, the HIV and Aids Prevention and Control Bill 2010 was aimed at criminalising attempted transmission of HIV. The anti-homosexuality bill which remains on the shelves of parliament was identified as discriminatory and hampering the fight against HIV/Aids.
MP's called for zero discrimination against people living with Aids if the new campaign for zero new HIV infections and zero Aids related deaths is to be successful.
Tlou said UNAIDS was working with countries to introduce a programme to eliminate mother-to-child transmission to ensure that no child is born with the disease.
In 2009, the World Health Organization estimated there are 33.4 million people worldwide living with HIV/Aids, with 2.7 million new HIV infections per year and two million annual deaths due to Aids.
Ugandan MP Doctor Elioda Tumwesigy said 7,000 people are infected every day worldwide - half the number are women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa.
Zimbabwean MP, Thabitha Khumalo said HIV/Aids infections remain high among prostitutes, gays and lesbians because they are stigmatized and discriminated against.
“The moment we discriminated against them, we are saying that they go underground and re-infect,’’ Khumalo observed. She said it was wrong for politicians to discriminate against sexual workers and sexual minorities.
“When we want votes we don’t know them as commercial sexual workers, we don’t know them as any different from the way others are living, but the moment we’ve been voted into power we now call them names,” she said.
She told participants that some male MP used the services of sexual workers and many prostitutes in Zimbabwe have been abused by the very police force that should protect them.
She added in some cases they are abused by the policemen who arrest them and force them into having unprotected sex or confiscate their condoms which has led to rise in the new infections among these groups of people.
Khumalo told delegates that for the last three months she has been walking the streets of Harare every night to encourage sexual workers to sign a petition against a law criminalizing prostitution in Zimbabwe.
Delegates agreed to increase the fight against HIV/Aids in the world, and to end discrimination.
[This news article was sourced from RFI News: Call for increased protection of homosexuals and prostitutes to stem spread of HIV/Aids]
AN opposition Zimbabwean Member of Parliament has rounded more than 300 sex workers in Bulawayo to push forward legalization of prostitution in the country.Bulawayo East House of Assembly Member, Ms Thabitha Khumalo, said she has mobilised ladies of the night to join a union and sign a petition seeking to decriminalise their activities.
The aim for the recognition of sex workers and allow them access to health services.
Khumalo said the Commercial Sex Workers’ Union when formed, would be affiliated to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) just like any other worker representative union.
“Yes, I have so far mobilised more than 300 commercial sex workers. I want them to form a union and make them sign a petition that will seek to decriminalise their activities. They are workers just like you and me and I do not see any harm in them being unionised. I will, therefore, help them join worker representative unions such as the ZCTU so that they get the recognition and services that other workers’ unions in the country are getting.
“This profession is as old as humanity itself but we bury our heads in the sand and hope to wish it away. We must legalise it because doing so will be the only way to understand it better and will enable us to make effective interventions on HIV/AIDS.
“The country has been a bit slow in acknowledging the rights of commercial sex workers and I think it’s high time that we appreciate their existence and give them some recognition. In as much as we appreciate that they are drivers of the deadly HIV/AIDS we should not be too blind to the fact that these people require special access to health services so that we achieve zero stigmatisation, zero HIV infection and zero death to Aids,’’ she said.
MP Khumalo said it was sad that the sex workers were being stigmatised by the institutions that were supposed to protect them. She added that it was only through recognition of their rights as workers that such stigmatisation would end.
“The sex workers are at the mercy of sex hungry police officers who arrest them and demand sex in return for their freedom. They also service some of our Parliamentarians but surprisingly those are the people who are criminalising them without looking at the benefits that they get.
“Although the topic is not so popular among some Parliamentarians who are opposing the idea albeit in hushed voices for fear of being exposed I think it creates a platform for a healthy debate. As for me I am no stranger to such controversy. I was labelled all sorts of names with some saying I am a prostitute when I openly said the female condom was irritating and not user friendly but it turned out to be true and that many females do not prefer it,’’ she said.
She added that despite the muted opposition that she was facing, she was sure that the idea would be taken up and made a dream come true for the multitudes of sex workers who have been playing cat and mouse with the police.
[This news article was sourced from The Zimdiaspora http://www.zimdiaspora.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7420:mp-rounds-up-300-prostitutes-to-form-qcommercial-sex-workerss-unionq&catid=38:travel-tips&Itemid=18]