Seventeen Hivos partners from the East Africa region working in the HIV/AIDS sector convened in Nairobi to discuss the region’s current response to the epidemic. The two-day meeting was held on 15 and 16 October and drew policymakers and members of the civil society organisations from Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.
“Meetings like this are important because they give us an opportunity to hear from other countries and also help us gauge our work,” says Tusekike Mwambetana from the Tanzanian organisation, Sikika.
East Africa continues to be the second most affected region by HIV/AIDS in the world after Southern Africa. Although general prevalence has declined in the last 20 years, there are new trends emerging. The number of new HIV infections remains unacceptably high, mostly among key populations, namely sex workers, Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) and intravenous drug users. The criminalisation of homosexuality continues to hinder service uptake amongst these at risk populations, hence requiring focused attention. Social factors such as gender inequality, sexual violence and anti- HIV stigma still increase HIV risk and vulnerability. However, heterosexual contact remains the primary mode of HIV transmission.
For Jane Mwirumbi of the International Committee of Women Living with HIV (East Africa), new strategies are needed despite the huge amounts of funding going into the sector. “We need to assess and re-discover new ways and approaches in our response to HIV/AIDS, and we can get this information through sharing information and experiences.”
According to Ruth Kimani, the Hivos Rights and Citizenship Programme Officer, the meeting couldn’t have been more timely. “The response to the meeting was very encouraging and it gave us the opportunity to start aligning our HIV/AIDS portfolio in line with the direction Hivos will be taking in the near future as we enhance the integration of HIV/AIDS into sexual reproductive health and within the broader context of transparency and accountability.”
Hivos provides local partners around the region with funds, technical support and connections to respond effectively to the global HIV pandemic. Hivos partners focus on protecting human rights, strengthening emancipation processes with respect to AIDS, sexuality and gender, awareness raising and advocating for proper policies and legislation.