A significant breakthrough came from the pledge of participants to highlight and discuss all aspects of the legal environment relating to HIV, including laws and practices related to stigma and discrimination, access to affordable treatment, children and adolescents, women’s rights and gender-based violence.
“This regional dialogue is a great opportunity for us, as Africans, to confront the difficult issues including discriminatory and punitive laws that target sex workers and men who have sex with men, and other populations vulnerable to HIV,” said Bience Gawanas, African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs.
The criminalization of drug use, sex work and same-sex sexual relations was also confronted by the participants in a bid to challenge all taboos. This is remarkable as recent punitive legal and policy developments in a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa relating to the situation of members of key populations has raised concerns about the readiness of stakeholders in the region to confront this issue. Some 31 countries in the region criminalize sex work, and same-sex sexual relations constitute a criminal offence in at least 30 countries.