Gender at the heart of the fight against HIV

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After more than thirty years of existence, AIDS still remains a threat to public health around the world and particularly in Cameroon. Faced with new difficulties, appropriate strategies are adopted to achieve the objectives of the struggle which currently is the achievement of the three (03) 95, 95, 95. One of the obstacles of the hour is the persistence of inequalities which hamper progress towards AIDS eradication. The best-known sources show that inequality is one of the main reasons why the 2020 global goals have not been met. Inequalities refer to the stigma, discrimination and criminalization related to HIV. These increase people’s vulnerability to HIV and make people living with HIV more likely to die from AIDS-related illnesses. Key populations and their sexual partners account for about 62% of new infections worldwide. The risk of contracting HIV is 26 times higher in gay men and other men who have sex with men, 29 times higher in injecting drug users, 30 times higher in professionals’ sex and 13 times higher in people. (Global AIDS Strategy 2021-2026). In Cameroon, the prevalence among the key population is 20.7% among MSM.

Bolstered by this sad reality, the fight against inequalities is more than ever a pressing need in the context of the fight against HIV / AIDS. UNAIDS materializes its commitment through the Global Strategy against AIDS 2021-2026 which focuses on inequality with the theme « End inequalities, end AIDS ». The strategy sets out the overall directions for addressing these inequalities linked to the epidemic with a view to closing the gaps in HIV prevention, testing, treatment and support by 2025 and putting the world back on track. on track to end AIDS by 2030. It can be summed up in three interrelated priority areas: (1): maximizing equal and equitable access to HIV-related services and solutions; (2): remove barriers to achieving HIV outcomes; and (3): fully fund and support effective responses to HIV and integrate them into health, social protection, humanitarian and pandemic response systems. Now is the time for action lest the efforts already made be trampled on by constraints that can be controlled. It is in this dynamic that the NGO Affirmative Action, which targets key and vulnerable populations, through the AZIMA project funded by Aids and Rights for Outhern Africa (ARASA) is active. This project aims to fill the Gaps of the Global Fund Project and to strengthen the knowledge and involvement of the most vulnerable populations affected by HIV / AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in the funding process of the Global Fund project. It runs until December 2023 and is in its first phase of action (June-December 2021). As part of this Affirmative Action project, its mission is to strengthen the capacities of networks of people living with HIV / AIDS and the Cameroon Civil Society Coalition on the consideration of MSM and TG issues. Following RECAP + and RECAJ, it is the turn of the Cameroon Civil Society Coalition to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Hepatitis (CSCC-SANTE), which brings together around three hundred (300) organizations to strengthen its capacities on the commitment within networks to take into account the needs and priorities of MSM and TG with a view to improving the health and HIV-related service offer for MSM and TG through a workshop held on November 19, 2021. At the end of the workshop, Coalition staff and 24 member organizations strengthened their knowledge on gender and sexual orientation, gender issues and the specific service offer in the direction of MSM and TG via the modules on: the clarification of values, Gender and sexual orientation and the service offer. It must be said that this NGO offers a package of services which can be summed up among other things: communication for behavior change, distribution of female and male condoms and gels; HIV counseling and testing including self-testing; link with HIV prevention and treatment services; diagnosis and treatment; active referral of suspected cases; support groups; Psychological support; medically assisted drug addiction treatment.

All this to consolidate and encourage the commitment of organizations to take into account gender and human rights issues with a view to an effective response in terms of prevention, screening and treatment of HIV / AIDS. This laudable initiative is indeed a materialization of the fight against inequalities in the process of eradicating this disease, without which this fight is lost in advance. It will make it possible to reach more targets for behavior change in order to reduce inequalities in access to health services. Given the density of Coalition members, we believe that this initiative should continue to reach more organizations for a sustainable impact.

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