Recognizing Sexual Rights: Eradicating Stigma and Discrimination, Part 3
HIV/AIDS is yet another area that lends itself to disregard for human and sexual rights. In a context where the Caribbean has one of the highest incidences of HIV/AIDS, second only to sub-Saharan Africa, and where stigma and discrimination continue to fuel the disease, this is naturally an area of primary focus for our partners. Across the region, local sexual and reproductive health providers are intensively involved in HIV prevention education efforts with a focus on stigma and discrimination. They also provide counseling and testing in their clinics. By addressing the needs of the most at-risk groups in society and directing public attention to the ways in which discrimination drives the epidemic, several MAs have taken an important first step. Across the region, Member Associations also work to shape policies that help improve the lives of those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. To bring even greater sensitivity to its work, the Guyanese MA, Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA), has a staff person living with HIV/AIDS who organizes and leads peer support groups. With funding from the U.S., the MA has also provided guidance and support to grandmothers who have taken on responsibility for their grandchildren, orphaned by AIDS.
While the Caribbean MAs rights based work is cross-cutting, the efforts that hold the greatest potential for impacting the development of the region however, relates to their interventions with youth. MAs across the region have jointly created the Youth Advocacy Movement – a core group of youth who assist their respective MAs in shaping SRH programs that are relevant and responsive to the needs and realities of today’s youth. The MA in Belize, BFLA, has taken a leading role in this area, as it embarks on a major advocacy drive to press for the institution of comprehensive sexuality education as an examinable subject in all primary and secondary schools. Currently society places on youth the responsibility of managing their lives without equipping them with the necessary information and guidance to make informed choices. This compromises the ability of the region’s greatest human asset to fully realize their potential, a situation of real concern given that 50% of the Caribbean population is under the age twenty five.
The rights based work of Caribbean MAs and MAs across the Federation is guided in large measure by IPPF’s Declaration of Sexual Rights, (LINK) a pioneer document prepared with extensive consultations around the world and with the participation of the most prominent experts. At the core of this Declaration’s principles is the belief that:
“We will not retreat in doing everything we can to safeguard for current and future generations …… a world where women, men and young people everywhere, have control over their own bodies and therefore their destinies … and are free to pursue healthy sexual lives without fear.”