We take a human rights approach to our work because AIDS exists at the intersection of health and justice. Achieving the end of AIDS as an epidemic will only happen when we fight racism, inequality, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, and bigotry. From the earliest days of the AIDS pandemic, systems of oppression have marginalized people living with HIV and allowed the epidemic to grow, particularly among people that are already marginalized and criminalized. Advancing human rights is vital to ending the AIDS pandemic.
Health GAP works with civil society groups in East and Southern Africa to advocate for the rights of people who are marginalized and criminalized – including gay men and other men who have sex with men, LGBTQ people, sex workers, and people who inject drugs. We fight for high-impact, evidence-based policies and hold policy makers accountable to their commitments to meet the real needs and demands of affected communities. We oppose laws, policies, and systems of oppression that undermine the health rights of marginalized groups and increase their vulnerability to HIV infection. We also work to increase power among key populations and other activists by providing technical support, sharing skills, and advocating for civil society to have a meaningful seat at decision-making tables when funding or policies that affect people living with HIV are being decided.
Securing health justice for women and girls is critical to defeating the AIDS crisis. Health GAP fights to expand access to treatment and prevention that women and girls need, alongside evidence based, comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care services. For example, in Uganda, Health GAP works alongside civil society organizations to confront the drivers of preventable maternal death. In Uganda, we advocate for access to safe abortion services – unsafe abortion is a leading cause of preventable maternal death, which kills 16 women each day in the country, and Uganda’s extremely high rates of teenage pregnancy (one in for young women is already a mother by age 19) mean young women are particularly vulnerable to death and disability from unsafe abortion. We have been a partner of the Civil Society Coalition to Stop Maternal Mortality Due to Unsafe Abortion in Uganda since it was founded in 2012.
In January 2017, President Donald Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy, also known as the Global Gag Rule, and expanded it to all U.S. global health funding, including PEPFAR and other life-saving HIV treatment and prevention programs. Even under previous Republican administrations, PEPFAR was exempt from the Global Gag Rule due to a universally accepted understanding that the most effective health programs for women and girls – and everyone else – are achieved through fully integrating HIV and sexual and reproductive health services. No U.S. funding has been or is used for abortions under long-standing law, but Trump’s expanded Global Gag Rule bars foreign service providers who receive U.S. funding from even speaking about safe abortion services, meaning women’s health and HIV services will be cleaved from one another, undermining the AIDS fight.
Health GAP is fighting back against this unprecedented expansion of the Global Gag Rule with activism, incisive policy analysis, and strategic communications work that exposes the true consequences of withholding comprehensive women’s health services and access to information. We are working toward the repeal of this deadly policy by educating policymakers about the dire consequences of the expanded Global Gag Rule, increasing political pressure on members of Congress from their constituents, and advocacy alongside East and Southern African allies.