AIDS-Free World at ICASA
A version of this update appeared in HIV Justice Worldwide's December 2017 Newsletter.
Building on the success of our Legal Consultation Center at the International AIDS Conference in Durban last year, AIDS-Free World organized another Legal Consultation Center throughout the five days of this year’s ICASA conference in Abidjan.
For so many whose rights have been targeted, even knowing if the problem you face could have a legal remedy is an insurmountable—and often unaffordable—obstacle to justice. The Legal Consultation Center provides delegates and other visitors with that initial conversation through a free, informal discussion with an experienced lawyer.
Thanks to a fantastic international team of 28 volunteer lawyers, including many from HJWW partners, the Legal Consultation Center was able to offer legal consultations to 90 visitors from Bénin, Cameroun, Cote d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, The Gambia, Kenya, Libera, Niger, Nigeria, Togo, Tunisie, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.
ICASA was also an opportunity for AIDS-Free World to share news of a new legal and advocacy effort. At a press conference on December 5, victims of former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s fraudulent AIDS “cure” recounted their harrowing experiences, describing one of the most egregious orchestrated assault on people living with HIV in the history of the global AIDS crisis.
They described being ordered to stop taking ARVs, growing progressively weaker as their only treatment consisted of a home-brew concoction, sometimes administered by Jammeh himself. Some sessions were even broadcast on Gambian television with the unwilling participation of “patients” who had not yet disclosed their HIV status to family and friends.
An estimated 9000 Gambians were coerced into this so-called treatment program. Many victims suffered serious health setbacks. Some became infected with opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis. Some died while at the treatment center, although the exact figure is not known.
AIDS-Free World, working in concert with the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, Gambian lawyers, and international partners including UNAIDS, announced it will support the survivors and relatives of those who died at Jammeh's hands to pursue all possible legal avenues in their search for justice.
Michel Sidibé, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, spoke alongside the survivors and AIDS-Free World lawyers at the press conference, noting that “if we fail to ensure that the rights of people are protected and respected, we will never be able to end this epidemic.”
(Photo: ©AIDS-Free World)