HIV Vulnerable Groups’ Associations are Ending up Helpless
The Ethiopian government, following the new approved Charities and Societies Proclamation (NGO law), has screened out international NGOs which have had human right related project activities in the country, and given them a strict order to amend their projects. Following this, many NGOs including those working to halt HIV pandemic are forced to remove every human right related activities from their projects and even to change their human right based HIV/AIDS prevention and control approach.
One working in an international NGO working in the county, on HIV/AIDS prevention and control, said that the measure taken by the government is clearly destructing the standing human right based HIV/AIDS prevention and control work that has recently shown an encouraging change on the prevalence of the epidemic.
“We are cancelling all our project activities related to the rights of the most at risk groups such as women, sex workers, daily laborers and housemaids. Though there is no any other better and proven approach than human right based approach, to protect these groups from HIV/AIDS, we are about to change it.”
Following the measure, different local vulnerable groups’ associations pulling together with NGOs towards addressing their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS through promoting their socio-economic and political rights are facing a serious challenge to keep their effort. It is becoming impossible for them to get financial and technical support from their partners or NGOs.
The Ethiopian government claims that the law is aimed at ensuring “the realization of citizens’ rights to association enshrined in the constitution… as well as …to aid and facilitate the role of [civil society] in the overall development of the Ethiopian people.” But, in contrary, the law has blocked all human rights activities in the country including the human right based HIV/AIDS prevention and control activities. Under the law enacted on January 6, 2009 that criminalizes most human rights work in the country, international organizations based outside the country are barred from doing any human rights-related work in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia, according to UNAIDS, has an estimated 2 million people living with HIV and the third highest number of infections in Africa. However decreasing the prevalence rate is, HIV has yet been remained to be the leading health problem of Ethiopian. Several studies indicats that some parts of the community, which are commonly exposed to different human rights violations, such as women, daily laborers, housemaids, and sex workers are the particularly vulnerable groups in the country.