JASS Blog Archives for August 2008

by Martha Tholanah on August 25, 2008 on 5:54 am


More than 1 500 mostly HIV-positive women staged an unprecedented protest in Swaziland on Thursday against a foreign shopping tour by eight of the ruling monarch's 13 wives, in a country ravaged by Aids.Dressed in red, white, blue and orange T-shirts, the demonstrators marched across the capital, carrying placards with such slogans as, "we want multi-party democracy now", "enough is enough", or "taxpayers' money does not belong to royalty". "With this march, we want to drive home the point that we people living with HIV are not happy with the way our money is being used," said Siphiwe Hlophe, spokesperson of two NGOs for HIV-positive women - the Women's Coalition of Swaziland and Swaziland Positive Living - which organised the protest. It appeared to be the first such demonstration here by people living with HIV as they questioned how money could be spent on a shopping trip when Swaziland - with the world's highest HIV prevalence rate - faced shortages of medicines including Aids-fighting drugs.

The eight wives, children, maids and bodyguards left the impoverished mountain kingdom last week to shop for the "40-40" double celebrations to mark its 1968 independence from Britain and King Mswati III's birthday on September 6. "We cannot be allowing such exorbitant, luxurious expenditure of the taxpayers' money in the face of the dire poverty which is demonstrated by the fact that two-thirds of the population are being fed on food aid," the women said in a petition against the chartered flight.Close to 40 percent of adults in the landlocked southern African nation are living with HIV and Aids, the highest infection rate anywhere in the world, according to United Nations figures.Per capita income here is just over $1 000, according to government figures - the lowest in southern Africa.But government spokesperson Percy Simelane justified the spending spree for the celebrations."Poverty has been with us for many years. We cannot then sit by the roadside and weep just because the country is faced with poverty," he said. "We have made great strides as a country that gives us pleasure in celebrating the 40 years of independence and the king's birthday," Simelane added.

Swaziland is Africa's last absolute monarchy and is known for its annual Reed Dance celebrations in which thousands of bare-breasted young women dance in front of the royal family.

- Sapa-AFP

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by JASS on August 13, 2008 on 12:40 am


By Julian, Age 11

This AIDS conference has been full of knowledge. It wasn’t just about HIV/AIDS. It was about learning and gathering and sharing information and opinions among people with HIV and without HIV. I also think that this conference was about women sharing about empowerment. There was discussion of violence, inequality, and disrespect. I hope everyone came out a little smarter and a little more aware how they can help especially that women’s empowerment can make a difference in the environment and in people’s minds. I’m eleven and I am taking a lot out of this conference. A bit more than I expected. I just hope that education for men and women gets better. That we know about HIV/AIDS and that our awareness changes our actions. Denying young people information about sex is a violation of their rights. 

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by Martha Tholanah on August 9, 2008 on 12:30 am

In the final plenary session in Mexico City on Friday morning, Justice Edwin Cameron gave, as part of his address, ten reasons why criminal laws and criminal prosecutions make bad policy in the response to the AIDS pandemic:

  1. Criminalisation is ineffective
  2. Criminal laws and criminal prosecutions are a poor substitute for measures that really protect those at risk
  3. Criminalisation victimises, oppresses, and endangers women
  4. Criminal laws and prosecutions are often unfairly and selectively applied
  5. Criminalisation places blame on one person instead of responsibility on two. This is because women are often not equal partners in transactional sex
  6. Criminal laws targetting HIV are difficult and degrading to apply.
  7. Many of the laws are extremely poorly drafted
  8. Criminalisation increases stigma
  9. Criminalisation is a strong disincentive to testing
  10. Criminalisation assumes the worst about people with HIV, and so punishes vulnerability

It would be interesting to hear movement builders comments on these ten points.

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