Ghana is committed to protecting human rights in fulfillment of its domestic and international obligations. The Constitution makes provision for the right of all persons to be treated equally and without distinction on grounds including gender and economic status.
The enjoyment of human rights including health care by men who have sex with men (MSM) however, is often challenged. Human rights violations, particularly discrimination against MSM continue to act as a major barrier to their access to healthcare and other services. In addition to this challenge encountered by the MSM, Ghana’s attempt to treat and manage STIs, including HIV, is adversely impacted due to MSM vulnerability to STIs.
During HRAC’s implementation of previous interventions, we made three observations. First, the three Northern regions are left out in human rights and advocacy activities, which address factors that promote the prevalence of HIV in the country. Second, there is a fast growing, but hidden Key Population (KP) communities in the three Regions. Among these KPs are Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) who are at higher risk of contracting and transmitting STIs. Third, the MSM community does not access medical treatment for STI and HIV infections due to high incidence of stigma and discrimination. In view of these, HRAC with support from ViiV Positive Change is implementing the project, “Creating MSM Human Rights Awareness to Improve Access to Healthcare” in the Northern Region. Below are the highlights of some of the interventions by HRAC in the first year of implementation.
Stakeholders Consultative Meeting
HRAC held a Stakeholders’ Consultative Meeting to kick off the ‘Creating MSM Human Rights Awareness to Improve Access to Health’ Project in the Northern Region. The goal of this meeting was to bring together members of the Key Population, and stakeholders including those in the health and justice sectors, to unveil the project and foster dialogue on better healthcare and justice outcomes for MSM in the Northern Region. Eighteen (18) representatives from major stakeholders participated in the activity. These included representatives from the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP), Legal Aids
Scheme (LAS), Ghana Police Service and the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) of Ghana Police Service. Others are Ministry of Health (MOH), Ghana AIDS commission (GAC), Ghana Health Service (GHS), the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), and the Alliance for Equality and Diversity (AfED).
We also organised an advocacy workshop for twenty-two (22) representatives of stakeholder organisations in the Tamale Municipality of the Northern Region of Ghana. We discussed with stakeholders, the human rights situation and concerns of
MSM and its implication on access to health for MSM. The discussions improved participants’ knowledge on human rights to enable them become effective advocates and protectors of human rights of MSM, particularly in relation to access to health and justice. The workshop activities included presentations on ‘understanding human rights and factors that influence stigma and discrimination; understanding rights of MSM in the national context; and strategies to remove major barriers to access to health and Justice. Participants included representatives from Civil Society Organisations, Religious and traditional leaders and State institutions like Ghana Education Service, Ghana AIDS Commission, CHRAJ Ghana Police Service, Ghana Heath Service and Legal Aid Scheme.