V LAC Forum opens with protest

November 21, 2009

Lima, Peru – The openning of the V Latin American and Caribbean Forum on HIV/AIDS and STD (November 21 to 23) was anything but ordinary. Although the organization of the Forum put all the effort for a smooth ceremony filled with cultural presentation, it was interrupted by a protest of fifteen mothers who had their children infected by unsafe blood transfusion at a public hospital. The police tried and contained the group outside the venue, but, at arrival, international women activists learned about the situation and started to help with the protest, asking for the women to enter the venue and present the issue to all, including the Minister of Health of Peru, Mr. Óscar Ugarte.

After a bit of confusion, because the security did not want to attend the activists pledge, one mother of the infected children was allowed to come to the stage and present the protest, which she did in a very polite and orderly fashion. Ms. Alejandra Guevara asked the government of Peru to drop the attempt to appeal a court decision that granted the families a reparation sum from the state. The Minister listened to the pledge and, besides stating that a the court decision shall be respected, commited to work towards implementing the results of the three day Forum.

“If nothing else comes out of the Forum, at least civil society has shown strength to establish its voice and help these women,” said Ms. Alessandra Nilo, of Gestos, one of the activists who started the pledge to let the voices of the mothers be heard by the international audience.


Civil Society Monitors UNGASS-AIDS

May 12, 2009

Since 2001, Gestos – HIV+ Communication & Gender – follows the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on AIDS – UNGASS-AIDS.

In 2003, during the National Meeting of AIDS’ NGOs (ENONG) in São Paulo, Gestos was ellected to be part of the UNAIDS Working Group of Brazil in the seat of Civil Society with a proposal of mobilization and monitoring of the UNGASS-AIDS Declaration of Commitment, signed by one hundred and eighty nine countries. The result of this work was the first Fórum UNGASS-AIDS, held in the same year, with the partnership with the NGO Forum of São Paulo. Since then, Brazilian civil society has been an international reference for monitoring UNGASS-AIDS (please see tables below), taking the issue to state and municipal levels in different parts of the country.

The UNGASS-AIDS Forum Brazil is coordinated by GAPA and Gestos.

There are scheduled for 2009 the state forums of Paraiba and Rio Grande do Sul.

Understanding the National UNGASS-AIDS Forums


Where and when



I Forum UNGASS-AIDS Brazil

Recife/PE. September, 2003

• Present and discuss the Goals of the Commitment Declaration for HIV and AIDS signed in 2001, at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session.

• Production of a Political Letter of Civil Society – The Letter of Recife;
• Participation of civil society representatives at the UNGASS meeting in NY, 2003. 


Recife/PE. March, 2005

• Broaden the knowledge on UNGASS-Aids among the AIDS Movement;
• Raise civil society participation at the UNGASS process;
• Setting up of a WG UNGASS-Brazil.

• Production of a Case Study with the theme: Access to Treatment in Brazil – A Civil Society Perspective, with the following axis: Technological capacity, the performance of Civil Society, Access to treatment by women, Sex Workers, MSM, People deprived of liberty, IDUs and Transvestites and Transsexuals 


Curitiba/PR September, 2005

• Raise Brazilian civil society participation at the UNGASS-AIDS monitoring process;
• Discuss civil society’s contribution in the making of the Brazilian Government report and the preliminary presentation, of the Case Study “Access to Treatment”.

 • Articulate civil society’s agenda for the official revision of UNGASS in 2006

• Publication of the Case Study, of which content was incorporated to the official Brazilian government report;
• Civil society participation  at the UNGASS-AIDS – NY 2006 


Recife/PE June, 2007

• Plan Brazilian civil society actions for monitoring UNGASS/AIDS in 2007 and 2008;

• Building of an advocacy agenda with the investigation theme: the Inclusion of Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Actions in the National AIDS Policy
• Composition by different research groups by theme and regions

• Report incorporated by the Brazilian Government in its Official Report to the United Nations Assembly held in June, 2008
• Civil society representatives in the Brazilian delegation

V Forum UNGASS-AIDS Brazil

São Paulo/SP. May 2008

• Evaluate the monitoring actions of UNGASS-AIDS developed by civil society in 2007
• Promote political incidence of the AIDS Movement, derived from the report produced on Sexual and Reproductive Health policies

• Building of an agenda to follow up the State Plans of Fighting the Feminization of HIV and AIDS
• Production of the São Paulo Letter with remarks on the Brazilian Country Report, which was sent to the National STD and AIDS Program


Understanding the Regional, State and City UNGASS-AIDS Forums


Where and when



I Forum UNGASS-AIDS Maranhão State

São Luís/MA. 2004.

• Contribute to community answers  facing the monitoring of UNGASS/AIDS Goals and strengthening the National AIDS Movement in the State 

• Perception of a dramatic AIDS panorama in the State, with total chaos in Health and Educational Policies
• Need to involve more social actors in the process of fighting the epidemics and articulate a partnership with the University in order to broaden researches on the subject and build indicators to advance in the local monitoring 

I Forum UNGASS-AIDS Pernambuco State

Recife/PE. December, 2005

• Broaden local knowledge on UNGASS-AIDS and discuss how the Declaration’s commitments may influence public policies on HIV/AIDS control at State end City level.

• Building of a work agenda with action directed at the setting up of the II Forum UNGASS/AIDS Pernambuco;
• Need to mobilize a greater number of policy makers in STD/HIV and AIDS
• Discussion and deepening about the relation between local and international policies

• Setting up of a reference WG to systematize and analyze the proposals related to STD/HIV and AIDS made at the conferences of Health, Women, Human Rights, and children and Adolescents

II Forum UNGASS-AIDS Maranhão State

São Luís/MA. 2005

• Strengthen community answers against STD/HIV and AIDS 

• Building of monitoring indicators through most vulnerable groups

• Advance towards strengthening and politization of AIDS activism in Maranhão;
• Production of a more political diagnosis of the social political economic conjuncture in Maranhão that points out the epidemics impact in the State. 

I Forum UNGASS-AIDS North and Northeast Regions

Recife/PE. February, 2006

• Raise knowledge of AIDS NGOs and PLWAs Leaderships in the regions on UNGASS-AIDS, TRIPS, international policies and their impact on national policies on AIDS epidemics control and prevention. 

• Production of an Action Plan for 2006 and setting of the participants priorities related to the axis of UNGASS-AIDS. 

II Forum UNGASS/AIDS Pernambuco State

Recife/PE. December, 2006

• Give continuity to the monitoring agenda of the Declaration of Commitment and broaden knowledge on UNGASS/AIDS in the State, under the perspective of following up the epidemics interiorization 

• Aprovação de várias propostas para ação de execução em 2007 pelo GT de Referência do UNGASS-AIDS PE 

III Forum UNGASS/AIDS Maranhão State

São Luís/MA. 2006.

• Strengthen civil society participation in Maranhão on the process of monitoring the Declaration of Commitments of UNGASS-AIDS
• Analysis of a political scenario in Maranhão (HDI – Epidemics – Public Policies/Epidemics)
• Discuss Civil Society participation in this process;
•  Set up a group with several social segments to give continuity to Monitoring in MA 

• Setting up of a permanent WG with representations from the capital and interior and a more organized Work Plan 

I Forum UNGASS-AIDS São Paulo State

São Paulo/SP. May, 2008.

• Report under construction

• Building of na Action and Monitoring Plan. (Report under construction)

I Forum UNGASS-AIDS North Region

Belém/PA. September, 2008

• Evaluate UNGASS monitoring actions developed in the region for the past two years

• Plan UNGASS monitoring actions for the next two years; 

• Building of a Monitoring Plan to monitor HIV/AIDS Public Policies in the region

I Forum UNGASS-AIDS Campinas/SP City

Campinas/SP. November, 2008

• Present the Declaration of Commitments to civil society and policy makers of the city 

 Report under construction

I Forum UNGASS/AIDS Acre State

Rio Branco/AC. March, 2009

• Discuss the importance of Implementing the AIDS Feminization Fighting Plan in Acre and the monitoring performed by Brazilian Civil Society 

 Report under construction 

Sources: UNGASS-AIDS Forums Reports (Nationals, Regional, State and City); Case Study: ARV Treatment in Brazil: the Civil Society Perspective, and National Program on STD and AIDS.


HIV and Maternity in Pernambuco

May 11, 2009

The housewifre P.J.S, thirty-five years old, born in Recife, northeastern state of Pernambuco, could not imagine that the happiness attached to having a baby could become a judicial nightmare.

When fnding out she was pregnant of her second child, in 2003, she took all medical pre-natal care. She did all blood tests, including the HIV reagent. The doctor at Maternity Barros Lima, northern area of the city, assured her she had nothing to worry about.

The child had a normal birth delivery. Two months later, to a complete surprise, the tests came back with the news that both her and the baby were HIV positive.

Ms Kariana Guerios, attorney of Gestos, who is following the case, says this is one of four similar cases in the Juridical Counseling department of the institution. She points to the fact that prevention of mother to child transmission is still failing in the health system and that this is somewhat frequent. “For the lack of appropriate assistance, my client was told to breast feed, what is completely inappropriate for HIV positive mothers for raising the risk of the baby getting infected. But fortunately such cases are becoming more rare,” explains Ms Guerios.

The attorney filed a case of moral damage and negligence against the County in the Civil Court, asking for a pension for the child because the mother has no financial condition for the treatment and care. “They are poor. It is necessary to try and repair a damage the municipal competence because this child, that could have been born healthy, was infected with HIV because of a sloppy pre-natal.”

Data from the report of monitoring the goals of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on AIDS – UNGASS-AIDS – in sexual and reproductive health, prepared by the UNGASS-AIDS Forum Brasil, in 2008, shows that, despite the government’s efforts, reducing “vertical transmission” or PMTCT has a wide regional fluctuation in both care and eduction.

Based on the Plan for Preventing Mother to Child Transmission of HIV and Sifilis of the Ministry of Health, 2007, there is a 0,41% prevalence of HIV infections in mothers. There is an estimate of 12,456 newborns are exposed to HIV yearly. The transmission rate of HIV from mother to child, when the treatment intervention with prophylaxis is not done, reaches about 25% of newborns of HIV+ mothers, but it can lower to one or two percent with the application of the necessary measures during pre-natal care, delivery and post-delivery procedures. Such interventions are: the use of anti-retroviral medicines starting at the fourteenth week of gestation; use of injected AZT during labor; perform cesarian section when advisable; give oral AZT to the newborn exposed to HIV from birth to forty-two days and do not breast feed, use mild substitute instead.

Girls United Against Violence and AIDS

May 11, 2009

There is a direct relationship between HIV/AIDS and violence affecting all social strata, be it through sexual exploitation or abuse – that many times have roots at home. “It is crucial to teach the girls how to defend themselves and to denounce the violence they are victim of,” says one of the participants of the workshop Girls United Against Violence and AIDS that reaches the counties of Recife and Cabo. The campaign, beyond the workshop, has a blog that is used by them to post their views on cases of violence reported by the media, or just to show their views on ways to comfort victims of peculiarly violent situations for being a girl.

The campaign, launched in 2007, has a pioneer approach when interfacing violence and AIDS. The actions include monitoring the system of the Children and Adolescent Rights Act – ECA –, the care structure for youth victim of violence, while reinforcing the need for preventing violence and the HIV/AIDS with youth victim of abuse and sexual exploitation through a sequence of “dialogue roundtables” on the issue at public schools.

Even though there are positive response, the Campaign identifies many challenges such as the lack of unified database system that would ease the monitoring of violent cases, that are badly monitored for the sheer lack of basic information entry. The health care professional resist to write down the cases in detail. And the worst case scenario, the lack or limited prophylaxis medication for HIV in cases of rape.