The Southern Africa Litigation Centre is pleased to share the report, Tackling Cervical Cancer: Improving Access to Cervical Cancer Services for Women in Southern Africa.  Cervical cancer is a leading cause of cancer death among women in southern Africa, and is either the primary or secondary cause of cancer death among women in all 10 countries in which the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) works. Moreover, the negative impact of cervical cancer is exacerbated in southern Africa given the high prevalence of HIV among women in the region.

Cervical cancer is easily preventable and treatable in any resource setting. However, necessary services to prevent and treat cervical cancer have not been made available or easily accessible in southern Africa. The report, based on a combination of desktop research and field research in Namibia and Zambia on the availability of and access to cervical cancer services, found that very few countries in the region have comprehensive policies on cervical cancer. Essential prevention services such as screening and vaccination are also not widely available in the public health sector in most countries, and treatment for both pre-cancerous lesions and invasive cancer remains a challenge. Read the rest of this entry »

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On 21 August 2012, the Zambia AIDS Law Research and Advocacy Network (ZARAN) and Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) jointly hosted a strategy workshop with lawyers in Lusaka, Zambia. The key objective of the workshop was to work towards building a pool of lawyers who would be willing to conduct public interest litigation on health‐related rights. The workshop was attended by a range of role-players in the field of public interest litigation in Zambia, including the committees of the Law Association of Zambia, the Ministry of Justice, the University of Lusaka, the International Justice Mission, the YWCA and YMCA, the National Legal Aid Clinic for Women, the Human Rights Commission of Zambia, the National Institute of Public Administration, the Zambia Law Development Commission, Women and Law in Southern Africa and the Legal Aid Board.

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SALC’s work on cervical cancer benefitted from our attendance at the 6th Stop Cervical Cancer in Africa Conference (SCCA) which ended in Zambia on Tuesday the 24th of July 2012. The objective of the conference was to encourage participants to mobilise their governments to increase and secure funding for cervical cancer prevention.

The three day conference which focused on the theme “A New Era in Cervical Cancer Prevention” attracted over 1,000 participants from 25 countries, including Congo-Brazzaville, Belgium, Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia. Among those who attended were the First Lady of Mozambique  Dr. Maria da Luz Guebuza,  First Lady of  Swaziland  Queen Nomsa LaMatsebula while the Congo Brazzaville, Gambia, Ghana, Namibia, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe sent representatives to the conference. Other attendees included researchers, health professionals, policy makers, cancer advocates and representatives from non-governmental organisations. Read the rest of this entry »

From 22-27 July, 2012 many working in the field of HIV, together with policy makers, persons living with HIV and others committed to ending the pandemic will gather in Washington, DC, USA for the XIX International AIDS Conference. As the HIV community at large reflects on and celebrates the “recent scientific advances in HIV treatment and biomedical prevention, the momentum for a cure, and the continuing evidence of the ability to scale-up key interventions in the most-needed settings”, SALC, together with many other stakeholders, will also take the opportunity to reflect on the role of human rights in “turning the HIV tide”. A recent report by the Global Commission on HIV and the Law highlighted the continued negative impact of the failure to protect human rights on the HIV response. Former President of Botswana, Festus Mogae, a member of the Commission has suggested that the report provides “compelling evidence that the epidemic of bad laws is costing lives”. 

At AIDS 2012, SALC will participate in discussions that will reflect on the impact of punitive and discriminatory laws, policies and state practices on HIV responses. We will also share our experiences on litigation and law reform strategies that we have used to address these challenges. 

Click SALC at AIDS 2012 to find out more about how SALC will be involved in AIDS 2012. You can also follow live updates from the conference on SALC’s twitter feed (@Follow_SALC

From 22 – 24 July 2012, SALC will be attending the 6th Stop Cervical Cancer in Africa Conference (SCCA) hosted by the Forum of African First Ladies Against Breast & Cervical Cancer in Zambia. 

SALC’s HIV Programme recently undertook research on the status of policies related to cervical cancer, as well as the availability of and access to prevention and treatment services in southern African countries, using Namibia and Zambia as case studies. 

Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women in southern Africa where the negative impact of the disease is worsened by the high prevalence of HIV among women. Globally, more than 13 million women are infected with both HIV and the human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer. Yet services for these women in southern Africa are extremely limited, both in terms of finances and the science available. 

The three day conference will focus on the theme: “A New Era in Cervical Cancer Prevention.” The Forum of African First Ladies whose objective is to reduce the burden of the disease by raising awareness through education is comprised of twelve African first ladies. The Forum has been campaigning for access to medical resources to protect women in Africa from fatal diseases through the previous SCCA conferences. So far the SCCA has increased visibility of cervical cancer in Africa through support from a variety of national and international stakeholders such as Ministers of Health, advocates and survivors. The conferences also facilitate the lobbying of African presidents and governments, parliaments and religious institutions for cultural and policy change.  Read the rest of this entry »

SALC’s participation at the African Commission’s 51st Ordinary Session was both an enriching and fruitful experience. Diverse issues on human rights and democracy were discussed at both the NGO Forum and African Commission’s session. SALC was represented at the NGO Forum, at meetings on the side-lines and during the African Commission’s public session.  The highlights of the session were SALC’s election as the SADC Focal point at the NGO Forum, organising an African Court meeting jointly with the African Court Coalition and submitting a statement on Malawi during the African Commission public session as well as supporting a joint statement relating to conditions of pre-trial detention. 

Official Opening

The African Commission’s 51st ordinary session kicked off in Banjul, the Gambia on the 18th of April and ends on the 2nd of May 2012. The session took place at a time when there is turmoil in some African states. In Mali and Guinea Bissau, soldiers staged coup d’états in violation of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance as well as the Constitutive Act of the African Union.  The internecine conflict between Sudan and Southern Sudan continues unabated. The spectre of terrorism still haunts the Republic of Nigeria as Malawi and Swaziland suppress popular participation by citizens.  Read the rest of this entry »

Local papers in Malawi are reporting that Former President of Botswana Festus Mogae and Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda have denounced the criminalization of same sex relationships in Malawi and the rest of southern Africa. The remarks were made in a visit both made on behalf of the Champions of HIV free Generation to Malawi. Mogae argued that criminalizing same-sex relationships only serves to further exacerbate the HIV epidemic by driving a key population underground. He further noted that men go into prisons in Botswana without HIV and come out HIV positive, implying that men have unprotected sex with men while in prison. Given that, he called on countries to provide condoms in prison to help stem the HIV epidemic. Kaunda made the point that most countries in Africa already face overcrowded prison populations where individuals are detained and convicted for much more serious crimes, that criminalizing private sexual behavior is a waste of resources.

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Most of you won’t remember this, but two years ago sex workers in a small town in Malawi were arrested and taken to the local hospital where they were subjected to a mandatory HIV test.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, in some of the cases, the women only came to know about their HIV status when the Magistrate read it out in open court.

Well the wheels of justice move slow, but move they do.  Today, two years later,  some of the women who were arrested sued the Government of Malawi alleging violations to their constitutional rights to privacy and liberty of a person, to non-discrimination, to freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and to dignity of the person.  The case will be heard in the Malawi High Court.  SALC is assisting the lawyers on the case and we will keep you updated on the progress of the case here.

Check out SALC’s take on the broader impact of the decision and conviction in Malawi, here.

The High Court in Livingstone, Zambia, tomorrow is expected to hand down a decision in a case involving the alleged testing and dismissal of two HIV positive employees. We will update the blog tomorrow regarding the decision and post the judgment as soon as possible.