(Toronto) – On World AIDS Day, December 1, 2013, Human Rights Watch and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network will honor Alternatives-Cameroun and the Grandmothers Advocacy Network (GRAN) with the 2013 Award for Action on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights. This is the 12th year that the two nongovernmental organizations have jointly presented awards to individuals or groups for their work on human rights in the fight against HIV.
The international award recipient, Alternatives-Cameroun, founded in 2006, is internationally recognized for its work on HIV and access to medical services, information and education, especially for sexual minorities. In the past several years Cameroon has experienced a wave of violence targeting people because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or their activism on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people. In July, Eric Ohena Lembembe, the executive director of the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS, was brutally assaulted and killed. Police investigations have failed to identify a suspect in the murder.
“Alternatives-Cameroun is on the front lines of the global fight for human rights for people living with HIV and challenging homophobia,” said Joseph Amon, health and human rights director at Human Rights Watch. “This brave group refuses to be silenced by adversity and is an essential resource for so many LGBTI people in a country that remains profoundly hostile and dangerous for them.”
Yves Yomb, executive director of Alternatives-Cameroun, will accept the award on behalf of the organization. “When your daily lives are spent in a state of fear and uncertainty, it is critical to know that you have the support of the global community,” Yomb said. “This award sends hope to all LGBTI Cameroonians and a warning to our government that discrimination will not be tolerated.”
The Canadian recipient of the award, GRAN, established in 2006, consists of volunteer grandmothers and “grand-others,” who work in solidarity with the grandmothers of Africa and the children in their care who have been orphaned by AIDS.The organization conducts advocacy with the Canadian government and works to expand Canadian and international support for AIDS prevention, care, treatment, and support in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“GRAN is a group of knowledgeable, dedicated and passionate individuals that was a huge part of the campaign to reform Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime, and has been mobilizing to support the lifesaving work of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,” said Richard Elliott, executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. “They bring tenacity and passion to the international cause of preventing needless death and suffering from HIV.”
Marilyn Coolen, co-chair of GRAN, said that the award was important for the December 2014 meeting of donor countries in Washington, DC, on replenishing the Global Fund. Canada was a founding member of the Global Fund, and has donated C$150 million to the fund over the past three years, but has not yet made any future pledge of support.
“We feel privileged to receive this award and to do our work as part of dynamic coalitions,” Coolen said. “To be honored in this way is encouragement to keep fighting harder and keep chanting louder!”