My organisation is called MARPS IN UGANDA. It stands for Most At Risk [of HIV/Aids] Populations Society in Uganda. We're an umbrella of smaller grass-roots based entities.
We started way back in 2007 but we could not register because our mandate stated that we would provide out reach to sexual minorities. Later we joined hands with three other organisations in order to produce our programmes legally but at the same time continue existing as a separate organisation. Today, MARPS IN UGANDA is fully registered.
The organisation was started by an HIV/public health activist and a few others as a result of not seeing any visibility for the marginalised among the reports of various organisations, although there was some effort to bring marginalised issues to the fore-front.
Uganda, with an emulable 30 year old history of stemming the tide of HIV/Aids by enabling communities to respond to prevention programmes, is yet to develop mechanisms against violence, abuse, discrimination and stigma.
We joined the Anti-HIV prevention effort by bringing to the forefront issues of MARPs, human rights, social-behavioural risk igniters, engaging leadership and organisations in planning for MARPs.
Today, the Uganda AIDS Commission’s long range tool, their strategic plan, emphasises MARPs. This will inform and influence the Commission's future proposals. Many organisations, having worked for and on behalf of marginalised communities, will apply in order to access these funds.
This time there is need for realistic participatory planning to target MARPs. MARPs are marginalised. In order to inform on the MARPs issues, we have produced a report based on interviews and observations throughout Uganda, interactions with 570 civil society organisations and 1750 community groups. The voices to be heard in the report are those of :
- Men who have Sex with Men (MSM)
- Sexual minorities
- Substance users
- Reformed prison in-mates
- Fisher folk
- Mobile men and women
- Long distance truckers including road construction teams
- Uniformed services-persons and
- the stakeholders who influence planning.
With a history of discrimination and stigma against sexual minorities, MARPs IN UGANDA has given a special space to them in this report. It is not good manners to cast aspersions, especially if the trend is building glass houses. MARPs issues depict the delicate situations in which communities are extracting livelihoods. All planning should ensure livelihoods are sustainable.
There is a need to address structural issues that fuel violence, abuses, discrimination and stigma. MARPS IN UGANDA has come in very strongly with functional insights on eradicating violence, abuse, discrimination and stigma combined with Human Rights and anti-HIV community based initiatives.
Dr. Thomas Muyunga. is the CEO of MARPS IN UGANDA