International Centre for Advocacy on the Right to Health (ICARH) formerly Alliance Rights Nigeria is an independent research initiative established in the year 1999 and formally registered with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) as ICARH in 2010 for the main purpose of contributing to policy issues/matters affecting the rights of sexual minorities and PLWHA’s in Nigeria, through research, analysis, training, awareness campaign development and advocacy.
The organization was formed to fill a lacuna in the civil society’s landscape and to fulfill a passion so as to contribute to the development needs of the country in the areas of health and social rights. Having found that several structures in Nigeria were well out of tune with international acceptable practices, ICARH sought to assist in bringing about a more rapid change in attitude on issues in the concerning social and sexual Health matters in the country.
Thus the initial vision was to bring about change in attitude through advocacy, research and training, however after its formation, ICARH was able to properly examine critical issues in our society relating to MSM, LGBTI, IDU and CSW, and expanded its activities to focus not only on these social matters but also to pursue projects aimed at bringing reforms in human rights and HIV/AIDS eradication, awareness, treatment and sensitization as it affects sexual minorities.
ICARH has thus grown from a purely research organizations to an advocacy body that is involved in all health activities that concern MSM, LGBTI, IDU’s, Prisoners and CSWs in Nigeria.
ICARH was also actively involved in the IBBSS study conducted in 2007 and 2010 respectively. The study was organized by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Health. (FMOH).
MSM HEALTH CLINIC (NEW INNOVATION)
In April 2011ICARH sets up a health clinic in response to LGBT health care service provision in Nigeria. With funding from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), ICARH collaborates with the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) with the aim to provide comprehensive sexual health care for LGBT persons in Nigeria.
The project (MSM Health Clinic) which is the first of its kind in Nigeria, has recorded a significant success since inception. The challenges of accessing health care especially HIV/AIDS has reduced drastically within the MSM community. Unlike in the past when it was very difficult for MSM to access HIV and other health care services in health facilities because of stigma and discrimination associated with homosexuality, they (MSM) now feel comfortable coming to ICARH’s facility to access HIV and other health care services.
Since the inception of the clinic in April; 105 clients (MSM) have accessed HCT service, out of which 52 tested positive and 53 negative. Out of the 52 that tested positive, 47 have been enrolled in to care and 11 are on ARV.”
The services provided at the clinic include but not limited to; HIV Counseling and Testing, provision of Anti-Retroviral Drugs, palliative care and treatment of other common illness such as Malaria, Typhoid and STI syndromic management.
Some of the challenges faced in running the clinic include the clinic extension which is yet to be done and this has affected the work flow process which at times even causes distress to the clients, in addition most of the equipment provided by IHVN is yet to be operational due to lack of space which ultimately affects the quality of services provided.
Nutritional supplements, prophylaxis, pain killers and pain medications are inadequate; salaries for more permanent staff since most of the people working in the clinic are working on volunteer basis are also some of the challenges faced in the clinic.
ESTABLISHMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND ADVOCACY UNIT
In Nigeria, LGBTI persons are prone to violence, hate crime and discrimination, on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity which had in recent times led to a long list of challenges of which include but not limited to violent attacks, loss of jobs, lack of promotion at work place, homelessness, loss of properties and had further encourage many LGBTI persons to remain in the closet. Most of these violence and violations have gone unaddressed.
In response to the above challenges faced by LGBT persons, ICARH established a Human Rights and Advocacy unit in May 2011, with the aim of documenting and following up with violence and human rights abuses on LGBT persons in Nigeria.
The objectives of the unit includes; to create a communication channels for the reportage and validation of human rights abuses of LGBTI persons, to document and publish Advocacy briefs and drafts, and to improve the knowledge of staff / LGBT community members on existing laws, the Nigerian Penal Code and international human right instruments. Other functions of the unit are mediation amongst warring LGBT community members; follow up on reported cases of human rights violation and referrals for legal aids and services.
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