Sunday, March 21, 2010

Universal access and Human Rights - Cameroon study

The Government of Cameroon is a signatory to most of the universal declaration on Human rights affecting most at risk youth group especially young people living with HIV (YPLWHIV).Men who have sex with Men (MSM)and sex workers related deals are still under observation even though their freedom is respected.

Since the United Nations Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS)2006, the Cameroon government has stepped up universal access to prevention , treatment, care and support to PLWHIV and a good percentage of the positive tested persons are currently placed under free Anti Retroval Treatment (ART).
In 2009, the Cameroon Government signed the Maputo Protocol which allows rights to voluntary abortion and freedom of sexual choices, however, these concepts were never adopted into law following divided opinion within the population.
Prostitution on the other hand has been a subject of discussion for over a decade but there still don't exist any rights for people involved.

In this essay, i will concentrate on YPLWHIV, the group that can be easily identified in Cameroon and is subjected under the current government policy. Unlike other countries whose governments respect, protect and fulfill the rights of this group, the Cameroon Government unfortunately doesn't give enough protection and fulfillment of rights of YPLWHIV.

Respect will mean refraining from interfering with the enjoyment of the rights. YPLWHIV have the freedom of choice of partner; the rights to pursue a satisfying, safe and pleasurable sexual life; and the freedom to access any medical service accessible to Cameroonians.

Protection of rights here would means enacting laws that create mechanisms to prevent violation of the rights of YPLWHIV by anyone. This has been partially done because YPLWHIV are protected by law to access treatment, care and support. However, there exist no laws punishing violation of their rights to employment and acceptance without abuses related to their status by community members. Also, they are no laws to carter for Orphans and Vulnerable children(OVC)basic needs and education.

Fulfillment of rights is another obligation which the Cameroonian government partially executes.Fulfillment means to take active steps to put in place institutions and procedures, including allocation of resources to enable YPLWHIV to enjoy the rights. YPLWHIV have access to treatment centers in all regional headquarters of the country but what about the sub urban and rural populations? An ARV procurement procedure has been put in place but very often, there are shortages in supply and the small quantities are not evenly distributed.

Because of the above lapses in the protection and fulfillment of human rights of YPLWHIV, universal access to prevention,treatment, care and support has not been very effective in Cameroon. How? The failure to put in place a mechanism to cheek stigma prevents youths from openly accessing services. This also create the attitude of 'I'll not dying alone' which further spreads the virus. The fear of stigma also leads to denial of VCT which further renders youth's vulnerability.
Considering that Cameroon is a limited resource country with more than 45% of the population living below poverty line, YLWHIV especially the orphans and those below 18 years deserve the right to free resources for immediate survival.

The few policies that exist were not created with the consent of these youths. youth involvement in decision making is still a national challenge and HIV policies are often not cost effective with much resources allocated to ineffective strategies.


  1. Very interesting post Numfor! Do you know how many young people living with HIV (15-24) are in Cameroon? Are there any groups or networks for young people living with HIV? Also, do you know of any work being done to sensitize health workers to the needs of people living with HIV in order to challenge harmful stigmatizing attitudes?

    Thanks again for posting this!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. One more thing Numfor, I'm interested in the statement about people living with HIV spreading the virus because they do not want to die alone. We encourage the sharing of information that is evidence-based, meaning that there is some factual information to back up your findings. I have seen this myth that people living with HIV willingly spread HIV because they do not want to die alone quite often, but there is not any information to back this up. Statements like this can further stigmatize people living with HIV... as most people living with HIV would never want to willingly spread the virus. I would look more into this and see where this myth is coming from as it is not based in real evidence. It can be important to challenge common beliefs like this to ensure that all of us are basing our work on facts no gossip or assumptions.


    p.s. your blog is looking great! Keep up the great work.

  4. Numfor! Great work on the problem tree!!!! I really like it and you covered some very important issues. I noticed you covered self-stigma, but what do you think about social stigma as a factor? And what ways does social stigma and discrimination manifest for young people living with HIV? You might find this resource helpful, if you haven't read it already:

    Keep up the great work!!

  5. Hi Alex, you are very logical in your incqures.
    I will like to answer the to your worries. First of all, I don't have the exact number of young people (15-24) living with the virus in Cameroon but i know they top the prevalence rate with 3.4% and 2.1% for girls and boys respectively.

    Considering the assumption that YPLWHIV intentionally infect other, we don't have documented reports but i have come across a person who admits he transmitted to many girls not to die alone and another who testified her boyfriend was happy when she got the virus like him.
    Its a sad situation we must avoid as young people.