2019 Advocacy-for-Cure Academy

Reuben Silungwe

Nationality: Zambia
Institution: University of Zambia / Zambia Sex Workers Alliance (ZASWA)
Country of work: Zambia

What is your motivation for becoming an HIV cure advocate?

The Stonewall leadership and community provided the earliest demonstration of advocacy around HIV and broader health rights. I find myself at the intersection of being most at risk of HIV and other STIs and having my own existence criminalised and stigmatised. Consequently, accessing information and health services remains an everyday struggle. There is ever need to sustain the conversations around HIV cure and health rights for marginalised populations. The promising progress made in HIV prevention research and treatment has made it more poignant to continue agitating for an HIV cure and this is within the valid demands of social justice.

What advocacy work are you currently engaged in?

I am a citizen journalist and currently consulting with AVERT to produce content of people telling personal stories about how stigma, discrimination, and homophobia are still preventing people from accessing HIV information and services, and how people attempt to overcome this. The stories also show how people have changed their attitudes and behaviour, and have become more accepting of people living with HIV and/or people from LGBT communities.

I am a research assistant on a joint research project between the School of Public Health (University of Zambia) and Health Economics and AIDS Research Division (University of KwaZulu-Natal) exploring the sexual health and mental challenges among young key populations in Zambia. This is important in generating data and evidence for informed policy development and implementation.

How do you think knowledge learned from the Advocacy-for-Cure Academy will influence your current work?

The media uses sensationalist and alarmist articles aimed to further stigmatise and silent voices of sexual and gender minorities & other key populations. The current National Strategic Framework (2017-2021) by the National Aids Council gives an opportunity for engaging policymakers and the mainstream media on issues of key populations HIV and health programming. I hope to use the translational tools to disseminate information to the wider community, including policymakers, the media and programme managers. I am volunteering with Zambia Sex Workers Alliance (ZASWA), this advocacy programme will empower ZASWA to agitate for responsible HIV prevention research and ultimately cure.