Twenty years with Cuba for non-discrimination | Jessica Faieta

17 Nov 2016

 Photo: UNDP Cuba / Mayrilian Acosta

During the years that I lived and worked in Cuba, I have been able to witness firsthand how this vibrant society has worked to break down the stigmas and fight against discrimination.

One of the leaders of this fight against homophobia since the 90’s is Mariela Castro. Director of the National Institute for Sexual Education - CENESEX, she has become a true icon for the LGTBI community in Cuba.

This week, UNDP and the Permanent Mission of Cuba to the UN held a special screening of the HBO Documentary Film Mariela Castro’s March: Cuba’s LGBT Revolution. The 40-minute film follows Mariela as she champions for the rights of Cuba’s LGBTI community.

As we saw in the documentary, her work is not limited to social mobilization. Through CENESEX, Mariela Castro has been able to work and provide support to this community in multiple areas such as psychological, educational and labor, with an emphasis on the most vulnerable population, the Trans-gender.

UNDP in Cuba has a long history of working with LGBTI organizations. We have supported the national response to HIV since 1998 in close collaboration with national institutions and volunteer networks. These networks are integrated by people living with HIV, young people, men who have sex with other men and trans people, populations considered to be key for the response to the epidemic.

Stigma and homophobia increase the isolation of homosexual, bisexual and transgender people and make them more reluctant to make themselves known and receive counseling. At the same time, these are factors that hamper access to HIV prevention, testing and treatment services.

Cuba is one of the least affected countries by HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean. Treatment coverage for people living with HIV is one of the highest in the region. And the Cuba National Response is a world reference since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Cuba to be the first country to eliminate mother-child transmission of HIV in 2015.

Since 2002, over USD $ 90 million has been channeled through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, UNAIDS and the Governments of Japan and Norway, to finance national strategies. UNDP has been partners with CENESEX since 2003 in a joint effort to Prevent HIV, reduce stigma, discrimination, gender-based violence, and promote responsible sexual behavior.

UNDP has more than 4 decades of experience in Cuba, and one of the priorities of the current cooperation program is the quality, development and sustainability of social services, particularly for the most vulnerable, in line with the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

Cuba is prepared to achieve its goal of "reaching zero". UNDP will continue to support the country in this goal and is committed to work hand in hand with national institutions such as CENESEX, civil society, and leaders like Mariela Castro to achieve zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS related deaths.

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