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Five faces we were watching in 2011

David Kato, a Ugandan gay rights activist who was murdered in January 2011 Flickr/almcalabria
David Kato opposed the criminalization of homosexuality, which experts say is one of the main barriers to HIV services for men who have sex with men
From scientific breakthroughs to herbal "cures", HIV was never far from the headlines in 2011.

IRIN/PlusNews brings you some of the people behind this year's headlines:

Mandisa Dlamini - Mandisa, daughter of murdered HIV activist Gugu Dlamini, took centre stage at the South African AIDS Conference in the country's port city of Durban. Thirteen years after she was killed because of her HIV status, Gugu's murder continues to be a potent symbol of the dangers of stigmatization.

Mandisa's story was an emotive reminder of the darker side of HIV aid and activism; she said following her mother's death, which has been used to draw international attention to HIV stigma, friends were few and far between. Her story of growing up alone and becoming a teenage mother following Gugu's death before being taken in by a social worker she now calls mother, was not only a window into the lives of so many children, but also a commentary on how the HIV response often fails the most vulnerable ones left behind.

Myron Cohen - A professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology and public health at the US University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Myron Cohen was the principal investigator in HPTN 052, the landmark randomized controlled trial which provided definitive proof that antiretroviral treatment reduces HIV transmission.

Hailed as one of the major scientific breakthroughs of 2011, "treatment as prevention" presents an opportunity for high burden countries to make real progress in significantly reducing the number of new HIV infections.

Ambilikile Mwasapile - The Tanzanian herbalist, a retired Lutheran pastor, made news with a concoction of herbs he claimed could cure several ailments, including diabetes, tuberculosis and HIV infection.

At his busiest, Mwasapile was reported to be seeing up to 2,000 people a day from all over the East African region; news outlets reported that people died from various illnesses while waiting to see him.

HIV activists criticized the Tanzanian government for failing to reign in Mwasapile and properly advise people living with HIV that they must continue with their HIV medication, even after taking his drink.

David Kato - One of Uganda's leading gay rights activists, David Kato was murdered on 26 January, leaving the country's gay community afraid and angry. Kato was vehemently opposed to an anti-homosexuality bill - still before parliament - which would impose the death penalty on people found guilty of "aggravated homosexuality".

The continued stigmatization of men who have sex with men, in Ugandan society and under Ugandan law, has been pinpointed as one of the main reasons they have failed to access HIV services, despite being categorized as a "most at-risk" population.

In October 2010, Kato - a schoolteacher by profession - had his name and photograph and name published by a local tabloid, The Rolling Stone, under the headline, "Hang Them". He and others named in the publication sued, and a judge ruled that the paper had violated their constitutional rights to privacy and ordered compensation.

In November 2011, a court sentenced a man to 30 years in prison for the murder of Kato. However, activists continue to claim there was a cover-up of the events surrounding his death.

Barack Obama – The US is already a global leader in the fight against HIV – close to half the 6.6 million people who accessed ARVs in 2011 did so through the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) – and in December, President Barack Obama reaffirmed his government’s commitment to ending the pandemic when he pledged to provide treatment to six million people globally by 2013, an increase of two million on PEPFAR's previous target.

He also pledged that the US would provide ARVs to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission to 1.5 million women, support 4.7 million male circumcisions in eastern and southern Africa, and fund the distribution of at least one billion male condoms.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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