AIDS Issues Update Blog

Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS


Posted by Tim Murphy , December 09, 2013


In Haiti last month, the UNAIDS office hosted Housing Works and other HIV/AIDS and LGBT groups for training sessions on how to log human-rights violations into the Martus software system.

Since 2008, Housing Works has worked with HIV/AIDS and LGBT groups in Haiti. Housing Works opened an office there in Port-au-Prince in 2010 after the country’s devastating earthquake. Below follows a dispatch from Edner Boucicaut, who heads up HW’s Haiti office, on last month’s training session for using human-rights software for HW Haiti and other HIV/AIDS and LGBT groups in the country:

This is a joint initiative of Housing Works and UNAIDS, forming part of a wide awareness-raising campaign against homophobia and to combat violence and discrimination towards LGBTs and people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHIVs).

Martus Human Rights Software is an important tool for collecting key data in the strictest confidence on all cases of violations that people in vulnerable groups experiencing daily in their workplace, street, school, church and even in their own home.

We are regularly dealing with cases where people come to our office to complain about job loss due to their HIV status despite their strong performance within their institutions. Some PLWHIVs have reported that financial institutions request proof of HIV test before they will hire them, to make sure they are not infected.

Housing Works provides support to LGBTs and PLWHIVs and is determined to foster respect and tolerance towards people of different sexual orientations. No company should deny employment to people because of their HIV status or sexual orientation.

Mr. Gérald Marie Alfred, Protection Officer at SEROVIE Foundation, a local organization working with LGBTs, says that he constantly works on cases where clients report frequent cases of torture or injury towards them in the streets, schools or many other parts of the country. ‘’Most of them refuse to lodge a formal complaint because they fear being mocked despite scars on their bodies’’, said Mr. Alfred. “Those courageous enough to see a lawyer face demand for proof in order for the lawyer to take legal action against those who may have committed the offenses.”

Mr. Alfred said that the implementation of Martus would help human rights activists in launching legal proceedings against presumed offenders.

Participants at the training session said that Martus would help combat an increase in exclusion and hatred toward LGBTs in Haiti.

In addition, an Observatory (monitoring center), made up of professionals combating homophobia, has been established, following the implementation of the software. Its main purpose will be to advocate on behalf of vulnerable groups. This observatory will also analyze homophobic messages and behaviors in the country, then, with the findings, will submit human-rights violations to law firms to obtain legal assistance.

Additionally, there will be peaceful sit-ins and demonstrations outside public buildings such as the Parliament, the Ministry for Justice and Human Rights institutions.

BENETECH, a California-based firm, conducted the training. Its two big servers in Budapest and Toronto ensure that field data from MARTUS will be stored in a safe place. Only its network users can get access to the coded and encrypted data stored in the servers.

Human-rights workers from Jacmel, Gonaives, Cayes, Saint Marc and the greater Port-au-Prince region came for the training. Each will receive a laptop and a 3G USB stick to easily transfer data to the servers. They will then be given training on how to conduct interviews with victims who consent to them. This tool will launch on Human Rights Day, December 10. This software is now used in more than 13 countries, in particular in the United States and some African countries.

Ecuador is among several Latin America countries where public institutions are using this software to store key data. More than 300 users are connected to MARTUS and around 2500 accounts have been created. The software’s recent translation into Creole will now allow Haitian institutions to use it.

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