In the late 90s, Sandra Zambrano discovered that one of his brothers, Juan de Dios, was living the final stages of AIDS. The family did not detect the infection until it was very advanced, and it was then when Sandra saw how discrimination works. His brother had a drinking problem, but he had never been fired from work for it. However, the dismissal came when it was known that he had AIDS. He, however, was not silent and reported the case to the media.
“We started fighting and we were not alone, even though there were many myths and legends”, Sandra recalled in an interview last year. Later, another brother of the activist, José Zambrano, began to get involved in defending the rights of lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual and intersex (LGTBI). Many José colleagues were infected with HIV, and this made both brothers start working on the reception of people suffering from AIDS.
The activity as a defender of human rights has brought Sandra to suffer numerous threats and intimidations. Also, her environment has been attacked. Sandra’s daughter was kidnapped for several hours in 2013, and this year have left the country two of her nephews for security reasons. Another nephew, Allan Yoni Banegas Godoy, was kidnapped on last 13 May and later killed. APUVIMEH has since 2013 a precautionary measure of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR); in July 2015, it was requested the extension.
How did your activism for the defense of the rights of LGTB and HIV-positive people begin?
Since I was very young, my house and my grandmother’s house were inhabited by many LGTBI people. They were friends of my brother José Antonio, an activist for LGTBI rights in Honduras for 32 years. Many of them died during the 80s and 90s due to HIV. But what marked my life the most was the loss in 1997 of my brother Juan de Dios, who was also an activist and left us because of the pandemic. My struggle is a family one. The fact that both my brothers were activists, added to the discrimination that both my family and my dead friends suffered, encouraged me to follow in José Antonio’s footsteps.
What are the main demands of the movement LGTBI movement to the Honduran institutions?
We demand respect for the right to life, an end to impunity and the investigation of the murders of LGTBI people. We also demand access to justice, and the promotion of initiatives for social inclusion and public policies in favor of LGTBI people. In addition, we want a law that addresses the issues related to gender identity. You are involved in various projects on HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
What are the most important problems in this area?
We do not receive any support. The State has not even assumed its obligation to include in national budgets the financing of health professionals trained by the Global Fund. In the last two years, there has even been a stock-out of rescue therapies for a few months, which is detrimental to people taking antiretrovirals.
Tell us about Casa Renacer.
Our organization has had Casa Renacer for 13 years. It is a temporary home for people living with HIV. We haven’t counted how many people have passed through there since we opened it, but we estimate that it must be around 2,000 people or maybe more. We take in everyone who needs our services, free of charge. We offer housing, food, access to medication and testing, psychosocial support, and help with empowerment and family reintegration. Usually people come to us through hospitals or NGOs, because as I said before, we do not have any support from the state. The government does not have this issue on its political agenda, but we survive. The health system underwent a process of transformation and the programs on sexually transmitted infections and HIV have disappeared.
In 2015, Honduras approved a reform of the special law for people with HIV.
Yes. Yes, our organization, together with a small group of activists, promoted an initiative to press for the group of activists, promoted an initiative to put pressure on the national Congress. The deputy for the department of Francisco Morazán, the lawyer Rasel Tomé, took up our demand. After weeks of lobbying, we were able to get the the draft bill of reform of the law was included in the agenda of the Secretary of the Congress, for its
discussion and subsequent approval.