We’re reading about listening to people who know what they’re talking about
Impact of Community Activism – With flat funding and rising need, the importance of spending every dollar committed to HIV responses effectively, and on evidence-based action has never been more critical. Direct involvement of affected populations is essential to determining where that isn’t happening and what needs to change. This annual report from the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition shows how a worldwide network of activists achieved that involvement, along with expansion and commitments to viral load testing, greater participation in HIV spending decisions by members of previously excluded populations,and patent challenges that raised awareness of access barriers to key antiretroviral medicines.
Activism delivers impact – The action in this case focused on making an existing mechanism work. In June 2013, the U.S. State Department sent a cable to all in-country President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief teams to seek, report on, and provide written responses to input from groups representing those most affected by HIV. Last year, new guidelines were put in place that specified that those groups were to include sexual minorities, people who earn income through sex work, and people who inject drugs, and specified that teams should prepare a plan to engage the groups, convene quarterly formal meetings with the groups, solicit their written feedback and inform them of the outcomes of their participation in establishing program planning. Still, real engagement, with adequate notice, materials, dialogue and use of civil society input has been a work in progress. That’s why this description of what civil society activists with support from Health GAP managed to add to the process this year is encouraging, including accelerated treatment access expansion, salary support for health care workers, and commitments on the part of in-country teams to work closely with groups representing men who have sex with men.
Open Letter to the Icelandic Foreign minister Lilja Dögg Alfreðasdóttir regarding the Icelandic representatives to the 2016 High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS – “Words describing human rights are often stated as a matter of fact, but without a real understanding of how it is to be denied those rights,” this letter signed by more than 200 human rights, sex worker advocacy, and HIV treatment access groups explains. At issue is the request by Icelandic representatives to the upcoming high-level United Nations meeting on HIV to remove the words “sex work” from the political declaration of intent to confront the epidemic, and replace those words with “people who sell sex.” The writers explain the difference, but even more compellingly explain the importance of calling people what they ask to be called.