Melbourne, Australia—Caribbean success stories on advocacy and human rights formed part of the region’s presentation to the 20th International AIDS Conference in Australia last week.
Dereck Springer, Coordinating Unit Director of the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) was among those who attended to represent PANCAP and the region. Mr Springer had two opportunities to present on behalf of PANCAP. In keeping with the importance of advocacy to the work of PANCAP, he participated in a dialogue on success stories on advocacy and human rights. Secondly, he attended a panel discussion convened by the Caribbean to assess the impact of Intellectual Property Legislation on the future availability of antiretroviral drugs in the Caribbean.
The week started under a cloud of tragedy when flight MH17, which carried many delegates en route to the conference was shot down. However in the spirit of overcoming adversity, the conference carried on honouring and remembering the fallen colleagues.
The aim of the session at which Mr Springer presented was to open a dialogue among drug user communities, other key affected populations and donors on access to sexual health services and resources.
He explained that PANCAP, in collaboration with UNAIDS, is mounting a programme of activities under the theme, Justice for All. The aim of the programme is to promote activities consistent with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to achieve one of the goals of the United Nations High Level Meeting Political Declaration (2011): to eliminate stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV by 2015.
Mr Springer observed that the Society Against Sexual Orientation and Discrimination (SASOD) contributes to the regional and global human rights agenda, and pledged that PANCAP will document and share SASOD’s work as a model for civil society organisations working in advocacy and human rights in the Caribbean region.
Dr Shanti Singh-Anthony, National AIDS Programme Manager for Guyana, commended SASOD for its work in Guyana, and shared some of their successes in reaching policy makers, implementers and the wider community. She noted that SASOD’s work contributes significantly to the national response.
Dr Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis and Chair of PANCAP also made a statement commending SASOD for its work. He further supported Mr Springer’s commitment to documenting and sharing SASOD’s work as a model for other countries in the region.
SASOD is one of the winners of the 2014 Red Ribbon Award in the area of advocacy and human rights.
Mr Springer and Dr Edward Greene, UN Special Envoy on HIV and AIDS in the Caribbean, attended a panel discussion at which Mr Maurice Tomlinson of LGBTI Aware Caribbean and others explored the impact of Intellectual Property Legislation on the future availability of antiretroviral drugs in the Caribbean. The session was moderated by Dr John Waters of the Centre of Integral Orientation and Investigation (COIN).
Presenters noted that shifts in funding patterns, free trade agreements and intellectual property legislation in the Caribbean region are likely to have a negative impact on the cost, accessibility and coverage of antiretroviral drugs. The panel of experts mapped the context of this issue and its human rights implications, and identified strategies to address the threat.
Mr Springer shared that the conference provided an opportunity to reflect, renew, refresh, reconnect and recommit to ending AIDS. It also provided a forum for solidarity in the response.
More information on the conference can be found at the official conference web site: http://www.aids2014.org/