Feature story

People living with HIV meet for strengthened AIDS response

20 July 2012

UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Programme, Paul De Lay speaking at the Positive Leadership Summit Living 2012. Washington DC, 20 July 2012. Credit: UNAIDS/Y.Gripas

People living with HIV from around the globe met in Washington, DC to identify the advocacy and policy positions that will re-define the global advocacy agenda for people living with HIV in response to a changing epidemic. The Positive Leadership Summit was organised by the Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP+) as a lead-up to the 19th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) to be held in Washington from 22-27 July 2012.

LIVING 2012 brought together people living with HIV (PLHIV) from 85 countries to guide and inform actions and programmes through an evidence-informed advocacy strategy developed by and for people living with HIV.

“LIVING 2012 has been an amazing opportunity for people living with HIV to meet and discuss the issues that matter the most to all of us,” said Kevin Moody, CEO of the Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP+). “These global meetings are essential to determine common ground amongst people living with HIV and to define how the HIV response can be more effective, efficient and inclusive.”

According to new data released by UNAIDS ahead of AIDS 2012, 34.2 million people were living with HIV in 2011 and eight million people had access to life-saving treatment in low- and middle-income countries. Despite the substantial numbers of people newly starting treatment, it is only just over half (54%) of the 14.8 million people eligible.

One of the main questions raised at LIVING 2012 was how can HIV treatment, prevention, care and support services be made better and more accessible to more people. Participants emphasized that, access to quality treatment and prevention should be available to all people and inclusive of all key populations. This access can only be achieved effectively when it happens under the umbrella of Positive Health, Dignity and Prevention.

In addition, the preventive effect of quality HIV treatment was seen as an important opportunity in reducing new HIV infections. However, concerns were raised regarding the lack of scientific evidence for early treatment; possible human rights violations; and the need to focus access to treatment based on medical needs of people living with HIV first, rather than public health concerns.

Other key issues explored were how can laws and policies be utilized to protect and promote the human rights of all people living with HIV; and how can the global community of people living with HIV maintain and increase its effectiveness and its ability to mobilize itself and respond to the most pressing current needs.

These global meetings are essential to determine common ground amongst people living with HIV and to define how the HIV response can be more effective, efficient and inclusive

Kevin Moody, CEO of the Global Network of People living with HIV

The focus on elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive was seen as a renewed focus on ensuring a human rights-based response that includes the sexual and reproductive health rights of women living with HIV. “The elimination agenda has also to focus on keeping women healthy not just mothers. There is a need for all women to access family planning and treatment as prevention,” said Mariana, a young women living with HIV. 

Building upon themes from LIVING 2008, participants also discussed issues such as criminalisation of the HIV transmission and positive prevention. They also focused on emerging priorities such as treatment as prevention, workplace policies, leadership, income generation, etc. 

The two-day conference was a mix of visionary plenary, topic-driven sessions, skills-building sessions, thematic discussions, and networking sessions based on geographical groupings, populations and identities. The meeting aimed to prepare delegates living with HIV to be not just attendees of the AIDS 2012, but also leaders on the issues that are important to them.

The LIVING 20012 Summit is promoted by the LIVING Partnership, a consortium of organizations committed to strengthening the movement of people living with HIV and their communities. UNAIDS is part of this consortium.