Signficant advancements have been made in HIV treatment over the past two decades. What was once an almost universally fatal disease can now be managed as a chronic medical condition with access to and support for comprehensive care and treatment. This progress would not have been possible without fierce advocacy and mobilization of people living with HIV. Unfortunately, as our medical science advanced, support for the advocates who demanded this progress has waned.
Yet the ability to engage in care and to pursue treatment is too often hindered by the fear that many people living with HIV have: that others will learn of their HIV-positive status and discriminate against them. It is clear — the voices of people living with HIV are just as critical now as ever.
At AIDS United, supporting the voices and meaningful involvement of people living with HIV is at the crux of all we do. Nowhere is this more apparent than in our Positive Organizing Project.
The Positive Organizing Project
Getting Back to Our Roots
The Positive Organizing Project supports nine grantees working to revitalize grassroots mobilization and engagement of people living with HIV through innovative approaches. With funding from the Gilead Foundation, the nine grantees are improving HIV treatment outcomes by addressing HIV-related stigma and raising awareness of HIV among community leaders and policy makers.
From focusing on the unique needs and experiences of transgender women, providing mentorship and policy training to youth living with HIV, mobilizing African Americans in Indiana, and expanding peer support for women living with HIV — each of the 9 grantees is harnessing the power and resiliency inherent in their communities to make a clear difference in the lives of people living with HIV.
Support greater involvement and decision making of people living with HIV at all levels . . . To stimulate the creation of supportive political, legal, and social environments.
– THE DENVER PRINCIPLES, 1983
Empowering Young People to Find Voices
Georgia Equality’s Youth HIV Policy Advisors
Georgia Equality’s Youth HIV Policy Advisors’ Program, supported by the Positive Organizing Project, trained a group of young people living with HIV on the policy-making process and effective HIV advocacy. Trainings focused on the basics of HIV; how local, state, and federal policies and laws are made; and how policy change is a “structural” intervention for HIV that differs from direct service.
The Advisors created policy recommendations on issues including re-investing in HIV prevention, increasing access to stable housing services, and incorporating the voices of young people living with HIV during the decision-making process.
In a series of events held throughout Georgia, the Advisors told their personal stories, provided basic HIV education, and shared their recommendations to community leaders.
“I’m involved in HIV advocacy because there is hardly anyone of my age, gender, ethnicity, and HIV+ status involved in using policy to ameliorate the disparities so often referenced.
Lots of people can cite these differences but it takes special kinds of people to change them.”