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Reflecting on Progress, Embracing Unity

Reflecting on Progress, Embracing Unity: A Call for Inclusion, Respect, and Equity in the HIV Community

Speech by: Diane L, presented at the WAAC World AIDS Day Sundowner on 29/11/23

Thank you for gathering here tonight leading up to a day that holds profound significance to all of us. Not only to remember those we have lost to HIV, but also to reflect on the progress we have made and to the challenges that lie ahead. It is crazy to think it is over 37 years since I was diagnoses with HIV. Times and attitudes have changed and there have been so many medical advancements in that time. For which I am very grateful – I never thought I would survive this long.

However, we are still dealing with some of the same issues such as stigma and there is still not equity across the world for all to have access to support and treatment.

The national theme for 2023 are the three words inclusion, respect, and equity.

These themes resonate deeply with the struggle around HIV, a battle that has taught me much about the strength of the human spirit and importance of standing united. It is interesting that the UNAIDS theme this year is ‘let communities lead’. We need to work together from grass roots level to the drug companies, to include representation from all areas of the HIV community.

Inclusion calls us to embrace the diversity within out communities. HIV affects people from all walks of life, transcending boundaries of race, gender, sexual orientation, and social economic status. No one should face stigma or discrimination because of their status. It is us, as a community to create an inclusive society where love and acceptance prevail over fear and prejudice.

It is great we are now asked by drug companies, such as Gilead, what our needs are as consumers and to give feedback on where treatments should be heading. It is obvious if we are included in the planning and decision making, we will be more likely to adhere to our treatment which leads to U=U. This then leads to fewer new cases. Not ending HIV is more expensive than ending it.

I feel that we have now arrived at a place where people with HIV are respected and our voices are heard, not just to tick a box or a seat at the table. We are included at the policy level. Nothing without us. With respect on both sides of the table is how change will happen. People living with HIV, like myself, deserve the same respect as anyone else. We are not defined by our status, but by our resilience, courage, and the love we bring to the world.

Tonight let us renew our commitment to achieving health equity for all. This means ensuring that everyone, regardless of their background or circumstance, has access to prevention, treatment and support they need.

Let’s stay committed to the principles of inclusion, respect, and equity. Together we can break the barriers, challenge stigma, and create a brighter future. Remember, you are not alone on this journey. The strength lies within each of us to make a difference.

In remembrance of those we have lost, we owe it to them to continue the fight not only for acceptance but for the cure.


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