(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) It has been over three decades since the first case of AIDS was recorded, leaving a trail of crippling fear that gripped the nations of the Caribbean. Though much work is still to be done, the fear is now abating. More governments have sought funding and technical support from international donors to reverse the spread of HIV (the virus) and the impact of AIDS. More has been done locally and regionally to address the health, legal, ethical, social and economic challenges presented by the epidemic in the Caribbean than any other public health emergency in history.
Thirty years later, there is a new conversation—ending the AIDS crisis. We (communities of PLHIV and key affected populations) support the conversation. We also must galvanise ourselves in solidarity, now more than ever, to maintain the gains of the past while mobilising our communities to take the lead and fast track efforts to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. Our future is dependent on us.
The effective leadership of communities of PLHIV and key affected populations is evidence of the true maturity of the HIV response. To this end, the Caribbean Regional Network of People Living with HIV (CRN+), the authentic voice and representation of the community is committed to empowering leaders to cross-fertilise efforts with our partners. As we utilise our value-added experiences and abilities we hope to realise ‘Positive Health, Dignity and Prevention’. For this to happen, we must do a few things differently as we contemplate the endgame in this global crisis.
• Protect the gains of the prevention, treatment, care and support efforts and related intervention by enhancing social support and protection, especially for the most vulnerable.
• Meaningfully address issues affecting sexual health – choices and diversity.
• Increase efforts to build the capacity of communities (living with and affected by HIV & AIDS). We must pledge to lead civil society within a broader multisectoral response which includes governments and the private sector in crafting and implementing the national strategies to end the crisis.
• Strengthen efforts to engage young people; enable them to lead on addressing issues of stigma and discrimination through the promotion of dignity and self actualisation.
For me, living with HIV is a rebirthing of wellbeing. This inspires me to be committed to playing my part in advancing the welfare of the whole human family by taking care of my health; promoting dignity and contributing to community leadership that will help efforts to reach zero new infection.
This World AIDS Day, as we reflect on the many lives and relationships decimated by this virus, let us remember, that offered to us now, is the opportunity to take personal responsibility and do something positive to inspire hope, and to save and improve lives.