Today the Caribbean Regional Network of People Living with HIV & AIDS (CRN+) commemorates World AIDS Day under the theme “Communities make the difference”. This theme is important and reminds us of the essential role that communities have played and continue to play in the AIDS response at the international, national and local levels.
31 years after the start of this epidemic, we today as a community, come together in solidarity for another World AIDS Day. We have come a long way and are fortunate to have achieved great progress towards eliminating HIV and AIDS. This disease is no longer seen as a death sentence, however, despite the gains we have made in controlling the epidemic, there are still challenges to overcome.
Communities contribute to the AIDS response in many different ways. Their leadership and advocacy ensure that the response remains relevant and grounded, keeping people at the centre and leaving no one behind. Communities include peer educators, networks of people living with or affected by HIV, such as gay men and other men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, sex workers, women, young people, counsellors, community health workers, door-to-door service providers, civil society organizations and grass-roots activists.
The role of communities is even more important at a time when reduced funding and a shrinking space for civil society are putting the sustainability of services and advocacy efforts in jeopardy. CRN+ renews the call for the Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV (GIPA). The engagement of people living with HIV is most urgent as countries scale up their national AIDS responses to achieve the goal of universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support services. Experiences continue to show that when communities are proactively involved in ensuring their own well-being, success is more likely. The strong advocacy role played by communities is needed more than ever to ensure that AIDS remains on the political agenda that human rights are respected and that decision-makers and implementers are held accountable.
CRN+ remains focused on providing support and advocacy services, especially for People Living with and affected by HIV in the Caribbean Community. For CRN+ the only way to achieve Ending AIDS by 2030 is with the full and equal participation of Communities.
According to UNAIDS, communities make an invaluable contribution to the AIDS response. Communities of people living with HIV, of key populations—gay men and other men who have sex with men, people who use drugs, sex workers, transgender people, prisoners—and of women, young people lead and support the delivery of HIV services, defend human rights, support their peers. Communities are the lifeblood of an effective AIDS response and an important pillar of support.
Communities make the difference. Get involved today.
Tyrone Ellis, Chair
Caribbean Regional Network of People Living with HIV & AIDS (CRN+)