AIDS and our communities
Published by the Visayan Daily Star
Editor-in-Chief & President
Bureau Chief, Dumaguete
MAJA P. DELY
|CARLOS ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA
We commemorate World AIDS Day every December 1 and for this year, the theme was “Communities make a Difference” where importance was given to recognizing the essential role communities have played and continue to play in the AIDS response at the international, national and local levels.
Communities contribute to AIDS response in many ways. Their leadership and advocacy ensure that the response remains relevant and grounded, keeping people at the center 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 and sex workers, women and young people, counsellors, community health workers, door-to-door service providers, civil society organizations and grass-roots activists.
World AIDS Day offers an important platform to highlight the role of communities at a time when reduced funding and a shrinking space for civil society are putting the sustainability of services and advocacy efforts in jeopardy. Greater mobilization of communities is urgently required to address the barriers that stop communities delivering services, including restrictions on registration and an absence of social contracting modalities. 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.
In the Philippines that has been reported as the country with the fastest growing number of HIV cases in the world, the role of community in the conditions that have created this unenviable position is even more pronounced. There are failures and missed opportunities but on the bright side, there is a lot of room for growth if our communities decide to face reality, acknowledge the existence of a serious problem, and join hands to work together to reduce the impact of HIV and AIDS on our vulnerable community members who require our help.
Pretending a problem does not exist has proven ineffective and if the communities concerned in this country do not act soon, it will only grow worse with every passing year. If our communities decide to make a difference and act, we have the potential to reverse the country’s worrying trend and record when it comes to HIV and AIDS.*