People living with HIV: renewing our commitment

Dr. Tonya Nyagiro, head of AIDS, TB, Malaria Unit, IFRC

Suzette Moses-Burton, Executive Director , Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+)

The Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP+) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) signed a renewed partnership last week dedicated to strengthening the engagement of people living with HIV in the response to HIV/AIDS . The partnership focuses on the Movement’s work on rapidly expanding access to HIV care including voluntary counselling, HIV testing, treatment and services.

After three decades of working towards effective treatment expansion, the drive has come, first and foremost, from the ongoing advocacy of people living with – and affected by – HIV. These are people who know first-hand the importance of dignity.

Today, 1 in 3 people living with HIV is unaware of their status and are therefore missing out on the opportunity to protect their own health and that of others. Nearly 50 per cent of those who are diagnosed as HIV-positive are lost to follow up with before they can be assessed for treatment eligibility. Barriers to treatment can include distance, transportation cost, stigma, fear, staff shortage, lack of supplies and long waiting times.  

To reverse this trend we must effectively engage with people living with HIV.

The IFRC and GNP+ have a long history of collaboration, particularly in the fight against stigma and discrimination involving more than 100 National Red Cross Red Crescent Societies and people living with HIV.

The primary goal of this partnership is to continue to advocate for people living with HIV to be at the centre of the response and ensure they can access treatment and care services in an environment that is supportive to meet all their needs. Instead of being regarded as mere recipients of care and vessels of a virus that needs to be contained, people living with HIV, if properly supported, can be  actively involved as part of the solution to the epidemic and not merely seen as part of the problem.

The IFRC, with its worldwide network of societies and volunteers worldwide, is committed strengthening access to HIV services in partnership with GNP+ and its affiliates. One key component of this partnership will be the adaptation and operationalization of the newly developed guidance for Positive Health, Dignity and Prevention.

This partnership will amplify our voice, allowing us to help improve dignity, quality, and length of life for people living with HIV. If achieved, this will have beneficial effects not only for people living with HIV, but also partners, families, and communities, including reducing the likelihood of new HIV infections.