PANCAP: Invest in communities
GEORGETOWN, Guyana – The director of the Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP), Dereck Springer, has called for further investments in communities as the region joined the global community in observing International Aids Day on Sunday.
The event is being observed under the theme “Communities make the difference” and Springer said he believes the theme shines a spotlight on the phenomenal work that is being done by communities.
“It allows us to pay tribute to the passion, advocacy, resourcefulness and relevance of communities and to honour and celebrate their stellar contributions to the HIV response.”
He said communities include various stakeholders including peer educators, networks of People living with or affected by HIV, as well as sex workers, civil society organisations and grass-roots activists. Springer said that since 1993 he has witnessed first-hand how communities have come together to do extraordinary things in their response to the needs of our brothers and sisters who were and continue to be challenged as People living with or affected by HIV.
“As someone whose response was grounded at the grassroots level, I have seen communities give birth to groups and organisations to respond to HIV and the needs of key populations, speak up, inspire, and embrace our common humanity.
“I have seen communities standalone against the self-righteous groups that see communities of men who have sex with men and transgender persons as a threat to the status quo and their authority over our so-called ‘ordered societies’. Communities have been an easy target for vilification and ridicule.”
Springer said that communities have stood against the oppressors that seek to relegate them to second class citizenship and they have also responded with compassion, enthusiasm, courage and practical solutions to effect positive change and to transform their lives.
“It is the overwhelming response of communities that set us on this journey of resilience and has now given us hope that we can end AIDS. It is the advocacy and bold leadership of communities that forced the world to mount an unprecedented response to a public health threat such as we have never seen before.”
Springer said communities were deeply affected and instead of crumbling in the midst of winter they rose up and found within themselves an invincible summer.
“It is their advocacy that saw the establishment of PANCAP, the first United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV and AIDS and global financing institutions such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. It is communities that have strategically engaged with international development partners to ensure responsible transition and sustainability.
“We must recognise communities as a coveted asset to the HIV response. We must see communities as the glue that holds us together. We must see communities as the backbone of the HIV response. Communities can bring evidence of what is happening in their respective groups to inform advocacy. We must see communities as worthy of investment.
“Therefore, as donor resources diminish, our governments and private sector must continue to invest in communities. When we invest in communities we are investing in our and our children’s future. We are investing in the vehicle to ending AIDS since communities are better placed to reach individuals that are underserved and who experience structural barriers, including stigma and discrimination, to access to prevention, treatment, care and support services.
“When we invest in communities, we are ensuring that we leave no one behind. Therefore, let us all commit to investing in communities for ending AIDS,” Springer added. (CMC)