Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week


World AIDS Day was this past Friday. We gathered for our annual vigil with TOMS and with our Members afterwards at the Drop-in to honour those who have passed. The road to end HIV is a long one and we are still on its path. As we remember those we have lost and honour their lives, we look to a future without HIV/AIDS. However, we must also be aware of the realities around us if we want to effect real change. Awareness campaigns continue this week with Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week.

Indigenous communities are disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS. We can make progress towards health equity through land-based teachings and community-based programs. Let’s take action to end the HIV epidemic.

As we navigate our current realities, let’s remember the work that has led to us being where we are and continues to guide us forward.
Forty years ago, visionary activists developed the Denver Principles manifesto, which shaped the active involvement of people living with HIV in the AIDS response. This was a historic first step towards the Greater Involvement of People with HIV (GIPA) principle, which promotes the meaningful participation of people living with HIV in decision-making, not as passive subjects but as protagonists fully involved in the response to AIDS.

This manifesto, written in June 1983, launched the self-empowerment movement for people living with HIV. As Sean Strub, former Executive Director of The Sero Project, writes, The Denver Principles document is historic in its assertion that those who have HIV have a fundamental and inalienable right to participate in decision-making that significantly impacts their lives and survival.” In language that has inspired people living with HIV over the last forty years, the manifesto asserts:


THE DENVER PRINCIPLES (Statement from the advisory committee of the People with AIDS) We condemn attempts to label us as “victims,” a term which implies defeat, and we are only occasionally “patients,” a term which implies passivity, helplessness, and dependence upon the care of others. We are “People With AIDS.”  

1. Support us in our struggle against those who would fire us from our jobs, evict us from our homes, refuse to touch us or separate us from our loved ones, our community or our peers, since available evidence does not support the view that AIDS can be spread by casual, social contact.

2. Not scapegoat people with AIDS, blame us for the epidemic or generalize about our lifestyles.  

1. Form caucuses to choose their own representatives, to deal with the media, to choose their own agenda and to plan their own strategies.

2. Be involved at every level of decision-making and specifically serve on the boards of directors of provider organizations.

3. Be included in all AIDS forums with equal credibility as other participants, to share their own experiences and knowledge.

4. Substitute low-risk sexual behaviors for those which could endanger themselves or their partners; we feel people with AIDS have an ethical responsibility to inform their potential sexual partners of their health status.  

1. To as full and satisfying sexual and emotional lives as anyone else.

2. To quality medical treatment and quality social service provision without discrimination of any form including sexual orientation, gender, diagnosis, economic status or race.

3. To full explanations of all medical procedures and risks, to choose or refuse their treatment modalities, to refuse to participate in research without jeopardizing their treatment and to make informed decisions about their lives.

4. To privacy, to confidentiality of medical records, to human respect and to choose who their significant others are.

5. To die–and to LIVE–in dignity.