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Parliamentary Reception to Commemorate World AIDS Day and Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week

Speaking Notes from ICAD Executive Director, Robin Montgomery

Co-hosts : Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development (ICAD), Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN), Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, and the all-Parliamentary Global Health Caucus on HIV, TB and Malaria

December 2, 2019 (Ottawa, ON)

Good afternoon everyone.

I’d like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather today is the stunningly beautiful, traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin nation.

My name is Robin Montgomery and I’m the ED of the Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development – a Canadian coalition of approximately 100 members from front-line HIV service providers, Canadian International Development groups, labour unions, faith-based groups, academics, students and community leaders with lived experience.

It’s such a real pleasure to be here today and to see so many friends with us, and so many new friends. It’s wonderful to see in the room our members of parliament, our government partners, and our civil society and community partners. Thank you so much for taking time from your work day to be here with us.

December 1 – is a day when communities around the world commemorate World AIDS Day and the launch of Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week here in Canada. We commemorate with efforts that celebrate our successes and pause to remember the millions who we have lost in the fight against HIV.

It offers us opportunity to reflect, to re-calibrate, and to mobilize with increased force towards our collective Global Goals to end HIV as a global public health threat by 2030.

However, according to this year’s UNAIDS World AIDS Day report, we continue to see that the pace of progress in reducing new HIV infections, in increasing access to treatment, and to ending AIDS-related deaths… is slowing down. We are off-track in delivering on our 2030 SDG agenda.

The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is Communities make the difference.

The commemoration of World AIDS Day and Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week, is an important opportunity to recognize the essential role that communities have played and continue to play in the AIDS response at the global, national and local levels.

How many of us in the room represent Community? Please stand up. Have a look around the room.

For those of us who are not standing, please stand with us.

Because all of us do. All of us are part of many different communities – and you being here today reflects that we all are part of the HIV community…. Meaning, we all have an important role to play in doing our utmost to ensure that we get to 2030 with an end to HIV as a threat to global public health.

As we well know, communities contribute to the HIV response in many, many different ways.

Community leadership and advocacy ensures that the response to HIV remains relevant and grounded, keeping people at the centre of the response, and leaving no one behind.

It’s our collective community response to HIV – and to co-infections such as TB and Hepatitis C that often go hand in hand with HIV– that really puts the “U” in Universal Health Care – as it’s known in Canada and Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as it’s now championed internationally.

We do this by reaching communities most marginalized from mainstream society, most affected by HIV/TB and HCV, and the most at risk of infection…

We do this by reaching communities who experience the most human rights related abuses…. the communities who experience the greatest gender-related inequalities… and the communities who face the greatest stigma and discrimination… In other words, we do this by reaching communities most at risk of being left behind.

As the HIV community, it is our mission to put the « last mile » first in terms of improving access and retention to HIV prevention, diagnostics, treatment, care and support across the HIV treatment cascade, across the care continuum.

Communities include peer educators and outreach workers, networks of people living with or affected by HIV, such as Indigenous communities, gay men and other men who have sex with men, people who use drugs, sex workers, women and young people, as well as counsellors, community health workers, community service providers, civil society organizations, grass-roots activists and community leaders.

This year’s World AIDS Day theme of “Communities Make the Difference” is an important call to action to highlight and empower the role of communities – particularly now when we see so many examples across the globe where plummeting levels of funding and a shrinking space for civil society are putting in jeopardy the sustainability of HIV community services and are silencing advocacy efforts.

If we are going to meet our 2030 goals, we need to see greater investment in communities to address and break down the thick barriers that stop communities from delivering, and accessing, timely, youth-friendly, culturally safe, culturally appropriate services.

This means, greater focus and investment in community mobilization, in community-led responses, in community-led service delivery, in community-based monitoring, in community-driven scorecards, as well as in community based advocacy – if not least of all to ensure that HIV remains on the political agenda… and by that I mean, the political agenda at all levels – the global, the national, and the local.

So we have a great line up of speakers today – each of whom will speak to priority issues and experiences of community, the Indigenous community – sharing local, national and international perspectives on community-led HIV responses.

It’s my great pleasure to introduce our distinguished speakers: Lynn Labillois, Donna McBride, Trevor Stratton and Shauna Olney.