We talked to Karen Johnson, the Global CAmpaign Coordinator at the International HIV/AIDS Alliance on why they are taking part in Blog Action Day and how inequality affects people living with HIV/AIDS.
To work with communities through local, national and global action on HIV, health and human rights.
What does Inequality mean you, and the people in your organization?
Inequality is everywhere. You don’t have to look very far, in any society, to see some form of inequality. Economic or social inequalities, or inequality around race, religion, gender or sexual identity. However, there is one common thread – those living in poverty, the most marginalized and vulnerable individuals and communities, are always hit hardest.
For those groups and individuals most vulnerable to HIV, inequality can mean the difference between living a healthy, happy life in dignity and peace; and living a life on the fringes of society, stigmatized and persecuted simply for being who you are.
We work with communities who face inequalities on a daily basis which makes it difficult for them to claim the most fundamental rights and freedoms we have as human beings – our human rights. For example, access to essential healthcare services by some groups vulnerable to HIV is impossible due to structural inequalities driven by discriminatory laws and policies such as Anti-Homosexuality laws. Even if they can access healthcare, they are subjected to the most awful prejudice and discrimination.
What people, organisations, campaigns who tackle inequality do you find inspiring?
I have worked with international organisations for over 10 years tackling inequality at regional and international levels and I have worked with many inspiring people and organisations.
The most inspiring to me are those who do not sit in comfortable, air-conditioned offices in London, Geneva or New York. They are people who work directly with marginalised communities and individuals to support and empower them claim their human rights.
Many of these people face stigma and discrimination themselves in their work such as those who work for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), an organisation that fights for the rights of LGBTI people in Uganda and a partner of the Alliance. I cannot imagine what it is like to carry out such work in Uganda where the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Act criminalizing same sex relations keeps rearing its ugly head.
Do you think that inequality can be overcome?
Yes, inequality can be overcome if we work together to combat discrimination of marginalized and minority groups. History shows us time and time again that inequalities have no place in a healthy and happy society. They are socially and economically destructive. Governments and decision makers must understand and be held to account for the negative consequences these discriminatory laws and polices have on the rights of whole communities. We need to challenge them to remove structural inequalities and demand that all people are treated fairly and equally.
What can ordinary people do to help overcome and stop inequality?
The International HIV/AIDS Alliance is preparing to launch a campaign to address the inequalities facing Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Inter-sex (LGBTI) people in countries where they are considered criminals. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and sign up to our newsletter to be kept up to date on how you can take part and support our campaign.
What suggestions and ideas do you have for Blog Action Day participants that they can use in their posts on October 16.
We are about to launch our new campaign and will have great content very soon, in the meantime take a look at our website and watch our movie Strictly Beza: Dancing in Ethiopia, about an inspiring community group using dance and music to get the message out about HIV prevention and helping to remove prejudice against people living with HV/AIDS/.
Why is the International HIV/AIDSs Alliance taking part in for Blog Action Day?
The International HIV/AIDS Alliance is taking part in Blog Action Day because it is inequality that is holding us back from achieving our vision of ending AIDS. The lives of all human beings are of equal value, and everyone has the right to access the HIV information and services they need for a healthy life. If inequalities were eliminated, especially those inequalities driven by discriminatory laws and policies that criminalise vulnerable groups, the HIV response would be much more effective and we would be much closer to our vision of a world without AIDS.