HIV and Human Rights: Know It, Prove It, Change It: A manual for community based organizations

January 4, 2014

The 2013 UNAIDS Report on the Global HIV Epidemic released last month holds added significance given that we are two years away from the Millennium Development Goal 6 deadline. Michel Sidibe, the UNAIDS Executive Director says that AIDS remains an unfinished MDG requiring solidarity and determination. Stigma and discrimination remain rife, and punitive laws remain a critical barrier for those needing to access critical HIV services. At this critical juncture, Sidibe acknowledges the need to recognize the “shared responsibility of the AIDS response and be able to put into practice the many lessons learnt”.

As part of the HIV/AIDS response, public education and advocacy is needed to help reduce stigma and discrimination, and ensure protection of basic legal rights. Situating the HIV response within a rights based framework means recognizing that People living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA) and key affected populations such as People who use Drugs (PUD), Commercial Sex Workers (CSWs), and Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) often face widespread human rights violations. The participation of community based organizations of these marginalized communities, are critical in ensuring that their voices are front and centre in a rights based response to HIV/AIDS.

Know It, Prove It, Change It: A Rights Curriculum for Grassroots Groups is a three part manual created to help grassroots organizations in communities affected by HIV/AIDS to understand their basic rights, document rights abuses and design and implement advocacy campaigns. Developed through a participatory process based on community requests, it shows us how to ground the normative principles of human rights in practical realities, thereby empowering us to help ourselves and our communities. Created in partnership by Asia Catalyst, Thai AIDS Treatment Action Campaign (TTAG), and Dongjen Center for Human Rights Education and Action, the manual brings together all the knowledge, experiences and lessons learnt in HIV advocacy from around the world; from decriminalizing homosexuality in India, to public provision of antiretroviral treatment in Thailand and South Africa and ensuring right to services for PUDs in Canada. This tool provides information on how to begin an often complicated, long, but rewarding journey.

Within the Asia-Pacific region where the organizations predominantly work, laws that criminalize key affected populations are critical hurdles to appropriate public health responses. A UNDPReport on HIV and human rights in the region found that weak anti-discrimination laws affect the lives of PLHIV, creating barriers to health care, prevention and treatment, employment and education opportunities. “The report’s findings demonstrate the urgent need for practical measures to be taken to ensure people who experience violations can access the legal system to claim their rights,” says Shiba Phurailatpam, Regional Coordinator of the Asia-Pacific Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS (APN+).

Know It, Prove It, Change It provides knowledge, technical know-how, and practical strategies and tactics on changing policies, laws and practices, harnessing the power of the media to shape public attitudes and mobilizing community power. Designed to be of practical use and benefit, it is a step-by-step guide on designing and pursuing advocacy objectives and campaigns in a structured and strategic way. It provides guidance on analyzing contexts, mapping actors and building up a network of allies.

The rights training manuals are presented in three volumes. Know It: The Rights Framework discusses international human rights law and how it applies to people living with HIV/AIDS and other marginalized communities. Prove It: Documenting Rights Abuses gives an overview of the basics of rights research and documentation, and Change It: Ending Rights Abuses shows how to move from documentation to advocacy in planning and conducting local, national and international advocacy.

Each book includes a manual and trainer’s supplement which contains lesson plans, sample exercises and templates that correspond to the manual content so that the resources and knowledge can be shared amongst your community. It also links readers up to a host of other resources and manuals from other organizations on specific areas such as media advocacy, policy mechanisms and advice for individual activists at risk.

Download a copy of Know It, Prove It, Change It: A rights curriculum for grassroots groups here


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