As the HIV community in Türkiye, we have been regularly publishing World AIDS Day Declarations since 2017.
This year's declaration title is:
Is an #AIDSfreefuture possible?
In the World AIDS Day 2023 Declaration, co-signed by Red Ribbon Istanbul and Positive Living Association, we remind the importance of World AIDS Day, draw attention to some points that need to be faced for the success of the global AIDS response, and convey the demands of the community for Türkiye's AIDS response to be truly successful. You can read the declaration below and download it as PDF from bit.ly/WAD2023-Turkiye
Red Ribbon Istanbul #AllAboutHIV Turkiye's HIV information provider
World AIDS Day 2023 Türkiye Declaration; Is an #AIDSfreefuture possible?
Looking back over the last 40 years, we see that there have been significant scientific advances in the field of HIV... Unfortunately, this does not yet make it easier to achieve the goal of zero new HIV cases because of the persistent HIV-related stigma and discrimination. #AIDSfreefuture is only possible if we work together, give the subjects the value they deserve, and position them where they should be in the leadership of the movement. Otherwise, we will continue to repeat similar demands every year, and we will neither be able to build an #AIDSfreefuture nor end HIV-related stigma and discrimination.
We are in an environment, even at a crossroads, where humanity is facing a common climatic, social, economic, and fundamental rights and freedoms crisis. At this very point, we are reminded with World AIDS Day, which is being organized for the 35th time this year, that the inequalities around AIDS, one of the most shocking pandemics that humanity has experienced since it was first reported in 1981, unfortunately, continue to increase. This annual event, which has been organized since 1988, is an opportunity to honor the people we have lost, a reminder of the global struggle to end HIV-related stigma and discrimination, and a rallying call to build an AIDS-free future together.
Looking back over the last 40 years, we see that there have been significant scientific advances in the field of HIV. In addition to advances such as ART, a drug treatment that reduces to just one tablet a day, PrEP as an effective transmission preventive, Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U), which scientifically proves that HIV-positive people who have HIV suppressed by effective drug treatment cannot transmit the virus to their sexual partners, long-acting injection forms are being used in treatment. At the same time, facilities that allow us to test large numbers of people quickly and at a much lower cost are becoming widespread. In an official document published this year, the World Health Organization announced with such clarity for the first time in the history of AIDS that the risk of HIV transmission is zero thanks to HIV drug treatment and #UequalsU. Unfortunately, this does not yet make it easier to achieve the goal of zero new HIV cases because of the persistent HIV-related stigma and discrimination.
In our 2021 declaration, we, the Turkish HIV Community, stated that “the experience of the past four decades has shown that achieving the global AIDS goals will only be possible with the inclusion of community as a stakeholder with equal rights in all processes and an approach that puts the subject at the center, based on human rights and mutual respect.” When we look at the international themes of World AIDS Day 2023, we happily see that many authorities, especially UNAIDS, are saying, “Let communities lead”. However, it is also a fact that the financial resources allocated to HIV and political attention towards it worldwide are gradually decreasing. And yet, the question of how communities will lead the global AIDS response should be as much a focus as the slogan itself. Otherwise, in the event of a failure of the global AIDS response, it is easy to blame the Communities.
When we look at the overall situation in the Global AIDS 95-95-95 targets that we hope to achieve by 2025, we see some very encouraging success stories and even inspiring examples of countries that have been able to reduce new HIV cases to almost zero. The fact that almost all of these examples are in countries with no shortage of resources and political attention is proof that it is not enough for individuals to lead the global AIDS response. As a matter of fact, MENA and EECA, including Türkiye, are regions where new HIV cases and HIV-related stigma and discrimination are on the rise, contrary to the general picture. However, scientific advances offer effective tools to eliminate both new HIV cases and HIV-related stigma and discrimination and end AIDS deaths.
As stakeholders of the HIV civil society of Türkiye, we reiterate on the 35th World AIDS Day that we are at a critical crossroads in achieving global goals and a common future without AIDS. In this context, our recommendations on the tools that we believe are indispensable for a successful AIDS response that will set an example for the rest of the world are as follows;
- Facilitating access to HIV testing by removing legal barriers to anonymous HIV testing and do-it-yourself testing,
- Funding from the public budget for the implementation of the Türkiye HIV/AIDS Control Program (2019-2024) and the civil society activities recommended in the Control Program,
- Making the PrEP easily accessible to all,
- Including clear and widely accepted messages, such as Undetectable = Untransmittable, in official treatment guidelines and making them known and recommended in all branches,
- Taking the necessary steps to include Istanbul, the city with the highest incidence of HIV, in the Fast Track Cities network, the framework of which is based on Article 3.3 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,
- All these processes should be led by subjects and HIV civil society, as recommended by UNAIDS.
Since 2017, when we started publishing these declarations regularly as the Turkish HIV society, we have reiterated at every opportunity our commitment to work together and lead an AIDS response worthy of Türkiye's potential. The fact that this approach was also recommended by UNAIDS in 2023 renews our motivation and determination. With this motivation, we would like to reiterate once again;
#AIDSfreefuture is only possible if we work together, give the subjects the value they deserve, and position them where they should be in the leadership of the movement. Otherwise, we will continue to repeat similar demands every year, and we will neither be able to build an #AIDSfreefuture nor end HIV-related stigma and discrimination.
About Red Ribbon Istanbul (RRI):
RRI is an HIV information provider and civil society organization that aims to produce and spread evidence-based HIV information in Turkish in an easy-to-understand language and applicable for all parts of society, especially for key populations, based on the right to access information and the right to access treatment.
With the know-how of its founders and members who have gained experience in different areas, it aims to make scientific HIV information accessible to all parts of society with the principle of evidence-based activism. It aims to raise Türkiye to the level of an essential and respected part of the international HIV activism agenda with its representation at all levels of reputable congresses, conferences, platforms, working groups, etc., worldwide.
In 2019, RRI was selected as one of Türkiye's 11 outstanding NGOs in an event at the European Parliament. Since 2021, RRI has been organizing the first and only community-based HIV Conference in the MENA and EECA region under the #HIVIstanbul brand.
About Positive Living Association (PLA):
Positive Living Association was founded in 2005 to defend the fundamental rights of individuals living with HIV, to ensure their empowerment and solidarity by organizing, to increase their level of knowledge, to combat prejudices, and to raise HIV awareness.
In 2006, the Positive Life Support Centre was established. This center, which is also the management office of the association, has become a center where people living with HIV can receive services in confidentiality without worrying about privacy, socialize with the activities organized, and participate in training.
The Positive Living Support Centre has become a roof institution that transfers the knowledge and experience it has gained over the years to public institutions, local governments, non-governmental organizations, as well as all institutions and individuals interested in the subject and produces projects that facilitate the lives of individuals living with HIV and defend their rights.