It all started with HIV.
AIDS-Free World grew out of our intense frustration with the fact that HIV—a weak little virus—was able to take hold and decimate countries and communities. It preyed on the very people who were already living at the margins of their societies: women (and girls), men who have sex with men, injecting drug users, transgender people, persons with disabilities, and on and on.
After decades working within the UN system, co-directors Paula Donovan and Stephen Lewis formed an advocacy organization in 2007 to highlight the underlying inequalities that have allowed HIV to become a global plague. AIDS-Free World is built on the understanding that even if we were to find a cure for AIDS tomorrow, discrimination would continue to provide the fertile ground for the next epidemic to come along.
We know that health —"a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity"—is inextricably linked to social justice.
And we know that if we are truly going to attain an AIDS-Free World, we must uproot the prejudice, bigotry, ineptitude, and indifference that have enabled tens of millions of people to die on our watch. That means tackling the underlying social causes, but also the misguided institutional responses.
That's why we are determined to speak out on the issues that matter, from sexual violence to the criminalization of HIV, from gender discrimination to access to information. We focus on high-level advocacy—using the knowledge, access and experience gained from decades working in multilateralism—and press for change with key influencers and decision-makers. We use strategic communications to shine a spotlight on underreported stories and employ impact litigation to counter discriminatory laws and policies. We know that it's possible to push even the largest institutions into a course correction with the right pressure.
How do we know we're having in an impact? The proof is in the policy.