Advocacy is defined in the following ways. Advocacy can be a tool used to create social and political change; creating a voice and visibility for people who feel as though they do not have voice and are invisible. Advocacy can shape public opinion that can lead to policy change. Effective advocacy will have a diverse group of advocates working toward a common goal. In the face of HIV/AIDS advocacy has taken an almost new meaning and it is not so cut and dry.
HIV/AIDS is multifaceted, diverse, and has a perceived uniqueness that requires a different approach to advocacy. While, the many approaches to HIV/AIDS advocacy may appear to be separate none of it is capable of standing alone in order to achieve the expected outcome. That outcome or goal would be ending the HIV/AIDS global pandemic.
Many people shy away from advocacy, they fear that they will have to do something really radical or something that they are not comfortable doing, but that is rarely the case. Advocacy comes in many different forms you have to find what fits for you, because HIV/AIDS advocacy must happen.
A snap short of advocacy in Dallas
This past week in Dallas one monumental advocacy effort culminated brought on by a small but determined group of local women and one is about to begin. Earlier this year it was discovered by this group of women that an agency in which they had received service, although treated horribly, had been chosen to receive funding. This group took issue because the agency has a history of reported behavior that demean and devalue women and they felt this should be publicly addressed and stopped. They stood together and called for and received a public meeting with the funder and the agency; although the agency chose not to attend. The meeting took place with the group and they felt that there were successful outcomes. Their concerns were heard and their demands were met and the women, not just those in attendance, who had been victims were vindicated. Also, there would be a change in how this particular funding would be distributed.
During this same time it was brought to the attention of local advocates that people living with HIV/AIDS in a housing facility are experiencing challenges with services. There are allegations of intimidation, abuse of authority, and threats of residential status. Local advocates have quickly begin to look into the allegations of how this complete breakdown of service happened, who should be held accountable and how change will happen. Local advocates from the Campaign to End AIDS http://www.c2ea.org/ have reached out to the administration and are waiting for a response to these allegations before moving forward. It is situations such as these that advocacy for people living with HIV/AIDS must remain vocal and visible. Advocacy cannot be limited but must remain diverse, because the issues are many-sided.
The reward of HIV advocacy
There is a reward in advocacy and that reward can be varying. An effective advocacy effort will result in change and it will bring to light why change must happen. The change may seem small at the onset but it will have monumental impact on the overall lives of people living with HIV/AIDS that the advocates are representing. Organizations on Dallas, at least two, have been served notice that people living with HIV/AIDS will not give up their rights to be treated with dignity in order to receive a service. Those choosing to financially support organizations that are violating any rights of people living with HIV/AIDS, and not providing the services they are funded to will be publicly challenged. People living with HIV/AIDS in Dallas should not and will not be subjected to treatment that debase, demean, and humiliate them.
The reward of HIV advocacy also brings us as community closer to really realizing the end of this domestic epidemic. In spite of all treatment and prevention progress in the face of stigma, limited access and or denial of services, funding cuts, and biased laws against people living with HIV/AIDS the end will be a long time coming. Continued advocacy demanding more research dollars, ending criminalization, increased prevention funding, access to housing, aggressively addressing HIV/AIDS in the deep south, demanding comprehensive sexual education in schools, and holding elected officials accountable will result in an end that will come sooner rather than later.