In 2008, at the 17th International AIDS Conference, the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon
addressed The Stigma Factor. He stated that,
"Stigma remains the single most important barrier to public action. It is the main
reason too many people are afraid to see a doctor to determine whether they have
the disease, or to seek treatment if so. It helps make AIDS the silent killer, because
people fear the social disgrace of speaking about it, or taking easily available
precautions...We can fight stigma. Enlightened laws and policies are key. But it
begins with openness, the courage to speak out. Fortunately, more and more
people are finding their voices..."
January 18, 2012 - The DOES HIV LOOK LIKE ME?
International Society (DHLLMI) is an organization based in Vancouver,
Canada, that focuses on reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV. They
believe that leadership by people living with HIV, AIDS (PLWH/A) is a key component to real
change in the fight against HIV. They provide training and opportunities that facilitate the
empowerment of PLWH/A to become leaders in their communities. Their goal is to motivate
individuals to create change in their lives and/or their communities. This change could be in the
form of giving someone the courage to disclose, to get tested or to not be afraid to love
someone who is HIV positive - even if that person is themselves.
The launch of their latest video, called “Stop the Stigma”, comes from the recognition that HIV
today has changed. In the last 10 years, with the advances in research, treatment has become
more simple and accessible in countries like Canada. People are living longer and healthier
lives, enjoying healthy relationships and having families. However, stigma is still a huge barrier
to their health and well being.
"Our video features individuals who are more than just people living with HIV. They are
triathletes, mothers and grandmothers. They have hopes and dreams just like all of us, but
often bear the burden of stigma," says Natalie Chan, Board Chair of DHLLMI, "The importance
of this video lies in their stories, which are meant to clarify some common misconceptions
about HIV. We made this video purely through the contribution of volunteers, without any
funding, and it is beautiful. I am grateful for the bravery and honesty of all our participants."
The overarching goal with the launch of this video is for DHLLMI to find appropriate sponsors
and partners to support the development of a Does HIV Look Like Me? Canada campaign.
With the support of a national media sponsor and strong community partners, this campaign
will have a long-term impact. The HIV-positive Ambassadors will receive small grants, and
support to begin their work in HIV leadership.
"Everyday I am amazed by the way people think about HIV, and how the messages
surrounding HIV continue to foster stigma," says Executive Director Brandy Svendson, "There
are a lot of stereotypes out there that I felt needed to be addressed and that is what motivated me to push for the creation of this video. My hope is that the people who see our video will get
excited and want to get involved with the Does HIV Look Like Me? Canada campaign."
As an organization, DHLLMI acknowledges that the experience and perspective of Positive
Leaders is key to addressing the needs of communities, and is a valuable tool to challenging
the public perception of what it means to be living with HIV today. The idea of involving people
living with HIV was formally adopted as a principle at the Paris AIDS Summit in 1994, where 42
countries declared the Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV and AIDS (GIPA) to be
critical to ethical and effective national responses to the epidemic. DHLLMI carries this value
into their everyday operations by ensuring PLWH/A are central to all their work and decision
"There is still much work to be done to undo the blame and shame directed at People Living
With HIV everyday," says Dirceu Campos, Treasurer of the DHLLMI Board of Directors, longtime
PLWH/A activist and one of the participants of the video. "Our campaigns give us an
opportunity to reach out to our communities and supporters around the world to create a
cutting edge media campaign, that will help us foster new leaders in the HIV movement"
It was less than three years ago that Brandy Svendson was working as the International
Campaign Director for the American HIV organization producing the Does HIV Look Like Me?
campaigns. Having recognized the opportunity within the success and impact of those
campaigns - she envisioned a long term organization dedicated to showing the human face of
HIV, and to developing the next generation of HIV leaders. In 2009, Brandy started Does HIV
Look Like Me? International Society. To date, Does HIV Look Like Me? International media
campaigns and leadership trainings have taken place in the USA,South Africa, Swaziland,
Norway and Thailand.
Often Canadian HIV campaigns are focused provincially, or locally. With the momentum
created by this video, they are ready to kick off the first national HIV campaign of its kind, Does
HIV Look Like Me? Canada. To support or partner with them, please visit
www.doeshivlooklikeme.org, or email us at email@example.com
Reproduced with permission - "DOES HIV LOOK LIKE ME?"