Over the past 27 years, we have advanced the human rights of people living with, at risk of, or affected by HIV and AIDS. We’ve consistently called for an end to HIV criminalization, for fair drug policies including in prisons, for sex workers’ rights, and for legal recognition and equity for LGBTQ2 people. We challenge wrongs and advance rights in Canada and around the world. But our name and our logo no longer reflected current terminology or the global scope of our work. It was time for a refresh.
We are now the HIV Legal Network. The change may be subtle, but it has impact. We’re acknowledging that our work reaches beyond the Canadian borders — although that’s where we are and where we'll stay — and that current HIV treatment has advanced dramatically, meaning that we are largely able to prevent progression to AIDS for those able to access medicine. Meanwhile, our work defending and realizing rights is central to preventing HIV infection in the first place and to improving access to healthcare for the millions who need it. Our new name comes with a new logo that embraces the activist spirit and collaborative nature of our work and holds our history in the iconic ribbon.
Throughout this process, one thing has been clear: no matter our name, we will continue to work for justice and advocate for the human rights. Nothing has changed on that front.
It’s strange to write this letter now, when so much has happened since the end of the 2019/20 fiscal year. At the end of March, Canada was just beginning its COVID-19 shutdown and there was little sense of what was to come. From the very start, we’ve seen clear links between COVID and human rights. This pandemic will affect our work, and the HIV response more broadly, for a long time to come. But for the purposes of this annual report, we’ll focus on the activities that came before COVID-19.
Canada held a federal election in 2019 and we made sure our issues were front and centre. We circulated our questionnaire to all major parties, compiled and published their responses, and pushed the leaders to adequately fund the HIV response, decriminalize drugs, protect the health and safety of sex workers, ensure safe and effective needle and syringe programs in prisons, and limit the criminalization of HIV. We also pressed for evidence– and human rights–based laws, policies, and action on all these fronts in the courts, in the media, and in our discussions with politicians and policymakers.
Internationally, we focused our efforts on confronting human rights abuses against people who use drugs in Russia, including through direct legal support to improve access to services and challenge discrimination and abuse, and through submissions to courts and UN bodies to keep up the pressure for change. We also continued to challenge homophobic criminal laws in the Caribbean, where the criminalization of LGBTQ2 people in some countries fuels discrimination, harassment, and violence, as well as the HIV epidemic. We've also been contributing to a growing global resistance to HIV criminalization, including in francophone Africa.
Throughout this past year and into the next as we navigate and respond to the new challenges presented by COVID-19, our work has been and will be guided by our new tag line: Challenging wrongs. Advancing rights. Transforming lives. We hope you’ll continue along with us on this journey toward human rights for everyone, everywhere — including and especially people living with, at risk of, or affected by HIV.
Yours in solidarity,
Chair, Board of Directors