Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Red Ribbon Awards Acceptance Speech: Advocacy and Human Rights

His Excellency the President of Fiji, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, Minister of Health of Indonesia, Dr. Nafsiah Mboi, Vice-Minister of Health Surveillance of Brazil, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, Former Member of Parliament of Paupa New Guinea, Dame Carol Kidu, UNAIDS Deputy Director, Jan Beagle, GNP + Executive Director, Dame Suzette Moses-Burton, PANCAP Director, Dereck Springer, National AIDS Programme Scretariat Programme Manager, Dr. Shanti Singh-Anthony, international media, fellow awardees, human rights and AIDS researchers, activists, students, service providers, distinguished delegates; good afternoon to you all. And thank you for joining us at this special session  for the presentation of the 2014 Red Ribbon Awards at the 20th International AIDS Conference, AIDS 2014 in Melbourne, Australia. I am Joel Simpson, speaking on behalf of the two award-winning community-based ogranisations from Indonesia and Guyana.
While we are happy to be here to accept this excellence award for our work, we  remember and pay tribute to our peers and colleagues who lost their lives traveling here on Flight MH 17. May their souls rest in peace, and their work not be in vain.
On behalf of the Indonesian Drug Users Network (PKNI) and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), we extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Red Ribbon Awards committee, programme and funders for honouring our work with this excellence award in HIV advocacy and human rights. In Indonesia and Guyana, PKNI and SASOD, represent and work with marginalised groups who are treated like outcasts because they use drugs, sell sex and have diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. Our communities are castigated as third-class citizens; their humanity and dignity is denied, and their rights are not respected. It is often difficult in this sector which is obsessed with data, numbers, monitoring and evaluation, and return on investment to make the business case for investing in human rights and advocacy programmes for key populations. But this Red Ribbon Award category for advocacy and human rights recognizes that we are “stepping up the pace” by putting pressure on state and non-state actors alike to end criminalization, prohibition and discrimination which create barriers to access for our communities. If we are to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, then we must protect the rights of the most vulnerable in our societies. We know 'getting to zero' is only possible if there is zero discrimination, zero new infections and zero AIDS-related deaths. But we cannot 'get to zero' if donors do not invest in community-based organisations who represent and work with key populations to advocate and improve human rights protections for these disadvantaged groups. Human rights is prevention. Human rights  is treatment. Human rights is care and support. Invest in human rights now!
And today as we celebrate our work with this most prestigious Red Ribbon Award, we are reminded that the struggles for human rights, dignity, equality and justice are far from over. Yesterday Sunday, July 20, two transgender youth, Jada and Tyra, were brutally murdered in Guyana's capital city, Georgetown. Both Chelauna and I know Jada and Tyra personally as vibrant and talented young advocates in the Guyanese lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender  (LGBT) movement. Our work is not complete until every human being in our countries – every drug user, every sex worker, every LGBT person – can live their lives freely and openly without fear, hatred or stigma. We dedicate SASOD's Red Ribbon Award  to the loving memories of Jada, Tyra and countless other LGBT Guyanese whose lives have been snuffed out, due to bigotry and prejudice in our beautiful country.
Jada and Tyra, may your souls rest in peace. Your bravery will not be in vain.
Thank you.
Joel Earl Simpson
SASOD – Guyana
Red Ribbon Awards Special Session
XX International AIDS Conference
Melbourne, Australia
July 21, 2014

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