The International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW) joins communities around the world in commemorating the International Candlelight Memorial to be marked on 20thMay 2018.
This year, in light of the International Candlelight Memorial 2018 theme of "Reflecting on our past, preparing for our future,"ICW’s takes a look at the journey of the global women’s movement in the HIV response that started over 26 years ago in Amsterdam when women from across the world stood up to make visible our presence and demand our participation and representation at policy making and implementation of interventions that affect women living with HIV and our communities.
Women living with HIV have mobilized and organized, challenged systems, shed light on rights violations, abuse and other issues critical to the HIV response, resulting in powerful advocacy and representation in decision-making at all levels.
The progress we have realized so far is evidence that if we come together as women living with HIV, sex workers, women who use drugs, transgender women, mothers, daughters, friends and most of all sisters in our struggle we can catapult these gains into even stronger results for all women and girls and meet our shared goals. It is up to us. Together we are ICW!
As the HIV response evolves and adopts new and improved interventions for reducing the incidence of HIV and AIDS-related deaths, globally women living with HIV continue to face harsh challenges and human rights abuses. The role of women and girls living with HIV is clear – We belong at the heart of the HIV response in all our diversity.
We understand our critical role for ensuring all women and girls particularly those of us living with HIV, are at the centre of important decision-making and implementation processes working to end AIDS by 2030 globally. We understand that now more than ever we will need to remain focused, consistent and committed to making our women’s voice more visible within the discourse of emergent frameworks and global targets towards the achievement of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), realizing the 90.90.90 targets and the success of the Global Goals.
On this Candlelight memorial day, ICW celebrates the brave women from all over the world who stood up and selflessly gave of themselves towards making visible our women’s issues. We light candles for the many brave women who have since left us. You remain in our hearts and the centre of our women led movement. We applaud, honour and celebrate all our sisters who were present at the Amsterdam Conference and extend our gratitude for their bravery, their commitment for a just society where women and girls living with HIV have an enabling environment to thrive and lead healthy quality lives- We Celebrate you Sheroes!
As we look to the future, we see a light at the end of the tunnel, a beacon of hope that our efforts are being matched by outcomes, and that more women are taking lead in the HIV epidemic, consequently lighting the way for young women and girls to stand up for themselves to create their own spaces and find their own paths.
Young women and girls are slowly rising in confidence and empowerment through mentorship and targeted support. Indeed, the light is not only a flicker at the end of the tunnel but a beginning of a generation that is empowered and awake to their needs and rights, moving towards a generation free of HIV stigma, women rights, equality and justice, meaningful involvement and engagement and access to deserved services, and in turn, better outcomes and achievements of global targets.
We light a candle for young women and girls taken away from us, and young women and girls that lost dear mothers, and are dealing with challenges like acceptance, forgiveness, rejection, heartbreaks and life, in general, often without a mother to guide the journey. We encourage you to keep on, push on and keep growing. Light that candle and whisper, that you turned out great, and will become greater!
The Global sisterhood extends our gratitude to decision makers, donors, policy-makers, governments, and private sector for their deliberate and progressive efforts to support our cause and urge you all to continue to strengthen the capacity of networks of women and girls living with HIV to exist and make impactful change within the HIV response that is reflective of our lived realities and that promotes our human rights, seeks gender equality, and realizes the meaningful involvement of women and girls living with HIV at all decision-making levels within the HIV response.
We are super excited about our work so far and look forward to celebrating our founding members at the AIDS 2018 conference in Amsterdam. ICW commits to strengthening our partnerships and engagement with all our members and stakeholders to amplify the voices and experiences of women and girls living with HIV across the globe into shaping the HIV and health agenda and creating safe spaces and communities for us to work, live and play in.
ICW celebrates 26 years of sisterhood, advocacy and impact as a community of women living with HIV; we take stock of the achievements we have realized together, the collective lessons learned and seek to chart the way forward with renewed energy for realizing our vision and mission. We look forward with hope for a move vibrant women’s solidarity and meaningful action in which all women and girls in all our diversity continue to carry our stories, our experiences and messages to important spaces that truly do impact on our lives. We hope to make the FUTURE one to remember; let’s do it together.