Ever since the early days of HIV in Canada, local networks of people living with HIV have been the primary drivers of the response to the epidemic. However, Canada has lacked a national network of people living with HIV acting collectively to inform and influence public policies. Until now, that is. Formed in the summer of 2015, and steadily gaining members since, the Canadian Positive People Network (CPPN) aims to respond to the changing needs of diverse communities of people with HIV.
“I have been living with HIV for 25 years, and I’ve been connected to the HIV community in one way or another the whole time,” says Jeff Potts, long-time public health advocate and activist, “but I realized that despite my involvement, I’ve been at something of a distance personally from my HIV-positive peers. Then, the CPPN was born. At long last, we have a network that is unconditionally for us and by us. In the CPPN, I have found my HIV family.”
While remaining an independent grassroots collective, CPPN addresses the needs of people with HIV by building partnerships and influencing policy. To name a few examples from this past year, CPPN partnered with the Canadian Working Group on HIV and Rehabilitation (CWGHR) in a national forum to address ways to ease the burden of limited financial resources experienced by many people aging with HIV. The CPPN was selected to represent Canadian civil society at the UN High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS in Geneva. And the CPPN is collaborating with HIV-positive youth, the HIV Disclosure Project and YouthCO to develop a workshop that will empower young people with HIV to disclose their status.
Youth are already feeling the impact of this work. As Muluba Habanyama, a member of CPPN’s youth committee explains: “I joined CPPN at a time when I was new to disclosing and advocacy. I craved community involvement and guidance in navigating this complex virus. CPPN really promotes the involvement of people with HIV, which is why I am so passionate about being a member.”
As the HIV movement has become increasingly professionalized, people living with HIV are no longer always at the forefront of the HIV response. CPPN members believe that we need to recommit ourselves to the principles of GIPA and MEPA—the greater involvement of people living with HIV and the meaningful engagement of people living with HIV—to promote access, equity and human rights, and to ensure that government and organizations serving people living with or at risk for HIV are held accountable to the community.
About the auithor: John McCullagh, a member of CPPN, is chair of CATIE’s board of directors.
This article previously appeared in The Positive Side, a publication of CATIE, here.
Une version française est disponible ici.