The idea that personal experiences of people living with HIV should be taken into account in the HIV care and policy-making process was first voiced in 1983 at a national AIDS conference in the US. It was formally adopted as a principle at the Paris AIDS Summit in 1994. Forty two countries declared Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV and AIDS (GIPA) to be critical to developing effective national responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The GIPA principle is the backbone of many interventions worldwide. People living with, or affected by HIV are involved in a wide variety of activities at all levels of HIV care, programming and policy making. Examples include appearing on posters; giving personal testimonies for key audiences; supporting and counseling others with HIV; and participating in major decision and policy-making activities.
IDI fully embraces GIPA principles. This year IDI’s stated commitment to GIPA took a step forward in practice, as a GIPA unit was established within the Communication, Partnerships and Advocacy department. This unit, staffed by a GIPA Officer and an Assistant GIPA Officer, is responsible for leading activities that facilitate as much involvement as possible of as many PLHIVs as possible; and mainstreaming GIPA principles into all areas of IDI activity. PLHIVs are currently involved in a range of activities at IDI including training, programmatic decision-making, and governance.
This year the elected Friends Council (with representatives from IDI and Kampala City Council [KCC] clinics) has continued to develop a range of support mechanisms that are provided by Friends for Friends; they also undertake significant routine work within the IDI and KCC clinics. Some of these duties include overseeing the new Friends’ Resource Centre (a central resource for health information through IEC materials and peer support, as well as training/learning/empowerment opportunities); supporting the Music Dance and Drama group in their health communication activities; conducting community sensitization exercises; and supervising the distribution of basic health care packages. The Music, Dance and Drama group has continued to develop, as well. This year the group has conducted a number of performances for different audiences, mostly focused on health education.