By ICW Global Press Team
2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW). Coincidentally, the International AIDS Conference is back to the United States after 22 years. It was at this conference 20 years ago that the ICW was formed.
Although the HIV epidemic was identified more than thirty years ago, people did not realize at that time that women were being infected and that, as time went on, they would become a significant group of the infected population. In the early 1990s, a group of women from different countries, diverse cultures, many languages, and with gender diversity met in London to discuss the epidemic from the perspective of women. These early discussions led to the formation of ICW Global the following year at the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam.
The early years were very difficult not only because of the geographic distances between people and the communications challenges, but also because we lost so many through the years to this fatal and incurable illness. Fortunately, the advent of highly active antiretroviral therapy in the mid-1990s has changed these horrifying statistics. Yet only six of the original 30 women who founded ICW Global are alive today. We remember those we have lost with deep regret and thank all of the visionary women who started this organization as we celebrate this 20-year anniversary.
Today, challenges for women in this epidemic remain. They include lack of access to treatment, inadequate care and support services, lack of information about reproductive health choices and rights, protection from all forms of violence including intimate partner violence and lack of legal support for legal and economic rights and security. ICW Global has continued to work with numerous partners and supporters on these issues in 120 countries and is proud to be partners in the International AIDS 2012 Conference being held in Washington, D.C. on our 20th anniversary.
We have five independent regions with five regional coordinators supported by our International Support Office led by a Chair and International Steering Committee. Our supporters include Executive director of UN WOMEN Michele Bachelet, who appointed Patricia Pérez, Chair of ICW Global, as member of the Global Civil Society Advisory Group of UN WOMEN; the current President of Costa Rica and ambassador of ICW Global, Laura Chinchilla; Princess of Norway Mette Marit, UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador; and former First lady of Honduras Xiomara Castro de Zelaya who proposed Patricia Pérez to the Nobel Peace Prize among others, to name only a few. We are deeply grateful to all of our staff, volunteers and supporters for the work they have done, and continue to do, for women in this epidemic.
ICW Global continues to be a vibrant worldwide network led and run by women living with HIV, more than 15,000 members in five continents. We stand for the meaningful involvement of women living with HIV/AIDS in all decision-making processes and decisions that affect their lives.
In 20 years of ICW Global much progress has been made but stigma and discrimination are still present in the lives of women, adolescent and girls who live with HIV around the world. ICW Global will face new challenges, will continue to work on existing initiatives and will keep supporting the international campaign More Peace Less AIDS, using peace as essential tool to stop the advance of the pandemic.
Our motto, “Nothing for us without us,” continues to be as relevant today as it was when we started the organization 20 years ago.
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