Jamra primary scholl for children affected by HIV/AIDS, drugs or poverty, Senegal (c) Nell Freeman/Alliance Participants in the Photovioce project, Ecuador © Marcela Nievas for the Alliance
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Vida Digna project reduces HIV stigma in Mexico

1
OCT
2010

Irasamy (right), community educator from Colectivo Hermano a partner of Vida Digna in 2007. © Alliance

The Vida Digna (Life with Dignity) project in Mexico has helped reduce stigma towards vulnerable populations and those most at risk from HIV. This includes gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people, intravenous drug users, and people living with HIV.

The project, which ran in four states in Mexico from 2005 to 2009, was the initiative of Colectivo Sol, the Alliance’s linking organisation in Mexico. It received co-funding and technical support from the Alliance and Glaxo SmithKline’s Positive Action programme.

The project’s main aim was to reduce HIV related stigma in the country by strengthening civil society. An evaluation comparing the changes within the organisations involved between 2005 and 2009 has confirmed the project’s success. So much so that the project is now being replicated by Alliance partner organisation, Atlacatl in El Salavador.

Main changes noted were the organisation’s ability to advocate for the reduction of stigma and discrimination (increased from ability of 50% to 95%), and increased visibility and improved positioning in decision making areas.

THE ISSUES

Vida Digna started out with a participatory assessment to establish the issues. By consulting the same people it was advocating for the project had a thorough understanding of how stigma and discrimination is experienced. This included:

  • Having positive HIV status disclosed due to a breach of confidentiality
  • Unfair dismissal from jobs
  • Social isolation
  • Violence and exploitation of sex workers by public officers
  • Compulsory and costly HIV testing for sex workers
  • Stigma and discrimination towards intravenous drug users, affecting their right to housing, healthcare, education and jobs.
  • Stigma experienced within the family home by men who have sex with men
  • Denial of transgender people’s basic rights
  • Men who have sex with men hiding their sexuality for fear of exclusion, bullying, violence, death threats and homophobic crimes
HOW VIDA DIGNA HELPED

Vida Digna set to task to tackle the issues through partner organisations. Grants were offered to organisations that were able to tackle stigma and discrimination by:

  • Communicating to, and educating, the media and the population in general.
  • Advocating for the rights of vulnerable and most at risk populations.
  • Strengthening their organisation so they can have more impact, and train local leaders, including decision makers.

In addition to financing, Vida Digna provided a range of technical support, through workshops, events and publications.

RESULTS

The evaluation demonstrated that organisations involved in the project have more ability to tackle stigma and discrimination now than prior to the start of Vida Digna. Measure of success include:

  • An increase in number of people reached with HIV-related services, and in a more tolerant environment.
  • Representatives from organisations and the organisations’ beneficiaries are involved in the state’s prevention initiatives.
  • Agreements established between municipal governments which facilitate work with trans people, sex workers and intravenous drug users.
  • Nine representatives from stigmatised populations are on the State Advisory Boards on HIV prevention in Aguascalientes.
  • The state has implemented a national harm reduction strategy, which has an element on reducing stigma and discrimination.
  • Three publications have resulted from the Vida Digna project, which we will share with you soon.

Atlacatl are using the lessons learned from the Vida Digna project and  producing similar results in El Salvador.