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For over three decades, Indigenous Peoples around the world have been on a path leading towards the forming of an International Indigenous Working Group on HIV and AIDS (IIWGHA) and the International Indigenous HIV & AIDS Community (IIHAC).

Early collective action began during the International AIDS Conference in Montreal, Canada in 1989. The initial leadership was provided by the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center (NNAAPC) in the United States, and by Te Roopu Tautoko Trust in Aotearoa, New Zealand. The first International Indigenous AIDS Conference was hosted in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1991 by Te Roopu Tautoko Trust. The following year, an informal, ad-hoc meeting of International Indigenous Peoples met during the 8th International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam, Holland in 1992. In 1993, they met again at the annual International AIDS Conference located in Berlin, Germany. The Indigenous peoples who gathered at the early meetings listed above were considered an ad-hoc group, although they were determined to meet at every International AIDS Conference.

In 2005, the International Indigenous Peoples Satellite Planning Committee was formed to plan the next year’s Indigenous Satellite conference. By 2006, the working group called themselves the International Indigenous HIV/AIDS Secretariat (IIHAS) and hosted an Indigenous Satellite at International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada (AIDS 2006). The intent was that the IIHAS would continue collective action on recommendations and priorities developed by over 300 participants, most notably the Toronto Charter: An Indigenous Peoples’ Action Plan on HIV/AIDS.

In 2008, the group met again at the Pre-conference of Indigenous and Afro-Descendent People at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, Mexico, which was particularly relevant for the region of Latin America and the Caribbean. It showed the response by our peoples to HIV and AIDS and the crosscutting themes of sexuality and human rights. Finally, there was a unification of the agendas of Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples in the face of racism and all forms of discrimination.

In July of 2010, the IIWGHA met and conducted strategic planning during the Indigenous Satellite at International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria. Since finalizing the International Indigenous Strategic Plan on HIV and AIDS for Indigenous Peoples and Communities from 2011-2017, IIWGHA has hosted an Indigenous Peoples Networking Zone in the Global Village of International AIDS conferences and International Indigenous Pre-conferences in the USA (AIDS 2012), Australia (AIDS 2014), South Africa (AIDS 2016), the Netherlands (AIDS 2018) and a virtual conference out of the USA (AIDS 2020: Virtual).

Rajesh-pic-croppedRajesh Didiya is the President of the National Association of People living with HIV/AIDS (NAP+N) in Nepal and an Indigenous member of the Newa Peoples. Rajesh identifies as an ex-drug user living with a compromised immune system since 2003 and has been working for community betterment for 15 years in Nepal in policy change and implementation of HIV and drug related harm reduction.

Mr. Didiya has been working as Peer Educator, Outreach Worker, Counsellor, Program Coordinator, Program Director and now as President of NAP+N. Because Rajesh has been involved in all aspects of HIV work, he understands the social dynamics of each area.

Rajesh is a farmer with a healthy lifestyle participating in all aspects of producing food, including the harvest. The farm, called The Empowerment Centre and located in Bhaktapur, Nepal, is the first of its type where all workers are either living with HIV or have lived experience with drug use.

BenBen Geboe is an enrolled member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe of South Dakota and grew up on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation with distant relatives in the Dakota in Manitoba. He is a social worker with many years’ experience working with Native people in New York City. He is currently attending McGill University School of Social work and splits his time between NYC and Montreal. He works as the Native student coordinator of Indigenous Access McGill (IAM) program to promote Indigenous social work student admissions. He is descended from the Wakakdiduta family (Red Lightning) and is also part Miami and Cheyenne Arapahoe on his father’s side. His mother is Norwegian descent. Ben is very active in Two Spirit community events and social justice advocacy for Indigenous sovereignty.

WiloWilo Muwadda is a community activist supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander same sex attracted and gender diverse individuals and communities to self determine pathways of equity and justice in Australia. He has over 30 years of community work and volunteer experience with HIV and AIDS within Indigenous communities of Australia and 10 years of international experience with HIV and sexuality through his participation in programs in Papua New Guinea, Aotearoa, Pacific nations and Canada. He currently sits as a board member of the ILGA Oceania and the International Indigenous Working Group for HIV and AIDS (IIWGHA). Wilo works as an individual supporting local, state and national networks to empower their voice at national and international levels.

Pilar2Pilar Montalvo is an Indigenous woman of the Wanka Peoples of Peru with a master’s degree in social, management, over 21 years working to promote sexual and reproductive health, as well as human rights. Since 2006, she has served as the director of programs, developing research and advocacy on the subjects of sexual and reproductive health and HIV in Indigenous Peoples. Montalvo has also served as technical advisory for the Indigenous people of the triple borders in Peru, Brazil and Bolivia, Leader of the International Secretariat of the Indigenous and Afro-Descendants Peoples and HIV/AIDS, Sexuality and Human Rights (SIPIA) and leader for the Latin American entity of the International Indigenous Working Group on HIV & AIDS (IIWGHA).

abigailMs. Abigail Ofosu is a Financial Literacy Advocate specializing in Financial Service Support, Risk Management and Taxation. She has over 10 years working experience in Rural Banking, Insurance, Micro financing and Non Governmental Organization specifically in the area of Financial Reporting and Risk Management.

Ms. Ofosu holds Master’s of Science Degree in International Accounting and Finance from the Buckinghamshire New University UK as well as a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration-Accounting Option from School of Business-KNUST. She is a Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Ghana, Institute of Internal Auditors Ghana and a Student member of the Chartered Institute of Tax Accountants Ghana.

In addition to her current role as the Risk Manager for Akuapem Rural Bank, she is a Member of the Examination Committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Ghana, Member of the Nsawam Adoagyiri Municipal Assembly Audit Committee and an Executive Member of the Makola Foundation FNGO.

melody2Melody Ndawana is a 34-year-old Zimbabwean lady who stays in the Midlands Province of Zimbabwe. Melody has worked with different organizations to include Zimrights, Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations, Women Coalition of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Christian Alliance to mention but a few.

Currently, she is the ZCIEA Kwekwe Territiorial President. She is also a vibrant and potential business person. As a Christian, she is a holder of a Certificate of Biblical Studies, Diploma in Biblical Studies, Higher Diploma in Prophetic Studies.

Melody has also trained and was certified as a qualified Peer Educator with Zimbabwe AIDS Prevention and Support Organization (ZAPSO). She is the director of Angelic Printers and Media and has also worked as a Regional Coordinator for ZECMIG.

Trained as a Paralegal with ICPJT, she has the passion to help the community in peace and justice building and make sure that the rights of the citizens are not being infringed.

m4Dr. Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine is a Tuareg woman from Tombouctou in Northern Mali. She is a medical doctor (University of Tizi-Ouzou-Algeria), humanitarian expert (University of Geneva-Switzerland), and Education specialist (University of Ottawa-Canada). She was a member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues from 2014 to 2019 where her strong leadership, diplomacy skills and abroad knowledge of Indigenous issues globally brought her two consecutive years as chair. Dr Wallet Aboubakrine has been a guest speaker at several Indigenous Peoples meetings, United Nations agencies, Intergovernmental organizations, and academic institutions. She is also an author of articles and studies about Indigenous People’s rights, in particular the right to health. She is a founder of Tinhinan Canada and member of Tin Hinane Sahel, a nomadic woman organization in Africa.

Dr. Wallet Aboubakrine is currently based in Ottawa where she is open to share her experience and skills as an independent consultant.

Annemary-Fiabema2Annemary Fiabema, is the Founder of Faith Heritage Family (FHF) a Grassroots Humanitarian Organization, based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria.

The group was founded in 2010 as a vehicle to reach out to the very poor indigenous residents of the Waterfront (Waterside) communities in Port Harcourt. Her Vision is to reduce HIV/AIDS and extreme poverty to the barest minimum. Her Mission is to Inspire the Despairing to Aspire.

Scope of work: Since 2010, she has been organizing workshops on Sensitization/ Awareness on how to manage/ tackle the spread of HIV/AIDS in these vulnerable communities.

She also organizes outreaches every 27th of May (Children’s Day) and 1st of October (Independence Day) which are very symbolic days in Nigeria, to feed, clothe and provide free medicals to less privilege children, widows and the elderly. Her catchment areas are the Waterfront communities, locally known as “Water side” settlements.

Her work has been appreciated by a United Kingdom organization named Wobia Entertainment who gave her an Award for Services for Humanity in 2016. However, she has projected expanding her scope in the coming years to teaching the youths and young widows’ artisan skills so they can be self-employed and earn a living.

karel2Karel Teriihauroa Luciani is mā’ohi indigenous Tahitian. Now 54 years old, Karel was born to two parents of mixed mā’ohi, European and Chinese ancestry. Karel is a new Leader for the International Indigenous Working Group on HIV & AIDS (IIWGHA).

Karel has been an activist for LGBTQ+ rights for over 20 years, beginning in 1997 with the Homosphere association in New Caledonia. Today, in French Polynesia, Karel is president of the LGBTQ+ organization Cousins Cousines de Tahiti and member of the board of local AIDS organization Agir contre le SIDA. Karel is also Vice President of the regional organization Alliance LGBT+ Franco Océanienne and a representative to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA). Karel engages in HIV prevention activities through the various LGBTQ+ and AIDS groups in which he holds posts.

Akhila-rajasri-Photo2Gangu Akhila Rajasri, aged 20 years, was born in an Indigenous community (Koya tribe) in a remote forest area in Kondrukota village in Andhra Pradesh, India. She studied for a Bachelor’s Degree of Computer Application. Her father, Gangu Anilkumar, was running an NGO for Indigenous peoples welfare activities, and she was involved in Indigenous welfare activities since her childhood.

Akhila is active with awareness camps for women regarding prevention of HIV/AIDS as well as building awareness for prevention of domestic violence in Indigenous families. She also advocates for other livelihoods improvement in Indigenous families through government funding and local contributions.

Akhila is looking forward to being an Indigenous leader in IIWGHA. She wants to support HIV/AIDS effected Indigenous peoples regarding prevention, treatment, and reference to hospitals, and wants to do advocacy with government regarding HIV/AIDS welfare programs.

Onyeka2Onyeka Christian Okafor is a 37-year old graduate of Human Physiology and Pharmacology, from the Indigenous Igbo speaking people of old Eastern Nigeria. He had worked with Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Nigeria Limited as a senior medical representative.

He is a community leader, a human right activist and the Publicity Secretary of Ikenga-Nri Development Union, the Aboriginal people of Nri, widely believed as the ancestral home of all Igbos. He worked for Hope Givers Organisation in various community programs like Global Fund Home Based Care (HBC) for People Living with HIV and AIDS (PLHIV) and Community Sensitization/Awareness creation targeting the youths on Global Fund Most at Risk population Intervention (GF MARPS) in various communities in Anambra State, Nigeria.

Okafor is also the Anambra State Chairman of Masses Movement of Nigeria, a registered political party in Nigeria with a core manifesto of an egalitarian system of government built on transparency, accountability, fairness and equitable distribution of opportunities, through masses participatory democracy.

matthew2Matthew Fischer is a proud Two-Spirited Mi’kmaq member of the Qualipu First Nation in Newfoundland. He has traveled extensively within Canada and around the world. He has spent time in most of the provinces and two territories before finally making Vancouver his home for the past 25 years.

Matthew has a very responsible, expressive, inspirational and friendly personality. Expression comes to him naturally and he is rarely at a loss for words. In fact, he has to put forth effort at times to curb an over-active tongue! Matthew has been active in unionism using his voice and skills for those who face injustices in the workplace. Matthew now works as a Community Research Associate in health research involving Indigenous communities, people living with HIV and substance use, as well as a Peer Navigator at a local hospital’s Rapid Access Addiction Clinic. He spends time learning about his culture that he was denied for 40 years. He enjoys gardening, biking, games and, yes, long walks on the beach wishing for world peace!

By Trevor Stratton, Coordinator for the International Indigenous Working Group on HIV & AIDS for the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network

Growing up as a member of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation near Toronto, Canada, I was a first-hand witness to how the disparities in HIV/AIDS health care impact Indigenous communities. My story, unfortunately, was not an uncommon one: I learned in 1990 that I was HIV positive, and years later that it had progressed to AIDS. I was forced to face my own fears and stigma associated with acquiring HIV during the height of the epidemic. Thankfully, through the support of the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN), I realized that I didn’t need to confront this journey alone and I could still live a normal, healthy and purposeful life. That’s when I decided to take action and join forces with CAAN to provide support to others living with HIV/AIDS and advocate for equitable and culturally-sensitive care for this resilient yet underserved population.

When population size is taken into account, the Indigenous population ranks fourth in the US, among ethnicities, in rates of HIV/AIDS. To understand the complexities associated with HIV in the Indigenous population, it’s necessary to consider the Indigenous Peoples’ long history of mistrust towards health and social services stemming from colonialism, displacement, systemic violence and racism, which continue to this day. With about 560 federally-recognized Indigenous tribes who speak more than 170 languages, cultural diversity presents a challenge in HIV prevention. Continued downward pressure on the determinants of Indigenous health has resulted in poverty, multi-generational trauma and high rates of alcohol and drug use contributing to the prevalent rates of HIV in our communities. Aggravating the problem, stigma and racism continue to restrict Indigenous Peoples’ essential access to culturally-appropriate treatment, care and support.

I am proud to be a member of the Conference Coordinating Committee for the 23rd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2020), enabling the voice of diverse Indigenous communities to be heard. AIDS 2020 is the largest gathering in the world for HIV/AIDS professionals and will take place in San Francisco and Oakland in July 2020.

Indigenous healthcare needs to be front and center in the national conversation, yet to this day it remains painfully ignored. The conference represents an opportunity to stand together with the Indigenous Peoples as a community in the fight against the epidemic. There, we will address the obstacles to reducing HIV disparities and enhancing the health and well-being of Indigenous Peoples. We will explore ways to improve access to HIV services, provide comprehensive prevention information and resources and offer health care services delivered by members of the Indigenous community. We will work to prioritize the accurate representation of Indigenous Peoples in epidemiological data and clinical research. At the core of the HIV response is the right to healthcare for every person, including our Indigenous communities.

All narratives, expertise and experiences must be considered as we move closer to zero new HIV/AIDS cases and ultimately, a cure. In fact, AIDS 2020 is being held on sacred Indigenous lands. During the conference we will welcome delegates to a ceremony honouring the land, an added opportunity to shine a bright light on the Indigenous experience with HIV/AIDS and our role in ending the epidemic. We know how far we have come, and after AIDS 2020, we will have a better understanding of where we still need to go.


International Indigenous Pre-conference on HIV & AIDS
July 4-5, 2020
Huichin (Oakland)

The International Indigenous Pre-conference on HIV & AIDS is an opportunity for Indigenous Peoples from all over the world and their allies to share wise and promising practices, learn from each other and build relationships across continents, cultures, traditions, and languages.

Save the date! July 4-5, 2020
More information

18th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on lndigenous lssues
Agenda item 3: Follow-up to the recommendations of the Permanent Forum

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) would like to take this opportunity to express our support to the Forum as an important venue for the promotion of dialogue between governments, indigenous peoples and the UN system.

While incomplete, available data show that the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Peoples across the globe is substantially poorer than that of the general population. , Despite their strength and resilience, Indigenous Peoples are disproportionately impacted by a range of health issues, including poor sexual and reproductive health (SRH), HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis outcomes. Access to services, and knowledge and uptake of services, remains poor.

At its sixteenth session, the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues recommended that “…UNAIDS, in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues, sponsor an expert group meeting on HIV/AIDS by 2019, which would include the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, to analyse the sociocultural and economic determinants of health for HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment in indigenous communities, with the Forum’s collaboration, in order to ensure the realization of target 3.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.” Last year, the Forum expressed appreciation for the steps taken by UNAIDS, UNFPA and IASG and called on Member States and UN entities to contribute to the workshop.

Over the past year, UNAIDS and UNFPA, in consultation with leaders from the International Indigenous HIV/AIDS Community and the Inter-agency Support Group, have developed an approach to fast-track the rights of Indigenous peoples to access integrated SRH / HIV services as part of national AIDS and development programmes.

This approach favours a process in countries to support development of national and local programmes to better address the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of Indigenous Peoples. With the support of stakeholders, we hope to begin this year a series of national dialogues focusing on Indigenous Peoples’ SRHR / HIV. The aim is to work with Indigenous Peoples to identify people-centred approaches for holistically addressing priority SRH and HIV issues within local indigenous communities. Once defined, these approaches will be promoted for inclusion within National AIDS Programmes and broader, national health and strategic plans, for rollout within Indigenous communities.

This approach calls for full Indigenous community consultation, partnership, engagement and ownership of Indigenous health programme enhancements. Broader partnerships are also needed between UN agencies and the Interagency Support Group on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues, member states – including National AIDS Programmes, Ministries of Health, Indigenous Affairs and other relevant entities, civil society organisations representing Indigenous Peoples, including those living with HIV, women and youth and advocating for their SRHR, and other development partners.

We call on interested Member States and UN entities to join us in preparing for these national dialogues to help fast-track the rights of Indigenous peoples to access integrated sexual and reproductive health / HIV services as part of national AIDS and development programmes.

Thank you.

>UNPFII-18 UNAIDS statement 25 April 2019 PDF