Friday, May 22, 2009

Growing a Pacific culture of speaking out


n Presentation to the Commonwealth Panel
n Ending AIDS stigma: men and women working together
n UN CSW 53 Session March 3, 2009, conference room 2
Kia Orana tatou katoatoa, Gud morning tru, and a warm Pacific sunshine welcome to all of us here today. I would like to thank those whose behind the scenes efforts have brought us to the global stage of the UN CSW. To the Commonwealth Foundation and in particular the Pan Commonwealth Civil Society Network on HIV and AIDS, for whom PIAF is the regional focal point for the Pacific, I thank you for your acknowledgement of the value and ownership we bring to and we take from these spaces

Here in 2009, under a theme which seeks to share our best practices from the Pacific when overcoming AIDS stigma and discrimination, I just want to pause to reflect on how far we have come in the last decade; especially as we prepare to join the worldwide International women’s day celebrations on March 8. As we explore the CSW theme of shared responsibilities and care-giving in the context of HIV and AIDS, it is now just over 10 years since the first Pacific Islander to publicly declare their HIV status did so, in Tahiti, to a regional convention of journalists which she was herself attending as a graduate of the University of the South Pacific. For Maire Bopp Dupont, the public declaration of her condition marked a historic moment which broke through the walls of silence and denial around HIV and AIDS and continues to reveal the stigma and discrimination holding those walls of silence and shame together.

In the decade since that moment, Maire has gone from Pacific journalist to global advocate. In the same timeframe, the Pacific region has stepped up its response to the epidemic, with a mixed bag of results.