For over two decades Indigenous peoples and leaders around the world have worked together to form the International Indigenous Working Group on HIV & AIDS. Since the first International Indigenous AIDS Conference held in New Zealand in 1991, IIWGHA has grown to regularly host Indigenous Satellite conferences at the biennial International AIDS Conference and is taking steps to become an independent international NGO.
IIWGHA is the first international Indigenous group of its kind. We exist to build a unified voice for Indigenous peoples in collective action against HIV and AIDS by creating partnerships with governments, Indigenous leaders, research bodies, and AIDS organizations. We are committed to increasing knowledge and addressing the stigma of HIV and AIDS within Indigenous communities. We are also committed to supporting Indigenous-directed research and awareness initiatives. We support the Greater Involvement of People living with HIV (GIPA) principle, which empowers people living with HIV and AIDS to take a leading role in the work that most affects them, acknowledging the valuable contribution they make in advancing the HIV and AIDS movement.
Our work is founded on the key principles developed and adopted by Indigenous Peoples throughout the world in the Toronto Charter – Indigenous Peoples’ Action Plan on HIV/AIDS. (hyperlink to the Charter document contained in the website within the “Key Documents” tab) The Toronto Charter is a call to action directed at people who influence and make decisions about the provision of HIV/AIDS services for Indigenous Peoples around the world. We aim to publicize global issue of Indigenous peoples affected by HIV and AIDS as reflected by the words, “To See and Be Seen”, which was the theme of the Indigenous pre-conference IIWGHA hosted in Washington, D.C. for the 2012 International AIDS Conference.
We are dedicated to creating awareness of Indigenous issues in facing HIV and AIDS and “Indigenizing” mainstream AIDS organizations. We believe that increased epidemiological data with a focus on Indigenous ethnicity will help strengthen what IIWGHA already knows: that HIV and AIDS disproportionately affect Indigenous peoples and that said data is necessary to gain appropriate funding and NGO status.
Finally, IIWGHA provides Indigenous leaders an outlet for sharing, exchanging, and gaining experiences and knowledge on HIV and AIDS to promote hope and change within their own communities.
The current host of the IIWGHA is the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN) (link to CAAN website here). CAAN is a not-for-profit coalition of individuals and organizations which provides leadership, support and advocacy for Aboriginal people living with and affected by HIV & AIDS, regardless of where they reside. The host organization’s primary responsibilities include:
- Developing a strategic plan to address HIV/AIDS among indigenous peoples,
- Organizing future conferences and gatherings,
- Organizing an Indigenous-led follow-up to the 2011 Ottawa Policy Dialogue hosting by the government of Canada that was driven by an Indigenous agenda, and
- Coordinating an Indigenous response to the global Indigenous HIV/AIDS epidemic.
There is to be rotating positions among countries.