World AIDS Day a time to reflect on progress, redouble efforts to fight pandemic

NOVEMBER 30, 2012 — This World AIDS Day, December 1, is a special one for a Canadian organization with truly global reach: the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network is celebrating 20 years of research, human rights advocacy, and community education and mobilization, in Canada and around the world.

Most recently, the Legal Network spearheaded two very public fights: to bring science and human rights to bear in limiting the scope of the criminal law related to HIV non-disclosure, and to reform Canada’s law on supplying affordable generic medicines to developing countries. These are but two of many challenges the Legal Network has tackled over the last two decades. Others include advancing tenacious advocacy for prisoners’ rights to HIV services; supporting sex workers’ challenges to harmful prostitution laws; advocating for women’s equality; attacking discrimination in immigration laws; speaking out for LGBT rights at the United Nations; and defending the dignity and rights of people who use drugs in Canada and abroad.

As the world contemplates what is required to achieve an AIDS-free generation, human rights must remain at the core of any effective response to the pandemic. That is the Legal Network’s mission. Simply put, our responsibility is to those living with or vulnerable to HIV and AIDS and the realization of their human rights.

On December 4, the Legal Network will celebrate its 20th anniversary at an event at Osgoode Hall. There, together with Human Rights Watch, we will present our Annual Awards for Action on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights to two outstanding champions who exemplify the critical importance of defending human rights in overcoming HIV and AIDS.

This year, the Canadian award recipient is Dr. Philip Berger — a tireless leading Canadian physician in HIV/AIDS and medical director at St. Michael’s Hospital’s renowned Inner City Health Program. Our international recipient is the Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice, a fierce grassroots organization led by Anya Sarang in Moscow, Russia, with the mission of promoting health, dignity and human rights through drug policy and harm reduction in Eastern and Central Asia.

We are also honoured that Stephen Lewis will be the evening’s keynote speaker. Mr. Lewis, former UN Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa and co-Director of AIDS-Free World, is a humanitarian and human rights activist whose dedication to the struggle against the pandemic and whose contributions to the improvement of the human condition have earned him admiration and respect the world over.

About the Awards for Action:

The Awards for Action on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights were established in 2002 by the Legal Network and Human Rights Watch to highlight outstanding contributions that decrease vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and protect the rights and dignity of people living with and vulnerable to HIV. Their purpose is to publicly recognize and honour excellence and commitment to work that has a direct impact on HIV/AIDS and human rights issues — in particular, work that directly benefits marginalized individuals and communities. Each year, an award is given to one Canadian and one international recipient.

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About the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network ( promotes the human rights of people living with and vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, in Canada and internationally, through research and analysis, advocacy and litigation, public education and community mobilization. The Legal Network is Canada’s leading advocacy organization working on the legal and human rights issues raised by HIV/AIDS.