with sadness and disappointment the dissolution of the National
Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA).
was founded 30 years ago, shortly after the meeting where the seminal
“Denver Principles” self-empowerment manifesto was written and
adopted by people living with AIDS. Since then, NAPWA played an
important role in fostering HIV positive leadership and advocating on
behalf of people living with HIV/AIDS.
While we salute
the historical role of NAPWA and valuable work done by those who were
part of NAPWA over the years, we also know that the organization
often struggled to fulfill its mission to be an effective national
voice of and for people living with HIV/AIDS.
As the North
American affiliate of the Global Network of People living with
HIV/AIDS, GNP+NA believes that the closing of NAPWA must be the
impetus for a far-ranging participatory discussion that re-imagines
and strengthens PLWHA organizing and leadership in the United States.
One of the first
steps must be a full, honest and transparent explanation of the
circumstances and actions leading to NAPWA’s closure. Like others
in the AIDS community, we have recently been made aware of troubling
issues that appear to have led to the bankruptcy. Any tax-exempt
group that has raised and spent tens of millions in contributions,
grants and government funds over the years owes such accountability
to the community they purport to represent.
are now more people than ever living with HIV/AIDS in the US and
around the world. While transmission rates have stabilized or even
fallen in some communities, other communities are ravaged by an
epidemic that continues to grow and rage unchecked.
The need for the
meaningful involvement of people living with HIV/AIDS, particularly
those from the most vulnerable communities, has never been more
critical. Yet the commitment to empowering people with HIV, by those
in government, NGOs and civil society, seems to exist more in
rhetoric than in reality.
Despite that lack
of support, there are countless vibrant and effective HIV positive
leaders and activists working at every level of this epidemic from
the grassroots to national and global organizations. There are
thousands more who are capable of leadership, but who aren’t
provided the encouragement, opportunity and support to find their
to work with colleagues and committed allies to turn a sad
milestone—the closure of one of the very first organizations
representing people with HIV—into an essential community dialogue
involving the full, rich and exciting diversity of all communities of
people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States.Together we can
and must build a stronger, more inclusive, representative, and
accountable movement by and for people living with HIV. Because
like those early pioneers who met in a hotel room in Denver and wrote
a radical manifesto that has been heard around the world, we are
still “Fighting for our Lives” and we are fighting for the lives
of each other.