Still “Fighting for Our Lives”

In 1983 a group of AIDS activists stormed the closing ceremony of the 5th annual Lesbian and Gay Health Conference holding a banner that read “Fighting for Our Lives.” At this seminal moment in the history of AIDS activism, the group presented their “Bill of Rights” for People Living with HIV (PLWH), also known as the Denver Principles.

The Denver Principles underlined the importance of referring to those affected as “People Living with HIV,” rather than “victims” or “patients.” In addition, the activists urged health care professionals to “treat people with AIDS as whole people, and address psychological issues as well as biophysical ones.” They challenged all people to stand up for the rights of PLWH and “not scapegoat people with AIDS, blame us for the epidemic, or generalize about our lifestyles,” and encouraged people affected by the epidemic to “become involved in every level of decision-making” related to medical, social, and government response to the crisis.

Finally, the Principles outlined the rights of PLWH, including the right to full and satisfying sex lives, the right to quality medical treatment administered free of discrimination or stigma, the right to full explanations of all medical procedures and the risks involved, the right to privacy and confidentiality, and the “right to die –and LIVE – in dignity.”

The fight to put the Denver Principles into practice has been long, difficult, but in many ways successful. Still, the fight is not over.

The current administration has demonstrated time and time again their lack of investment in protecting and advancing the rights, wellbeing, and health of members of the LGBTQ community and PLWH. In some cases, the administration appears to be directly undermining and harming these communities. We have chosen the theme “Fighting for Our Lives” for the 2018 Transforming Care Conference to pay homage to the work of advocates in the past and to highlight the urgent need to stand up, speak up, and fight for our fundamental rights through advocacy, activism, providing and obtaining comprehensive health care for our community, and standing in solidarity with all marginalized communities.

Transforming Care is the country’s most comprehensive conference on LGBTQ & HIV/AIDS health equity. The 2018 conference will be on October 18 & 19 at the Fawcett Center in Columbus. Register now!