In many countries, activists who demand access to HIV and AIDS services face the threat of censorship, defamation, violence, imprisonment, and other recriminations by their governments. Whether it is activists demanding access to antiretroviral treatment; farmers demanding compensation for having been infected with HIV through a government blood plasma collection program; demonstrators opposing excessive patent protection in bi-lateral free trade agreements; transgender people trying to distribute HIV information and condoms; or people who use drugs opposing their country’s persecution of people who use drugs, peaceful demonstrations have been met with intimidation and violent dispersal. Laws placing restrictions on the establishment of nongovernmental organizations make it even harder for civil society to develop an independent voice for sound and effective AIDS policies in their countries.
The link between HIV/AIDS and marginalized, “different,” or socially “deviant” populations in the collective consciousness has been strong from the beginning. Hence the public health and human rights question: Which would be more effective— further repression of marginalized populations, or working with them in a way that respects their rights and dignity? —Joanne Csete, 2005