'We have to go to these meetings prepared to both listen to others and share our experiences in combating this pandemic.' - James Clancy, NUPGE.
Toronto (4 August 2006) - Canadian and international activists are using the upcoming International AIDS Conference, convened every other year by the International AIDS Society (IAS), as an opportunity to build grassroots links between countries in fighting the global pandemic.
Two such examples are the Canadian Labour Congress' Global Labour Forum on AIDS and the Stephen Lewis Foundations Grandmothers' Gathering.
Global Labour Forum on AIDS
James Clancy, national president of the 340,000-member National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), sees these events as a presenting a positive opportunity for Canadian activists.
"This is both a great honour and responsibility for Canada," he says.
"We have to go to these meetings prepared to both listen to others and share our experiences in combating this pandemic. Participants must return to their home communities better equipped to keep up the struggle. Our government must be pushed to follow through on commitments it has made to address this global crisis."
The two-day Labour Forum on AIDS - Aug. 11-13 in Toronto - is intended to bring together activists from around the world, providing an opportunity to learn from one another's experience, and to develop strengths and strategies to better respond to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Ken Georgetti, president of the three-million-member Canadian Labour Congress, sees the forum as bringing "the power of our solidarity" to the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS and offers another source of hope for the millions of workers whose own lives, families and communities are being ravaged by this pandemic.
"This is especially true in places where the workplace is one, if not the only place where people can come together, share their stories and learn how to turn the tide against this global human crisis," he says.
"Unions are on the front lines in the struggle against HIV/AIDS because their members have asked them to be there. This collective demand for action from workers for workers makes me proud to be a union member."
The Grandmothers' Gathering - Aug. 11-12 in Toronto - is an initiative stemming from the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign launched in March of this year by the Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF).
"Grandmothers are emerging as the unrecognized heroes of the continent," says Lewis, who chairs the SLF board.
"No one gives them their due. Few acknowledge that society could not exist without them. No special provision is made for their food, clothing, shelter or emotional needs. Yet the fate of generations of children weighs heavily on their shoulders."
"The gathering will bring together close to 100 sub-Saharan African grandmothers and 200 Canadian grandmothers from across the nation to strengthen a solidarity movement, informed by the voices of African women," he says "It will assist African grandmothers to obtain the support needed to secure a hopeful and healthy future for their grandchildren, who have been orphaned or made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS."
South African grandmother
Lucia Mazibuko, a member of the Gogo Granny Support Group in Alexandra, South Africa, says the issue is hard for many grandmothers to understand.
"We are dealing with a difficult thing, which we can't even explain. So I think I'll get something from this community and learn and try to talk back to explain exactly what is AIDS. Maybe the grannies out there will understand and we'll deal with this together," she says.
The Stephen Lewis Foundation's goal is to offer the grandmothers from across southern Africa a forum where they can speak openly as experts about their experiences living with the HIV/AIDS epidemic and for Canadian grandmothers to engage directly with African grandmothers about their situation, to inform and shape their fundraising and awareness work across the country.
Sub-Saharan Africa has overwhelming numbers of children orphaned by AIDS - an estimated 13 million. The total is projected to reach 18-20 million by the year 2010.
Grandmothers have become the heart of the response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, often providing care for as many as 10 to 15 orphaned children in each household.
International AIDS Conference
The organizers of the XVI International AIDS Conference AIDS have put together over 400 sessions, meetings and workshops providing what is described as "an unparalleled opportunity to explore the latest developments in HIV science, policy and practice."
The co-organizers of AIDS 2006 are the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, the Global Network of People Living with HIV, the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, the International Council of AIDS Service Organizations and the Canadian AIDS Society. NUPGE