To summarise, some of the main lessons learned thus far include:
- The participatory approaches used throughout Vida Digna increased the involvement of key populations by listening to, valuing and incorporating their experiences.
- Actively engaging key populations, and providing opportunities for skills-building and knowledge-sharing, are essential in order to combat HIV-related stigma and discrimination. Interventions to affect change within the environment are also needed.
- Technical and financial support transformed what was previously a weak civil society response to stigma and discrimination into one of the most visible and impactful initiatives with key populations within participating countries and across the region.
- The South-to-South collaboration made possible through Vida Digna proved invaluable, and enabled exchange of ideas and experiences, transfer of practical lessons learned and sharing of tools and resources between partner organisations.
- As the project evolved, implementation became more complex – specifically the process of linking a country organisation, Atlacatl, and two regional networks (REDLACTRANS and RedTraSex) with presence in 5 and 6 countries, respectively. Further central coordination through the Alliance Secretariat proved essential to successfully meeting this challenge.
Of the many lessons learned along the way, for me, perhaps the most important one is that sustained support is critical in order to affect real change. The combination of sustained financial and technical support provided through Vida Digna has been vital to its success at each phase.
Also, the enthusiasm of key populations (and the organisations representing them) to absorb new learnings and strategies, and to put them into practice in their communities, allowed us to expand Vida Digna and multiply its impact in ways we never imagined possible at the outset of the project.