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Vida Digna (Life With Dignity)

A collaboration between three NGOs to address HIV related stigma, discrimination & violence against key populations via sustainable programmes in Latin America

Lessons learned

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.

Key Facts

Project Name: Vida Digna (Life with Dignity)

Run by: The International HIV/AIDS Alliance in conjunction with the following organisations during various phases of the program: Colectivo Sol (phase I: Mexico, phase II: transition to El Salvador), Atlacatl (phases II and III: El Salvador), and two networks in Central America working with sex workers, RedTraSex, and transgender people, REDLACTRANS (phase III: expansion to five additional countries in the region)

Region: Central America, with specific programming in Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama

Population: Key populations most affected by HIV-related stigma and discrimination: people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), sex workers, gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender people and drug users

Challenges: Persistent and pervasive stigma, discrimination and mistreatment against key populations; Underrepresentation in decision-making processes; Lack of access to quality information and health services; Self-stigma

Activities: Training, technical assistance and seed funding to build the capacity of community organisations; Participatory Community Assessment (PCA) activities used as the basis for needs assessments with key populations, a tool for developing advocacy work plans, and raising awareness with the general population and policy makers; South-South collaboration to expand the impact and influence of the project across the region