Explore ViiV Healthcare

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

What we do

Phase I: Mexico

Colectivo Sol designed the Vida Digna programme and implemented it in partnership with 13 NGOs in 4 states in Central North Mexico from 2005 to 2010. Our primary objective with the project was to increase awareness and understanding that the persistent and pervasive stigma against key populations in this region was unacceptable.

We focused on strengthening existing organisations and building up new ones byproviding training, technical assistance and seed funding. Participatory Community Assessment (PCA) activities, which encourage participants to examine stigma and discrimination at all levels – from individual to national – were used throughout the project as a needs assessment with key populations, as a tool for developing advocacy work plans, and for raising awareness with the general population and policy makers. We recognised very early on that to achieve our goals, we had to effectively engage not only the key affected populations themselves, but also the key influencers around them.

English Transcript

“It was a project based on partnerships – partnerships with organisations and key populations, but also partnerships with government, partnerships with the health facilities, and in one of the cases, with the police, because those were the places where stigma and discrimination were really strong.  So, we had to take both approaches – with the key populations and the organisations, and with the environment around them.  Because you cannot change stigma and discrimination if you do not have interventions also in the environment.”

- Juan Jacobo Hernández, General Director, Colectivo Sol

Spanish Translation

“Lo que hicimos fue tratar de reducir el estigma y la discriminación y usamos dos enfoques. El primer enfoque fue hacer que las poblaciones y las organizaciones tuvieran una clara conciencia de que el estigma y discriminación son inaceptables. Y por otro lado también trabajar directamente con instituciones de salud, y en el caso de una de las organizaciones, con la policía porque es ahí donde estaba más concentrado el estigma y la discriminación.”

- Juan Jacobo Hernández, General Director, Colectivo Sol

 I’m happy to share with you this brief video that we developed about the first phase of the Vida Digna project.

Phase II: El Salvador

During the next phase of the project, we transferred the lessons learned from Mexico into El Salvador.  Vida Digna is being implemented here by the Alliance Linking Organisation Asociación Atlacatl Vivo Positivo (Atlacatl), a Salvadorian non-profit, non-governmental organisation dedicated to promoting and defending the human rights of people with HIV, and four partner organisations. 

In keeping with objectives to expand South-South cooperation and strengthen lesson learning and sharing, we provided Atlacatl with capacity-building workshops and assisted with the design of a technical assistance strategy for the project implementation in El Salvador. As in Mexico, PCA activities are once again being used throughout the project.

Our partners in El Salvador adapted the project’s content to their own realities, but the goals and objectives remained the same – reducing stigma, improving services, empowering key populations, and moving forward effective, long-term advocacy activities. 

I’m pleased to introduce you to Julio Ramirez, Director of Monitoring and Evaluation at Atlacatl, who will tell you more about Vida Digna in El Salvador (videos are in Spanish; transcripts are provided in Spanish with English translations): 

Spanish Transcript

“Básicamente Vida Digna se enfoca en tres objetivos. El primero es el fortalecimiento institucional tanto para las organizaciones socias o las organizaciones de poblaciones claves y el fortalecimiento también a la organización que ejecuta, o coordinadora del proyecto, en este caso es la Asociación Atlacatl. También estamos enfocados hacia la contribución en acciones de incidencia política y social, que desarrollan también tanto las organizaciones de poblaciones claves como nosotros, organización coordinadora. Y también la búsqueda del acceso a servicios de calidad, libre de estigma y discriminación, para nuestras poblaciones .”

- Julio Ramirez, Director of Monitoring and Evaluation, Asociación Atlacatl Vivo Positivo

English Translation

“Basically, Vida Digna focuses on three objectives. The first is institutional strengthening, for both partner organisations – or, organisations that work with key populations – and strengthening, too, the organisation that implements, or the project’s coordinator, which in this case is the Asociación Atlacatl. We also focus on contributing to advocacy work, which is also developed by the organisations that work with key populations as well as us, the coordinating organisation. And also, the search for access to quality services, free from stigma and discrimination, for our populations.”

- Julio Ramirez, Director of Monitoring and Evaluation, Asociación Atlacatl Vivo Positivo

Spanish Transcript

“Lo que estamos planeando es darle continuidad al programa, ¿verdad? Hacerlo sostenible. Estamos buscando cómo enlazar este programa Vida Digna a otros programas por eso es que tratamos de adaptar las diferentes herramientas e incluirlas en estos otros programas. También el continuar desarrollando acciones de incidencia política y social a fin de contribuir a la erradicación de estigma y discriminación tanto de las personas con VIH como de las poblaciones claves que están trabajando actualmente. Y, eh, continuar el fortalecimiento a nuestras organizaciones, dado que hemos identificado que es una limitante y que no se había trabajado antes. El resto de programas o de, o proyectos de otras instituciones o de otras organizaciones que apoyan a estas organizaciones de poblaciones claves, raramente incluyen ese elemento, ese factor de fortalecimiento técnico y profesional. Entonces, este programa permite eso, ¿verdad? Y nuestro objetivo es dejar a organizaciones mucho más sólidas en nuestro país, para que le den continuidad al programa.”

- Julio Ramirez, Director of Monitoring and Evaluation, Asociación Atlacatl Vivo Positivo

English Translation “What we are planning is to give continuity to the programme, you know? To make it sustainable. We are looking to see how to link the Vida Digna programme to other programmes, which is why we try to adapt the different tools and include them in these other programmes. Also, to continue to develop advocacy work in order to contribute to the eradication of stigma and discrimination against people with HIV, as well as the other populations that we are currently working with. And, to continue to strengthen our organisations, since we have identified it as a limiting factor and one that has not been focused on before. The other programmes or projects by other institutions or organisations working with key populations rarely include that element, that factor of technical and professional strengthening. So this programme enables that, you know? And our objective is to leave organisations in a much more solid state in our country, so that they can lend continuity to the programme.”

- Julio Ramirez, Director of Monitoring and Evaluation, Asociación Atlacatl Vivo Positivo

Spanish Transcript

“Realmente, para nosotros, este programa, eh, significa mucho, porque yo considero, a título personal, que todo el que se involucra de Vida Digna genera un cambio significativo. Se ve beneficiado de una forma u otra. Eso es lo que hemos visto al interior de nuestra organización y para las poblaciones que estamos trabajando, porque ha generado un cambio muy significativo en cada una de ellas y en sus respectivas poblaciones. “ - Julio Ramirez, Director of Monitoring and Evaluation, Asociación Atlacatl Vivo Positivo

English Translation

“Really, to us, this programme means a lot, because I think, personally, that everything that involves Vida Digna [Life with Dignity] generates a significant change. We benefit in one way or another. That is what we have seen inside our own organisation and for the organisations we work with, because it has generated a very significant change in each one of them, and in their respective populations.”

- Julio Ramirez, Director of Monitoring and Evaluation, Asociación Atlacatl Vivo Positivo 

Julio Ramirez, Director of Monitoring and Evaluation, Asociación Atlacatl Vivo Positivo 

Phase III: Expansion to Five Additional Central American Countries

The most recent phase of Vida Digna includes continuation of the implementation phase in El Salvador, as well as adaptation of the project to five additional countries in Central America – Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. New partner organisations are again using the successful model from Mexico to replicate advocacy efforts and strengthen community-level organisations, this time organisations specifically representing sex workers(including transgender sex workers). For this phase of the project, the Latin American Network of Sex Workers (RedTraSex) and the Latin American Network of Transgender people (REDLACTRANS ) have joined the growing body of Vida Digna partners.

In this effort to build an environment favourable to the reduction of stigma and discrimination towards sex workers, these partners are using participatory assessment to map the HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination against this key population; strengthening local organisations, their networking and their influence; and, increasing uptake of high-quality and comprehensive HIV/AIDS-related services.

Let me welcome Elena Reynaga from RedTraSex and Marcela Romero from REDLACTRANS, who will share some of their perspectives about the third phase of Vida Digna (videos are in Spanish; transcripts are provided in Spanish with English translations):

Spanish Transcript

“Nuestra organización, este, lo que hace es, este, empoderar a las organizaciones de trabajadoras sexuales para incidir en la política pública, para cambiar legislaciones punitivas que hay dentro de lo que es la región latinoamericana. Lo que hacemos nosotras como red latinoamericana, a parte de trabajar con las organizaciones de base, es, este, trabajar en los espacios nacionales, regionales y mundiales, incidiendo y visibilizando, este, para que todos los recursos, este, vayan a las organizaciones de base.”

- Elena Reynaga, RedTraSex

English Translation

“Our organisation, what it does is empower sex worker organisations to have an effect on advocacy, to change punitive legislation that exists within the Latin American region. What we, as a Latin American network, do besides working with grassroots organisations, is work on national, regional, and global levels, impacting and making [the sex workers] visible, so that all the resources  go to the grassroots organisations.”

- Elena Reynaga, RedTraSex

Spanish Transcript

“También formamos a las compañeras, hacemos encuentros subregionales, y formamos a las compañeras en determinadas herramientas sobre estigma y descriminación. Y también lo que hago es trabajar conjuntamente con ellas en lo que es el trabajo de campo. Salir y visitar los de-, de-, las zonas de trabajo, los prostíbulos, los burdeles, con las compañeras del lugar y en la, en el momento, enseñar a cómo se hace el trabajo entre pares. También lo que hacemos en esa visitas es hacer incidencia política, con los programas nacionales. También hacemos conferencias de prensa. Y entonces lo que hacemos es enseñar a las compañeras en el momento a cómo se dirige uno hacia la prensa, cómo se dirige uno ante a un funcionario de Naciones Unidas o cómo uno se dirige a un Ministerio de Salud, este, pero fundamentalmente también hacemos mucho el tema de la comunicación.”

- Elena Reynaga, RedTraSex

English Translation

“We also train our colleagues, we hold sub-regional meetings, and we train our colleagues with specific tools on stigmatisation and discrimination. And, also, what I do is work together with them in what is outreach work. Going out and visiting the work areas, the brothels, with our colleagues from that area, and at the same time, teach them how to use peer work. During those visits we also do advocacy work, with national programmes. We also give press conferences. And then what we do is teach our colleagues, right then and there, how to present themselves to the press, how to present themselves to United Nations officials, or how to present themselves to a Health Minister, but, fundamentally, we also work a lot on the communications aspect.”

- Elena Reynaga, RedTraSex

Spanish Transcript

“Sí, nosotros trabajamos para disminuir el estigma y la discriminación que hay en Latinoamérica, reconocimiento a nuestra identidad de género, y disminuir la transfobia – nosotros hablamos de transfobia, no de homofobia – y, por supuesto, en el tema de salud, exigir a los gobiernos y a los estados, eh, servicios de salud amigables con profesionales capacitados para poder acceder a la salud como, por supuesto, la salud es un derecho y necesitamos acceder a la salud porque la salud para nosotras es algo muy princi-, es algo principal para poder acceder a los beneficios como cualquier otro ciudadano y ciudadana.”

- Marcela Romero, Regional Coordinator, REDLACTRANS

English Translation

“We work to decrease stigma and discrimination that exist today in Latin America, to increase recognition of our gender identity, and to decrease transphobia – we talk about transphobia, not homophobia – and, of course, on the issue of health, to demand friendly health services, with trained professionals, from governments and states so that we can access health services since, of course, health is a right and we need to access health services because our health is a major issue for us to be able to access benefits like any other male or female citizen.”

- Marcela Romero, Regional Coordinator, REDLACTRANS

Spanish Transcript

“El objetivo de Vida Digna es en capacitarnos, es darnos las herramientas para poder disminuir la transfobia en Centroamérica, tener la visibilidad en los espacios de toma de decisión, eh, nosotras venimos exigiendo esos espacios, venimos exigiendo los lugares que nos corresponden. Nosotras no queremos que ningún señor de traje y corbata o una señora nos represente, en las mesas de decisiones, las tomas de decisiones. Somos nosotras las que tenemos que decidir qué, qué plan de trabajo queremos, qué queremos hacer, y somos nosotras las que tenemos que hacer el trabajo de llegada a entre-pares con nuestras compañeras.”

- Marcela Romero, Regional Coordinator, REDLACTRANS

English Translation

“Vida Digna’s goal is to train us, to give us the tools to be able to decrease transphobia in Central America, to gain visibility in decision-making spaces.  We have been demanding those spaces, we have been demanding the place that belongs to us. We do not want any man in a suit and tie or a woman to represent us at the decision making table. We have to decide what plan we want, what we want to do, and we are the ones that have to do peer-work with our colleagues.”

- Marcela Romero, Regional Coordinator, REDLACTRANS

Spanish Transcript

“La primer fase [sic] fue la capacitación, eh, de las compañeras en Centroamérica, tuvimos talleres en la cual [sic] nos capacitamos y empezamos a conocernos, en profundo, y empezar a reconocer nuestras capacidades, nuestras debilidades y empezar a armar ese proyecto para poder avanzar. El, la segunda fase fue, eh, incidir en los espacios políticos. Empezamos a capacitarnos y empezamos a incidir en los espacios políticos como dije hoy, estuvimos en Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA ) en El Salvador, en la cual una compañera trans leyó una declaración en la cual exigimos respeto a nuestra identidad y basta de crímenes de odio en Latinoamérica. Y la segunda fase, la tercer [sic] fase fue visibilizarnos en Guatemala, en la cual hicimos nuestra marcha centroamericana, unidas contra la transfobia. Visibilizarnos frente al nuevo gobierno que llega a Guatemala, decir “Acá estamos; somos nosotras. Queremos nuestros derechos, los derechos que están, los mismos derechos con los mismos nombres” y empezar a trabajar, articuladamente con el gobierno, la ley de identidad de género.”

- Marcela Romero, Regional Coordinator, REDLACTRANS

English Translation

“The first phase was training of our colleagues in Central America; we had workshops where we were trained and where we began to know ourselves deeply, and began to recognise our abilities, our weaknesses and began to create that plan to be able to move forward.  The second phase was making a political impact. We began to train and began to work politically, as I said today; we were in the Organization of American States (Conference) OAS in El Salvador, where a transsexual colleague read a declaration in which we demanded respect for our identity and said no to the hate crimes in Latin America. And the third phase was to gain visibility in Guatemala, where we did our Central American demonstration against transphobia. We gained visibility with the new government coming in Guatemala. We said, “Here we are; it’s us. We want our rights, the rights that already exist, the same rights with the same names” and we began to work, together with the government, on the law on gender identity.”

- Marcela Romero, Regional Coordinator, REDLACTRANS

Elena Reynaga, RedTraSex 

Marcela Romero, Regional Coordinator, REDLACTRANS

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

Gallery