London - 14 February 2011 – Today, ViiV Healthcare's Positive Action programme and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance announced that their current partnership, the Vida Digna Project, will expand into five additional countries in Central America over the next three years. The project is part of an ongoing effort to address HIV-related stigma, discrimination and violence against at-risk populations, and reflects the shared objective of both organizations to empower local communities via sustainable programmes and South-South collaboration. Through its Positive Action programme, ViiV Healthcare has committed US $600,000 over a three-year period to fund the partnership and expand the project, which has already demonstrated a measurable impact in Mexico and been successfully transferred to El Salvador.

The Vida Digna project seeks to tackle the issues which lead to HIV-related stigma, discrimination and violence, and prevent vulnerable populations – men who have sex with men (MSM), sex workers, people living with HIV, transgender individuals, and injecting drug users – from accessing prevention and health services. The continuation of this project, which was initiated in 2005 in Mexico, will create a path for expansion and sustainability of the model in Latin America. 

"Addressing human rights in our HIV programming is fundamental to the community response to HIV," said Alvaro Bermejo, Executive Director of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. "This has been critical to our mission in Latin America, and our partnership with ViiV Healthcare has enabled change among populations most impacted by HIV/AIDS."

"We fully support the premise of Vida Digna, life with dignity. Our partnership with the Alliance has particular importance because it is promoting tolerance and empowerment in regions where discrimination and stigma are prevalent, and where they create barriers to accessing the right treatments and care," said Dr Dominique Limet, CEO, ViiV Healthcare. "This programme has supported vulnerable yet marginalised populations to organise and mount effective responses to the HIV-related stigma and discrimination that affects them."

The number of people living with HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean has increased steadily since 1990. It is estimated that 2 million individuals are living with HIV/AIDS in the region (Source: UNAIDS/WHO 2009 AIDS Epidemic Update) and the disease is most prevalent among at-risk populations. Crime against key populations persists; violence, bullying, and generalised violations of rights create barriers to healthcare and information, and undermine efforts to empower these groups for better preventing and tackling the disease. 

The Vida Digna Project aims to build an environment favourable to the reduction of HIV/AIDS-related stigma, discrimination and violence towards key populations, which in turn prevents them from accessing prevention and health services. Between 2005 and 2009, with the support of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and financial support from the Positive Action programme, the organisation Colectivo Sol administered the Vida Digna project in Mexico by providing training, technical support and small grants to 13 implementing organisations in five cities. External evaluation of Vida Digna in Mexico showed that the project has contributed to the reduction of stigma and discrimination in ways that have improved access to HIV services. 

"The Vida Digna project increased the capacity of local community-based organisations to advocate for a reduction of stigma and discrimination," said Juan Jacobo Hernandez, Executive Director of Colectivo Sol. "One of the best examples was the creation of a new organisation of transgender people and sex workers, which then gained acceptance with regional and national decision-making organisations like the National AIDS Commission in Mexico." 

Based on the success of the Vida Digna project in Mexico, the project was adapted to El Salvador beginning in 2009. In line with objectives to expand South-South cooperation and strengthen lesson learning and sharing in the Latin American region, Colectivo Sol provided the organisation Association Atlacatl Vivo Positivo in El Salvador with capacity building workshops and assisted with design of a technical assistance strategy.

The new phase of the Vida Digna project 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. Three partner organisations will use the successful model from Mexico to replicate advocacy efforts and strengthen community-level organisations representing sex workers (including transgender sex workers). The new phase of Vida Digna aims to help to build an environment favourable to the reduction of AIDS-related stigma and discrimination towards sex workers. This requires mapping HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination against this key population through participatory assessment, strengthening the organisations, their networking and their influence, and increasing uptake of quality comprehensive services free of stigma and discrimination. The partner organisations for phase III of the Vida Digna project are Associacion Atlacatl Vivo Positivo, the Latin American Network of Sex Workers (RedTraSex) and the Latin American Network of Transgender people (RedLacTrans).

About the International HIV/AIDS Alliance
The International HIV/AIDS Alliance (the Alliance) is a global partnership of nationally based organizations in over 40 developing countries supporting more than 3,000 projects, working to support community action on AIDS in developing countries.

About ViiV Healthcare's Positive Action Programme
When Positive Action was created in 1992 it was the first pharmaceutical company programme of its kind to support communities affected by HIV and AIDS. The programme targets its funds towards community-focused projects that reach those most affected by HIV, particularly in marginalised or vulnerable populations. These include women and girls, sex workers, injecting drug users, MSM, the incarcerated, transgender and gay men. Positive Action works to build capacity in these communities to enable them to tackle stigma and discrimination, to test innovations in education, care and treatment and to deliver greater and meaningful involvement of people living with HIV.

About ViiV Healthcare
ViiV Healthcare is a global specialist HIV company established by GlaxoSmithKline (LSE: GSK.L) and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) to deliver advances in treatment and care for people living with HIV. Our aim is to take a deeper and broader interest in HIV/AIDS than any company has done before and then take a new approach to deliver effective and new HIV medicines as well as support communities affected by HIV.

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