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 Driving Important Progress in the Battle Against HIV and AIDS

The fourth and final episode of HIV Heroes takes us to Zimbabwe and Belize. We meet two HIV advocates working to ensure the HIV community has access to treatment and prevention information, as well as the rights, protection and dignity that all people deserve.  

HIV Hero Annah Sango caught up with Plus editors in Montreal during AIDS 2022, the 24th International AIDS Conference, where Sango was a featured speaker. Based in Harare, Zimbabwe, Sango is an advocacy officer at the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) and works on pediatric HIV advocacy to ensure children and their mothers have the care and support they need.  

Recalling her start in advocacy, Sango shares, “It was a time where it was so difficult to access services or access care if you were a pregnant young woman and also living with HIV.” From then on, Sango says, “It has always been about really ensuring that my peers have the right information...(and) tools in terms of being able to prevent HIV and also being able to manage HIV and also prevent…(the disease in) children.” While a lot has changed in HIV information and knowledge since Sango’s work began, “There is also a lot that is out there that people still need to access.” This gap continues to drive Sango’s work today.

HIV Hero Caleb Orozco changed the course of history in Belize and his work continues to this day. Orozco was the plaintiff in the six-year-long legal case that led to the declaration of Belize’s sodomy law as unconstitutional in 2016. Despite that landmark decision, Orozco shares that in Belize “LGBT people don't have any social safety net. They cannot depend on the State for things like job protection, against discrimination in housing. They get the message that they're not welcomed on the streets. They're not welcome in their jobs. They're not welcomed at the hospitals.”  This reality has fueled Orozco’s work as Executive Director of the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM), “the oldest and only LGBT-led policy and advocacy organization in the country,” says Orozco.  

Orozco observes that since the 2016 ruling striking down of the country’s sodomy law and in his 15+ years of advocacy work, “more gay people who are HIV-positive are speaking about prevention work and speaking about treatment. There is a slow or gradual move towards asserting their needs… health rights… economic needs… and ensuring that we have a mechanism that enforces and protects the dignity and rights of those individuals.”

“While there isn’t a groundswell of people wanting to be visible,” says Orozco, “there’s cause for hope.” 

Learn more about their stories and others at HIV Heroes.

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