The Blueprint

2. Leadership and innovation

"[P]reventing HIV infection is not only a matter of resources; it is also a matter of political choice, courage and will."

Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch, Plenary Presentation,
XIII International AIDS Conference, July 2000

Leadership is a critical part of an effective response to any disease that affects and stigmatizes marginalized people. To tackle the complex underlying causes of HIV, we need leadership at all levels: among people with HIV, in communities at risk, in local communities, among service providers and researchers, in the business community, and within Aboriginal, provincial/territorial and federal governments. We need committed people who are willing to speak out to convince the public and policy makers that HIV deserves focussed, discrete attention. We also need people who are willing to act boldly, to innovate, to fight for unpopular causes, to act against public opinion when necessary, and to find new and better ways to stop the epidemic.

We can trace the impact of leadership in HIV/AIDS at home and globally. In the early days of HIV in Canada, when homophobia and discrimination made gay men more vulnerable to infection, strong leaders in the community, the health care system and government were able to:

  • introduce policies to protect gay men's rights and reduce discrimination
  • advocate successfully for increased funding for HIV programs and improve care
  • challenge Canadian society's reluctance to talk openly about sex and sexuality in care and prevention programs

In other parts of the world, leadership has also played a key role.