A Peruvian Survivor Fights to Bridge the Gap Between Prevention and Treatment

Secretary-General of the United Nations Mr. Ban Ki-Moon addresses member states delegates during the opening of the General Assembly 2011 High Level Meeting on AIDS on Wednesday, June 8th. (Photo by Tametria Conner)

Enrique Chavez, 44, of Lima, Peru, said he’s the living face of HIV.

The South American delegate to the 2011 U.N. High Level Meeting on AIDS said he was not afraid of dying because, after 21 years of living with HIV, he’s still here.

“Maybe God has a plan for me, to show someone can live with HIV, not AIDS,” he said this week. “There’s a difference. … You can live if you take care of yourself.”

Chavez was told he had HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in 1990, when he was 23. He has been taking medication ever since. With recent advances in medication, Chavez, along with notable HIV patients such as Magic Johnson, are living longer and healthier lives. But Chavez said there were still disparities in treatment, care and support for HIV patients in his country.

“In Peru, 10 years ago, we didn’t have any medication and you basically waited to die,” he said. “My first experience with medication was sent from the United States.” He said there was still “a lot of discrimination and stigmas.”

As a delegate, an Aid for AIDS International advocate and a person living with HIV, Chavez said he had been fighting to bridge the gap between prevention and treatment.

“The problem is that many separate prevention and treatment,” he said, “but it has to work simultaneously.”

In addition, Chavez said, youths must be engaged in the prevention and awareness effort.

“We need to work with the youth,” he said. “This is really, really important. The youth need more opportunities and tools to equip them to make educated decisions about sex. When I contracted HIV, I didn’t have the opportunity for access or education about sex.”

Chavez said the government must follow through with previous declarations if officials wanted to change the course of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and commit to universal access to health care.

“Every five years, the government changes, and maybe they don’t have a real commitment to this cause,” he said. “In 2001 they signed an agreement, and in 2006; and now we are in 2011 and they want to sign another agreement.”

Chavez was referring to the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV and AIDS in which governments made a series of time-bound commitments to expand their efforts to address HIV. Five years later, governments made a historic commitment at the United Nations to drastically ramp up the AIDS-prevention response in a Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS.

The goals and targets agreed to by member states in the United Nations General Assembly expired at the end of 2010, according to the 2011 UNAIDS Report.

Chavez challenged world leaders to make greater strides toward action this time around in a new declaration.

“When they are signing agreements, they need to do what it says,” Chavez said.

In the meantime, he said, he won’t wait around for government action but will continue to work and be the face of life and hope for HIV/AIDS patients in his country and around the world.

“This work is never going to finish,” Chavez said. “Every day you have a new challenge and you have things to do.”


topic: Archive

Leave a Reply

More Coverage

It’s Hot Out Here!

NEW YORK _ Delegates and heads of state had to contend with triple digit heat on Thursday, the second day of historic high level meetings on AIDS at the United Nations. The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory for the New York area, after forecasting midday temperatures would climb to 99 degrees – and [...]

U.S. Researcher Assists AIDS Fight in Africa

Thirty years ago June 5, a young UCLA researcher published articles about otherwise healthy gay young patients experiencing fungal infections. That doctor was Michael Gottlieb. He reported what would become known as the first cases of AIDS. Within weeks, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked around New York and San Francisco and [...]

Battle Brews Over a Controversial Procedure: Transplanting HIV-Infected Organs

A fight is brewing in this country, although you may be unaware of it. This battle is not between Google and Bing, or Republicans and Democrats. It’s a fight between advocates and lawmakers, and it’s over the use of HIV-infected organs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued new guidelines to encourage research [...]

Human, Civil Rights Crucial to Prevention Efforts, U.S. Rep Says

Countries must protect human and civil rights as they move toward treating HIV and AIDS as a health issue, not a criminal matter, said world policymakers attending the 2011 U.N. High Level Meeting on AIDS. Members of parliament and nongovernmental organizations from nearly 50 countries on Tuesday debated ways to improve policies in HIV prevention, [...]

UNAIDS Pledges to Strengthen Collaboration With Faith-Based Groups

The doors of St. Mary’s Outreach Center in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, were shut for a few weeks in December. Its closing meant about 900 patients living with HIV/AIDS could not get testing services, prevention workshops and treatment. St. Mary’s shutdown was emblematic of the funding shortfalls facing many of the churches and faith-based organizations fighting [...]

Peaceful Protest Spotlights Strong Passion in AIDS Fight

Chants, songs and shouts comprised a chaotic but peaceful protest to bring awareness to the need for funding and research in the fight against AIDS. The march, which drew protestors from around the world Wednesday morning, coincided with the opening day of the 2011 U.N. High Level Meeting on AIDS. The marchers converged on Bryant [...]

‘First Ladies’ Panel Focuses on Children Facing the Disease

During a recent Feast of Mothers event, Haiti’s first lady met pregnant mothers who were HIV-positive and hoped to give birth to children uninfected with the disease. The prognosis for the women and their unborn children are not great, but Sophia Saint Remy Martelly is committed to changing those odds. “We want to make that [...]

A Peruvian Survivor Fights to Bridge the Gap Between Prevention and Treatment

Enrique Chavez, 44, of Lima, Peru, said he’s the living face of HIV. The South American delegate to the 2011 U.N. High Level Meeting on AIDS said he was not afraid of dying because, after 21 years of living with HIV, he’s still here. “Maybe God has a plan for me, to show someone can [...]

UN Chief Sets 2015 Goal To Eradicate AIDS

On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon challenged world leaders and state members delegates to end AIDS. “Today we have a chance to end this epidemic once and for all,” Ban said during his opening address at the 2011 U.N. High Level Meeting on AIDS. He emphasized that new targets have to be met. Ban said [...]

Turning a Lens on AIDS to Challenge Stereotypes

It was the sudden death of a beloved cousin that moved Kimberly D. Conner to action. Five years ago, Conner, a Springfield, Ill., activist and an independent filmmaker, created a film to honor her cousin, Bridgette, who died of AIDS complications in 1997. She was 28. Conner said she wanted to use her cousin’s story [...]