The legacy of Caribbean social justice champion, activist and advocate, Dr. Robert Carr, was honoured throughout the 19th International AIDS Conference. The late founder of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) emphasised how vulnerability and stigma undermine the AIDS response. In particular, he worked to address the marginalisation of men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender people, sex workers, people who use drugs and at-risk youth. Those values and commitments were echoed and endorsed during AIDS2012.
United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, announced the investment of US$2 million through the Robert Carr Civil Society Network Fund "to bolster efforts... to reach key populations". The Global Forum on MSM and HIV (MSMGF) adopted the Robert Carr Doctrine in recognition that the AIDS response should challenge the marginalisation of vulnerable communities. And the Global Village stage was dedicated to Carr's memory. The inaugural Robert Carr memorial lecture organised by the International Council of AIDS Service Organisations (ICASO) in partnership with Futures Group, Human Rights Watch and CVC, was delivered by Ambassador Stephen Lewis of Canada.
"Equality has no conditions, no timelines and there are no excuses for waiting on it," asserted Lewis. He stressed three major themes. Double standards within the AIDS response are setting back the equality agenda. Self-stigma remains an insidious factor. And no manifestations of prejudice--whether sexism or racism--should be tolerated. And in his delivery of the first annual Robert Carr Memorial lecture at the MSMGF Pre-Conference meeting, AIDS-Free World attorney, Maurice Tomlinson, shared a simple strategy for combating homophobia: "We need to start telling our stories. If we don't, we can be assured the same stereotypes will continue."
Louise Tillotson, the technical and policy coordinator at CVC and El Centro de Orientacion e Investigacion Integral (COIN), stressed the ongoing relevance of Carr's legacy for the regional AIDS response.
"Robert believed responses to AIDS should respond to community needs and be community controlled. Our mandate is to strengthen community organisations, collectives and social movements that represent 'vulnerabilised' (vulnerable and marginalised) groups and the causes they identify based on their daily lived experience. In short, the Caribbean human rights agenda needs to be driven by 'vulnerabilised' groups, and they need sustained support and resources," she said.