AIDS charities have backed gay campaigner Peter Tatchell’s call for partnership between the developed and developing world in combating HIV.

Speaking at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada last week, Mr Tatchell suggested the “rich north” should partner the “poor south” with funding, equipment, training and travel.

He said: “We need to respond to requests for help from HIV organisations in the global south. Instead of waiting for action from governments, every HIV agency in the West should link up with a counterpart organisation in the Third World – empowering them with funding, equipment, training and travel costs, so they can attend international AIDS conferences.

“Well financed western HIV organisations can easily afford to buy computers and phones for badly under-funded HIV groups in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

“We should heed their calls for help and proactively offer our support. Training local activists in HIV counselling, political lobbying and media communications are simple, practical ways to empower these groups,”

Yusef Azad, Director of policy and campaigns and the National AIDS Trust (NAT) backed the activist’s proposals, “HIV organisations in the developing world need the support not just of international development organisations from the richer North but also of those working on HIV, human rights, issues around men who have sex with men or intravenous drug users.

“HIV is a global crisis and our response must be global, outward looking and generous. Peter Tatchell has come up with one very practical suggestion as to how we do this. We must all think imaginatively about how we share knowledge, resources and support.”

A spokesperson for Terrence Higgins Trust highlighted work already being done, “Many UK based HIV organisations already work with partners in the developing world and are very willing to look at new and innovative ways of expanding these relationships.

“Terrence Higgins Trust has worked with HIV organisations in Mozambique, Tanzania, Philippines, India, China and many other countries through it’s Positive Lives project.

“The International HIV Alliance, based in Brighton, also supports community action on AIDS in over 20 countries and is the European Union’s largest HIV/AIDS focused development organisation.

“Other organisations including the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Crusaid, and NAM fund or work with HIV organisations in the global south and are keen to see these partnerships grow in the future.”

Mr Tatchell’s speech addressed the section of the conference titled, “global agenda for gay men and other men who have sex with men.”

“HIV and LGBT human rights are global issues that transcend national boundaries. We are all in this pandemic together. But not all of us are on a level playing field. HIV is happening in a world divided by massive inequalities. The world is split into rich countries and poor countries. There is no parity of opportunities and resources to combat

HIV.

“The world is also divided into countries where HIV and LGBT organisations operate in conditions of relative freedom, where they have access to elected and accountable governments. But there are many countries – a majority of countries – where similar organisations face severe restrictions and even overt repression. It is an urgent priority for free and better off western HIV and LGBT organisations to twin with sister organisations in developing nations. What is needed, above all else, is global solidarity in the fight against HIV.

“It is not only homophobia that is undermining the fight against HIV, but also sexphobia. We need to challenge sexual hang-ups and phobias through education that is sex-positive and sex-affirmative. People who feel ashamed about sex, and guilty about their own bodies and sexuality, are the least likely to practise safer sex, get tested for HIV and other STIs, seek prompt treatment for HIV infection and take care of their general health.”