A diverse group of more than a dozen advocates gathered in St. Louis on June 12th to discuss strategies, tactics, and what lies ahead in the path to HIV policy modernization in Missouri. The room was filled with HIV/AIDS service providers, family planning advocates, history and culture organizers, sex workers, and more.
Yet it must be noted that there were not nearly enough people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the room. As a group, we identified a key priority for the year ahead: intentionally, actively invite more people living with HIV to the table. We are committed to not just inviting them to the table, but centering their lives, their stories, and their perspectives in our work.
This priority reflects the best practice known as Meaningful Involvement of People Living with HIV/AIDS (or, MIPA, pronounced MEE-puh). MIPA was established in 1983 as part of the Denver Principles, which was a convening of people living with HIV with the intent of asserting power, visibility, and unapologetic expression of the work we must do to end the epidemic.
The epidemic did not end in 1983. It continues today, and too often invisibly. As a Coalition, we recognized who was missing from the room that day—who has been rendered invisible. We are dedicated and determined to do right by the people most affected by our state’s outdated, harmful HIV-specific criminal statutes.
Additional highlights of the meeting included onboarding new members by sharing coalition history, offering initial thoughts about legislative strategy for 2020, and conducting an indepth SWOT analysis (internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats). Special thanks to our gracious meeting hosts at St. Louis Effort for AIDS, and to each and every advocate who not only showed up, but showed up with the vulnerability and courage it takes to recognize how we can—must—be better.