Group, Founder Courageously Defended Marginalized People
(Toronto) - Today, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and Human Rights Watch will jointly present their 2011 International Award for Action on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights to the late Dr. Robert Carr and the organization he founded and co-chaired, the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities coalition (CVC). The award recognizes the extraordinary contributions of Dr. Carr to the rights of marginalized groups, promoting a mandate for health and dignity that continues in CVC's work throughout the Caribbean region.
Dr. Carr, who died unexpectedly in early May, had a career of passionate advocacy on behalf of marginalized people living with or vulnerable to HIV, said the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and Human Rights Watch. He worked on behalf of women and girls; sex workers; gays, lesbians and transgender people; people who use drugs; people in prison; and at-risk youth, among others. As the past executive director of Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL), Dr. Carr worked tirelessly to advance the cause of those most vulnerable to HIV and those ostracized as a result of living with it. He was a leading voice raising taboo subjects such as drug use, sex work and sex between men, insisting that governments put an end to violence and abuse.
"Uncompromising principles and uncompromising convictions are seldom joined so indelibly in life," said Stephen Lewis, former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. "Robert's intelligence was frankly staggering, and the legacy he has left in so relatively short a time is invaluable."
Dr. Carr was also a key partner in research by Human Rights Watch resulting in the landmark report Hated to Death, which documented the epidemic of homophobic violence fueling Jamaica's AIDS epidemic.
Though firmly rooted in the Caribbean, the scope of Dr. Carr's work was truly international. He was co-chair of the Global Forum on MSM and HIV, a global advocacy network specifically dedicated to the needs and well-being of gay men and other men who have sex with men. He was also co-chair of the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS. Dr. Carr relocated to Toronto in January 2010 to become the policy and advocacy director of the International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO).
One of the strongest indicators of this legacy is the work of Caribbean Vulnerable Communities coalition, co-founded by Dr. Carr in 2004. CVC is a coalition of community leaders and non-governmental agencies providing services directly to and on behalf of Caribbean populations at high risk of HIV. The coalition works on behalf of people who are often discriminated against in obtaining access to lifesaving HIV treatment and health-care programs.
"Deep-rooted, sometimes violent prejudice, often inscribed in law and policy, effectively bar scores of people throughout the Caribbean from lifesaving HIV services," said Rebecca Schleifer, health and human rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. "Robert Carr and the CVC have done extraordinary work across the Caribbean to challenge that prejudice and empower the people who are most marginalized and at risk of HIV infection to demand their rights and government accountability."
The Award for Action on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights includes a cash prize from Human Rights Watch and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. Peter and June Carr, Robert's parents, have donated his portion of the cash award back to CVC. Ian McKnight, CVC Executive Director, said that the award would enable the organization to continue to realize Dr. Carr's vision of a more equitable society that recognizes the health and human rights of all, including through legal challenges to abolish colonial-era criminal laws that still threaten the lives and health of gay men in countries such as Belize and Guyana.
"For those of us who knew Robert and deeply respected his life's work, this award is a fitting tribute to a great man - who, in turn, inspired greatness in others," noted Richard Elliott, Executive Director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. "Time and again, we see how widespread human rights abuses fuel the HIV epidemic and deny people access to critical care and treatment. It is critical that the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities coalition continue its important work to demand health and human rights for all."