AIDES was set up 1984, by Daniel Defert and was state approved in 1990. It is the leading HIV/AIDS organisation in France and one of the most important in Europe. It has drop-in centres and premises in over 70 cities in France and has multiple partnerships with organisations abroad.
AIDES is committed to respecting the cultural and sexual identity of each individual, their way of life, their ideological beliefs and their therapeutic choices. AIDES is independent of any religious, moral, political or scientific beliefs; it is a place of reflection, non-judgment, confidentiality and anonymity.
Whether it is a result of tradition or by habit, many organisations often operate on the principle of providing a service at the risk of turning their users into « clients ». This is far from being an ideal situation when we consider that autonomy needs to be fostered in order to enable people to go forward, to solve the difficulties they face and to mobilize themselves. AIDES does not decide for people nor act in their place, this is one of our main principles.
To avoid the «service» pitfall, AIDES makes sure that those who are infected and/or affected by HIV/AIDS and their loved ones are at the centre of decision-making processes, projects and their implementation. Our activities are conducted in response to the needs and wishes of those concerned, taking specific local circumstances into account. We aim to provide bespoke servives and not to trot out actions over and over again which could be relevant in one place but not necessarily in another. AIDES enables people to mobilise themselves and to take action, to be active rather than passive “clients”. This kind of mobilization is essential as it makes the demands and claims of HIV positive people more legitimate.
Provoking change in the society is one of the objectives and outcomes of our community-based approach. We want to influence and have an impact on our administrative and legal systems in order to improve the living conditions of affected people and to allow them to act on their own health. We want to develop sustainable solutions with those who are infected and/or affected by HIV and hepatitis, which respond to people’s needs.
It has been scientifically proven that a person’s living conditions have a real impact on their access to care and prevention. Social and financial insecurity make people more vulnerable and favour the rapid spread of infections. The fact that some solutions proposed by experts often fail is because they do not take this reality into consideration. How can a woman negotiate r sex or even bring up the subject if she is afraid of being rejected by her partner? How can a gay man buy condoms in a country that criminalises homosexuality? How can drug users protect themselves from infection if their country doesn’t allow needle exchange programmes? Sometimes only a large-scale mobilization can enable us to find solutions and AIDES would like to make this mobilization possible wherever social change is necessary.
Striking out on our own!
AIDES asserts and safeguards its autonomy. Our strategic and political orientations are defined by various decision-making bodies made up of volunteers and their peers. The Board is composed of 24 members who are elected every two years by the general assembly and its members.
As a non-governmental organization, AIDES is funded by both public and private funds including legacies and donations from individuals. Not being entirely funded by the state increases our independence and because we also receive private contributions we do not merely respond to injunctions and recommendations from the political sector but we take initiatives responding to the priorities we see on the ground.
Daniel Defert, founder and first president of AIDES:
“In 1972, when my friend Michel Foucault and I set up The Prison Information Group (French: Groupe d’Information sur les Prisons or GIP), he pointed out to me that the “I” was there to indicate the iota of difference that intellectuals should introduce in their exercise of the Proletarian left which then dominated the social movement.
To make a veiled reference to this, in 1984, I tried to find a name which could have two meanings: that is how AIDES was founded, a word which fits together the French word AIDE meaning support and AIDS.”