Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group Wins International Leadership Award


Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group Wins International Leadership Award

April 14, 2009

Paisan Suwannawong and members of TTAG rally for the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS in Thailand. Photo courtesy of Karyn Kaplan.

The leaders of TTAG, the Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group, have received the John M. Lloyd AIDS Leadership Award, which recognizes the organization’s contributions to HIV/AIDS activism in Southeast Asia. A longtime AJWS grantee, TTAG is led by Paisan Suwannawong and Karyn Kaplan and is based in Bangkok, Thailand.

The John M. Lloyd AIDS Leadership Award recognizes leaders with creative and compassionate visions for ending the root causes of AIDS. Suwannawong, TTAG’s executive director, is a former injecting drug user living with HIV/AIDS. He is recognized as one of Thailand’s leading harm reduction advocates. Kaplan, TTAG’s director of policy and development, has worked for effective policy for HIV/AIDS prevention in the US and Thailand for 20 years. Together, the two founded TTAG in 2002.

“Their outspoken courageousness is undeniable and humbling for all of us,” said Robert Estrin, President of the John M. Lloyd Foundation. “This award is given with the foundation's admiration and respect for all that Paisan and Karyn have accomplished, and with the hope that it will help them to achieve even more success as leaders in the AIDS advocacy community.”

TTAG works at the cutting edge of HIV/AIDS intervention and treatment. The organization focuses on especially vulnerable groups in Thailand, particularly injecting drug users, and empowers them to be leaders within their communities and human rights advocates on a national scale.

In Thailand, almost half of all injecting drug users have HIV/AIDS, but most cannot access essential services. The Thai government chooses to crack down on drug users, rather than provide the education and health services necessary to prevent transmission and provide treatment.

TTAG addresses the critical void left by the state’s neglect. Their innovative “peer-to-peer” network gives people living with HIV/AIDS the opportunity to organize together, support one another and develop strategies to advocate for their rights.

TTAG shares AJWS’s commitment to a rights-based approach to social change. AJWS has supported TTAG for seven years through grants and volunteer service. “TTAG have been exemplary in their work,” says Kate Kroeger, director of grants at AJWS. “They are making important strides to ensure access to treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS in Thailand and in reaching out to injecting drug users who have been stigmatized and marginalized by government interventions.”

The John M. Lloyd AIDS Leadership Award will provide $100,000 to Suwannawong, Kaplan and TTAG to continue their work and provide support to the organization. But TTAG’s work is not done. “We need to reduce stigma and ensure that everyone has the right to basic health,” says Kaplan. “Every human being deserves to have their rights respected.”