3 March 2012

Social work manifesto on HIV and AIDS

On July 29, 2000 the Canadian Association of Social Workers sponsored a one-day symposium on HIV/AIDS in conjunction with the International Federation of Social Workers and the International Association of Schools of Social Work Conference in Montreal, Canada. The symposium involved social workers from 32 countries and its purpose was to create a call to action for social workers and social work educators around the world regarding HIV/AIDS. The result is this Manifesto.


As we enter the third decade of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, social workers deplore the fact that millions of people are infected with HIV/AIDS and that not enough is being done to promote wellness and to stop the spread of this preventable disease.

AIDS knows no social, racial or cultural barriers. Yet the rates of infection spiral especially among the poor, the disenfranchised and among people who struggle with inequality and oppression.

Throughout the pandemic, people living with HIV/AIDS across the world have shown, and continue to show, a commitment to community-based action. They have not acted alone. Often social workers have provided essential leadership and support in mobilising community response to HIV/AIDS. Together they have shown an unbending resolve to work toward wellness, to openly engage the communities, and to assert and protect fundamental rights. This action is a potent reminder of the duty of compassion that binds us all.

Social workers are committed to the principles of social justice. We have a “responsibility to devote objective and disciplined knowledge and skills to aid individuals, groups, communities and societies in their development and resolution of personal-societal conflict”.

The principles of the profession explicitly provide that we work without prejudice with regard to gender, age, disability, colour, social class, race, religion, language, political beliefs or sexual orientation. Likewise, we must be mindful and aware of the impact of oppression and marginalization with regard to gender, age, disability, colour, social class, race, religion, language, political beliefs or sexual orientation. We are obligated to uphold stringently the principles of privacy, confidentiality and responsible use of information even when a country’s legislation is in conflict with this demand. Work we undertake must be consistent with these fundamental values and nowhere may we be complicit in supporting individuals, groups, political forces or power structures that suppress their fellow human beings by terrorism, torture or other brutal means.

Through its pervasive and global scope, AIDS presents different challenges wherever it arises. In the interest of preventing further spread of HIV/AIDS and promoting health, our approach assumes a continuum of care — sexual and psycho-social health education, adequate testing, prophylactic means of prevention, counselling, support, care and treatment.

This Manifesto is a call to action to social workers and social work educators everywhere to walk the critical paths that demand our attention, whether on the local, national or international level. From the most basic duty to advocate fundamental rights, through lobbying for effective and compassionate social and health policy, to advocating just and equitable protocols for research and collaboration, there is much work to be done. Human rights, social work education, social and health policy, research and partnerships — all relate one to the other. May this provide a catalyst to greater action and a standard against which we can measure ourselves.

We, professional social workers and social work educators, meeting this July 29th, 2000 in Montreal, Qc., Canada, at the Canadian Association of Social Worker’s HIV/AIDS Symposium held in conjunction with the Joint Conference of the International Federation of Social Workers and the International Association of Schools of Social Work.



  • To uphold and foster the Ethics of Social Work as set out in the International Declaration of Ethical Principles of Social Work and in the International Ethical Standards for Social Workers, and to apply them rigorously in the context of HIV/AIDS;
  • To hold all governments accountable to the commitments set out in the Paris AIDS Summit of December 1994, regardless of whether they are one of the 42 signatories, which is to say: to advocate and defend the right to equitable treatment of all people, irrespective of culture and belief, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, race, religion, civil status, affiliation, route of transmission or prognosis of compliance;
  • To pressure all governments and organizations to adhere to the principles of human rights and dignity of the person in accordance with existing Human Rights conventions and to respond compassionately to those affected by the pandemic;
  • To advocate with vigour that all people affected and infected by HIV/AIDS have proper food, housing, education and health care and be able to exercise their rights in this regard without hindrance.


  • To engage in the fight against poverty as a key element in the prevention of HIV infection;
  • To work actively with persons living with HIV/AIDS so that they hold their rightful place as principal partners in addressing the pandemic and as active participants in decision-making and policy implementation at all levels;
  • To advocate public and social health policies rooted in a solid understanding of the determinants of health, and in the context specific realities of the community, so that those policies effectively provide a continuum of care that promotes an improved quality of life for everyone affected and infected by HIV/AIDS;
  • To use our expertise at the macro-social level to criticize policies that harm the health and psycho-social well-being of all those who are touched by the pandemic, and to ensure that those who are marginalized and adversely affected are heard;
  • To constantly battle the stigmatization and resultant discrimination that attaches to HIV/AIDS no matter what its source and no matter what its target.


  • To incorporate innovative, comprehensive, practical and theoretical HIV/AIDS education within social work curricula with the understanding that HIV/AIDS touches every facet of human development;
  • To teach all students, practitioners and academicians of social work about HIV/AIDS and apprise them of the medical, physical, psycho-social, cultural, legal and economic issues involved in the pandemic;
  • To acknowledge and work through our own fears and prejudice so we may fully foster respect for people living with HIV/AIDS;
  • To develop an understanding of the determinants of health and the principles of the prevention-to-care continuum of care as they apply to individual and community well-being, emphasizing health promotion, prevention of infection, social and psychological care, medical treatment, counselling and support;
    To involve all those affected by the pandemic in the education process, through community-based organisations, NGOs or other bodies;
  • To foster collegial attitudes that promote interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and transdisciplinary approaches and to ensure meaningful exchange with other professions;
  • To integrate theory and practice.

(4) With regard to partnerships

To address HIV/AIDS, mindful that people living with AIDS are integral to the interdiscplinary, multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary undertakings that offer promise and hope in response to the pandemic;

  • To enter into respectful professional relationships based on equality and equity;
  • To overcome local, regional, national or professional concerns that might limit a broader understanding, effective intervention and inclusive decision-making;
  • To collaborate with all organizations or leaders mindful of the particular political, social, economic and cultural context that shapes the particular relationship.

(5) With regard to social research

  • To ensure the participation of social workers in psycho-social research to ensure a social work perspective on prevention, intervention, care, treatment and support and health promotion;
  • To involve people with HIV/AIDS in designing, implementing and interpreting the research;
  • To ensure that all research initiatives are driven by the fundamental values of confidentiality, informed consent, self-determination, dignity and worth of the individual;
  • To respond to the contribution of those being studied with respect and gratitude to ensure that the results of research are imparted to those being studied and to all those implicated throughout the research process and after its completion, so that they may benefit directly from the process and the results.

We therefore resolve:

  • That the HIV/AIDS pandemic and its psycho-social, medical, legal and economic ramifications are a priority for all social workers and all social work educators throughout the world;
  • That social workers and educators will forcefully advocate social and health policies founded on the human dignity of people with HIV/AIDS and the communities in which they live;
  • That social workers and schools of social work will promote a continuum of care that is based on a critical understanding of the determinants of health, as well as culturally sensitive approaches to risk and harm reduction including, but not limited to, education about safer sex and injection drug use;
  • That social workers and social work educators will be guided by a fundamental awareness that issues of HIV/AIDS awareness, education, research, treatment and care are intrinsically tied to issues of discrimination, poverty, unemployment, physical, mental and social well-being;
  • That our duty is to work to eradicate the impediments to effective prevention of HIV transmission and to the proper care of those affected and infected by HIV/AIDS.

Endorsed by the IFSW Officer’s Committee Meeting, January 2001