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Standing Up to Discrimination


Editor’s note: The Levi Strauss & Co. Pioneer Award honors today’s pioneers in nonprofit organizations around the world. It recognizes the hard work and pioneering efforts of individuals working for or with these nonprofits. Our hope is that calling attention to the work of today’s pioneers will inspire others to join their march forward. We recently presented a Pioneer Award to Kamon Uppakaew of Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group (TTAG)an organization dedicated to promoting the rights and voices of people living with HIV/AIDS in Thailand. TTAG is also a community partner of the Levi Strauss Foundation since 2006.

On the day Kamon Uppakaew discovered he was HIV positive, he was dealt with another blow.

He was discriminated against and denied employment because of his HIV status.

Since then, Kamon has committed himself to fighting for the equal rights of people living with HIV/AIDS.

Last week, I had the honor of meeting Kamon, education and advocacy director of Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group (TTAG).

His dedication to his work is unparalleled. He lives in Bangkok, hundreds of kilometers away from his family, in order to be close to where policy making and most advocacy work takes place.

Kamon goes beyond his call of duty at TTAG as the chairman of Thailand’s National Network of Positive People. During his term, Kamon successfully realized his vision of free HIV treatment in Thailand through coalition-building and grassroots advocacy.

But he didn’t stop there. Kamon pushed for compulsory licensing of life-saving HIV treatment. In doing so, he elevated Thailand to become the first country in Asia to achieve the highest attainable standard of healthcare for people living with HIV/AIDS.

With the Pioneer Award, Kamon and TTAG will be able to increase the number of people in north and northeast Thailand who are trained on HIV/HCV education and advocacy – and who are committed to finding solutions to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Kamon’s achievements are amongst those that many societies and organizations around the world are trying to emulate. He’s indeed a true pioneer.

I hope that you’ll share Kamon’s story, and inspire others to stand up for their rights even in the face of adversity.