Toronto, Canada. July 15, 2015 — ICASO is pleased to announce that Marama Pala has been elected chair of its board of directors. Marama Pala was the first Māori woman to publicly disclose her HIV status; she has since become a powerful activist for Māori and marginalized communities.
Ms. Pala has been a fierce advocate for people living with HIV and indigenous rights in her native New Zealand and around the world for over two decades. She has been instrumental in pushing for the meaningful involvement of indigenous peoples in the AIDS response and as an indigenous woman living with HIV she brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the role. “When I joined the ICASO board, I knew that I had a unique opportunity to champion the concerns of indigenous peoples on the global stage”, said Ms. Pala. “I am passionate about this work. It is my kaupapa, my cause”.
Olayide Akanni, the outgoing chair of ICASO’s board, welcomed Ms. Pala in her new role. “With Marama’s experience, knowledge and energy, ICASO can and will continue its global efforts to address the barriers key populations face. This is crucial as key populations at higher risk of acquiring HIV do not currently benefit equally from prevention and treatment gains”.
“Marama is an exceptional force of nature, and we are fortunate to have her on ICASO’s board”, said Mary Ann Torres, ICASO’s Executive Director. “I am always impressed by her tireless commitment and incredible policy acumen and look forward to continuing to work alongside her to strengthen the community response to HIV”.
Ms. Pala adds this leadership position to a number of influential roles including the Communities Delegation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Vice-Chair of the International Community Women living with HIV Global Committee and Co-Chair of the International Indigenous Working Group on HIV and AIDS. She was also named as one of the “15 HIV Advocates to Watch in 2015” by The Body.
Since its creation in 1991, ICASO has facilitated the inclusion and leadership of communities in the effort to bring about an end to the AIDS pandemic, recognizing the importance of promoting health and human rights as part of this undertaking.