LILA - Italian League for the Fight against AIDS - is a non-profit HIV/AIDS organisation founded in 1987. It is a federation of 15 associations (local units) of both HIV positive and HIV negative operators, volunteers and professionals, which operates in many Italian regions through its local units. The national coordination team has implemented a structure organised in the following areas of intervention:
- health care/HIV treatment
- harm reduction strategies targeted to at-risk population (drug users, sex workers, prisoners)
- solidarity and assistance
- defence of human rights
Furthermore, LILA’s national coordination team supports the development of social and sanitary policies and coordinates the activities of its units at regional, provincial and municipal level.
LILA promotes and defends the right to health care, is committed to affirm principles of solidarity and stands against any form of violation of human, civil and citizenship rights of people living with HIV and AIDS (PLHIV).
LILA also works in partnership with other Italian and European NGOs as well as with the major Italian institutions. LILA participates to the National AIDS Commission within the Ministry of Welfare, and to other commissions related to health issues, drug use and infective diseases.
Since its foundation, LILA has chosen neither to ask for nor to receive any grant from pharmaceutical corporations in order to maintain its independence.
LILA’sactivity spans a wide range of thematic areas. Its local units do not cover the entire range of activities; they invest their energies and resources in those areas in which they have acquired good competence and experience. The local units with specific expertise in the different areas cooperate as a network to implement improved intervention procedures and exchange best practices.
Our mission on this subject has not changed. We advocate the empowerment of PLHIV, claiming their right to play an active role in the scientific debate, as far as both conventional and complementary therapies are concerned. As clinical research progresses, LILA is facing new challenges and broader issues, such as the quality of life of people receiving HIV treatment, HIV infection and gender differences, adherence to treatment, co-infections with other viruses.
LILA promotes and participates in psychosocial research in Italy, and it has carried out many research projects over the years.
LILA is a member of the Italian Community Advisory Board (I-CAB), whose mission is to safeguard research ethics, to defend the right to information and free choice of people recruited for clinical trials, and to promote the direct involvement of patients in the evaluation and development of the trials.
LILA representatives are members of local ethical committees as well as of different scientific advisory boards.
LILA is member of the Italian Conference on AIDS and Retrovirus (ICAR) Community Liaison Subcommittee.
The Prevention Area encompasses several activities, all coordinated by our national coordination team in order to provide consistency to the Federation’s overall intervention principles.
Training courses on HIV prevention
LILA’s training courses focus not only on providing clear and scientifically accurate information, but also on highlighting and correcting any preconception on HIV/ AIDS. The condition of being HIV positive is discussed in every aspect, from its medical and psychological implications to the defence of human and civil rights.
Meetings and projects in schools and youth centres
These projects can be structured very differently in terms of timing and methodologies, such as the peer-education approach or the use of other pedagogical tools that stimulate active participation.
Production and distribution of information material
Awareness on HIV prevention can be conveyed through several kinds of media and information materials – brochures, leaflets and posters, videos, radio, television and movie theatre ads, LILA websites, the Internet.
Since 1987, LILA has developed and launched a series of campaigns aimed to raise public awareness on HIV and to promote health education on this topic. We carry out specific initiatives in cooperation with local public and private social services, providing correct information to the different population groups.
LILA’s drug policy adheres to the principles ofharm reduction. This approach aims to protect the overall physical, psychological and relational conditions of drug users by setting specific, short-term and long-term goals - from the attainment of an acceptable inner balance to the hopefully complete recovery from addiction through a gradual modification of risky behaviours. The nature of the pathologies involved suggests – or, in some cases, requires - the adoption of public health measures such as substitution treatment (methadone), drop-in centres or drug consumption rooms, like safe injection sites also known as shooting rooms.
Groups of PLHIV sharing the need for deeper confrontation on specific HIV related issues meet regularly at our local units. This service is meant to provide support and information ranging from treatment and care to psychological/ emotional mutual support.
Helplines and face-to-face counselling
LILA can count on a network of help lines managed by volunteers and professionals of our local units. LILA’s approach adheres to the following ethical principles: offering non-judgemental, non-directive and personally targeted support; guaranteeing the anonymity of the caller and ensuring that any information shared remain confidential; promoting the caller’s self-esteem and respect his/her personal beliefs. Data concerning this activity are collected and available on our annual report.
LILA produces and distributes information on HIV treatment for HIV-positive people as well as other political and social information for the Italian community.
As far as prevention is concerned, we specifically address young people through interventions in schools and youth centres; we have street outreach programs (in cooperation with public institutions) for drug users and sex workers in order to provide them information on harm reduction strategies; we operate in prison settings with inmates and staff.
Harm Reduction-Risk Reduction
LILA operators from the various local branches work on the streets in an effort to inform and support people who are more at risk of contracting HIV and other STIs, thus preventing risky behaviours. LILA uses specifically equipped mobile units to guarantee the privacy of those who ask for advice and support. Mobile units are the most appropriate and effective tools to reach people who do not have access to information about health, public services, etc. (for instance, highly stigmatised groups such as active drug users and sex workers). Our approach follows a well-proven protocol. We hand out multilingual information materials on HIV transmission as well as prophylactic paraphernalia (syringes, condoms, lubricants...).
Solidarity - Assistance - Advocacy
HIV/AIDS help lines provide counselling, information, support and legal advice to whoever wishes to anonymously discuss his/her situation. Physicians, psychologists and legal experts are available for face-to-face counselling.
LILA assists and supports PLHIV who report being discriminated, by explaining them the various legal steps to undertake, by reporting abuses and by offering legal advice.
We propose and provide training courses to operators of public health services, volunteers, trade-union representatives, local administrators, students and school personnel. We provide up-to-date advice on methodologies and tools to enable operators to work correctly and effectively in their own environment and territory.
LILA acts within national and international networks whose goal is the interaction of patients communities with the world of scientific research. Among our partners are the European AIDS Treatment Group (EATG) and AIDS Action Europe (AAE). Since 2005, LILA has been a member of the HIV/AIDS Civil Society Forum (CSF), an informal advisory group related to the European Commission (DG SANCO). LILA is a coordinating member of the Council of HIV/AIDS organisations (CAA) of the Italian Ministry of Health. It is also a member of the Italian National Commission for the fight against HIV/AIDS chaired by the Italian Minister of Health as an organization for the protection of patients.