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Tributes for HIV advocate John Rock

HIV advocate John Rock has been praised for his decades of work building networks and improving the lives of people Living with HIV following his passing.

NGO Delegation to the UNAIDS PCD, the body representing non-government organisations at UNAIDS, of which Rock was a delegate to 2013 and 2014, praised his contribution and announced his passing.

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“John’s career was marked by his unwavering commitment to advocacy and support for people living with HIV. He served as an advisor to the Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV (APN+), contributed his expertise to the Global Board of the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC), and chaired the Board of the Asia Pacific Foundation for Peoples of Asia and the Pacific (AFAP).

“His role as a delegate on the UNAIDS PCB allowed him to bring the voices and concerns of civil society to the forefront of global policy discussions​​.” the group said.

While based in Australia Rock worked to build up networks of support throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

“John’s professional contributions were only part of what made him memorable to his colleagues and friends. His warm personality, tireless advocacy, and genuine care for the communities he served are the qualities they will remember most. His legacy will continue to inspire those working towards a world free of AIDS.” the group said.

Rock was diagnosed with HIV over 40 years ago. Speaking at an international AIDS Conference in 2012 he highlighted that many long-term survivors of HIV face unexpected challenges in their old age.

“My partner started getting sick in 1983 and died early in 1996,” he said. “Many of my colleagues and friends were pushed out of the workforce around the mid-90s because they were not well enough to work.

While improvements in treatments, including the introduction of triple combinations of antiretroviral drugs, eventually allowed people to dramatically improve their health, many spent more than a decade out of the workforce.

“Now they are destined for a retirement they thought they never would have, but it’s going to be in poverty.” Rock highlighted.

Speaking at a UN AIDS conference Melbourne in 2014 Rock said it was vital that people living with HIV had access to effective treatment regardless of where they were born.

In 2017 he was awarded the Order of Australia for his tireless work in human rights and international development, particularly in the fight against HIV in developing countries. 

Rock was also the author of the books The Decision and Demons.

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