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Good morning, this is Michelle. This week, three human rights defenders were honoured with the prestigious Martin Ennals award in Geneva.

One of the winners, Feliciano Reyna, tells us how personal tragedy prompted him to take a life changing decision that would put him at the helm of the battle for health rights in Venezuela, and often bring him to Geneva.

With the Human Rights Council due to discuss Venezuela in its upcoming session in two weeks, we also talked to Reyna about what the UN body has accomplished in addressing the country’s human rights crisis.

photo journaliste

Michelle Langrand


The fight for health in Venezuela

Photo article

Feliciano Reyna, health rights advocate in Venezuela, was awarded the Martin Ennals award for his work in Geneva on 16 February 2023 (Geneva Solutions/Michelle Langrand)

In the 1990s, the HIV/Aids pandemic was wreaking havoc worldwide. Countries where treatment was scarce were hit hard, and Venezuela was one of them. The NGO Acción Solidaria was created around that time to bring HIV treatment to Venezuela from the United States, Canada and Europe. Its founder, Feliciano Reyna, was in Geneva this week to receive the prestigious Martin Ennals award – alongside two other defenders from Chad and Kashmir – for his nearly three decades of work to promote health rights.

Reyna’s fight didn’t start until relatively late in his life, after personal circumstances threw the former architect off his initial path. Living and travelling between New York City and Caracas in the 1980s and 1990s, Reyna lost colleagues and friends to HIV/Aids. He began learning about the disease and helping out in any way he could. Then he lost three of his four best friends followed by his partner, Rafael, in 1994.

“When Rafa passed away, I thought ‘I've been in this for years, it doesn't make sense that I'm not more directly involved’,” he says.

Reyna smiles softly as he speaks. Reminiscing about precious yet painful memories seems to wake feelings of nostalgia. These are quickly overtaken by gratitude that it led him to leave the private sector for something that “moves him”. Today, he is married and carries on the fight for health rights in Venezuela.

Read the full story on Geneva Solutions (EN)

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