AIDS Action Council at AIDS2016
I was incredibly lucky to be able to attend AIDS2016 in Durban South Africa. I received partial funding from the council, and funded the remainder myself.
There were more than 15,000 participants from 153 countries around the world. I feel so humbled and fortunate to be able to participate. Yes - I saw Charlize Theron, Elton John, Prince Harry and Bill Gates but they were definitely not the most exciting part of being at the AIDS2016 Conference.
The HIV epidemic is a different epidemic in South Africa. Stigma and discrimination are alive and well and the fight to ensure equal access to prevention and treatment for all people is far from over.
I thought it was really interesting that thirty-eight percent of the presentations were about HIV and AIDS in Africa and more than half of the presentations were provided by females. This highlights both the diversity of the epidemic in Africa and also the outstanding contribution to HIV and AIDS research made by women.
I focused my energy on learning about advances in HIV prevention, including: new data on access to and use of PrEP; the study that could lead to the first approved vaccine for HIV; the global 90-90-90 targets; and new research advancing the multi-purpose prevention technologies.
Some of the things I noticed were the outstandingly detrimental impact of laws and policies that stigmatise or criminalise sexuality, sex work, transgender identity and drug use. However, I also noticed the amazing profile and pride in the sex worker, transgender and MSM communities.
Outside and inside the conference venue, marches and demonstrations led by South African and global activists helped to focus the conference, the city, and the world on the need to redouble our efforts to meet global prevention and treatment targets, accelerate research, fully fund the AIDS response, and honour and respect the human rights of all people living with or affected by HIV.