Monday, August 21, 2006

A Successful Conference Concludes

The XVI International AIDS Conference - attended by more than 24,000 scientists, activists and government officials from 180 countries - ended Friday August 18 with demands for national governments and the international community to mobilize the political will critically needed for progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Over seven days conference speakers exposed the complex mosaic of epidemics - social, economic, political and medical - which feed the global AIDS crisis, calling for the international community to address the disease’s many drivers. The need for scaled-up prevention and increased access to drugs took center stage throughout the week with near universal agreement that appropriate scientific knowledge and adequate means exist to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS; what is less clear however, is the G8’s commitment to funding and national governments’ willingness to exert decisive leadership.

The success of harm reduction strategies, advancements in microbicide development, and the centrality of human rights (and their many violations) all got significant attention throughout the Conference. PMTCT and Harm Reduction were repeatedly sighted as two of the most effective but underutilized tools in the HIV prevention toolbox. Likewise there was significant emphasis on the need for comprehensive HIV/AIDS care including family-wide nutrition supplements and expanded support for orphans.

“ABC” - the Abstinence, Be Faithful, Condomize campaign vigorously supported by the United States came under severe attack spurring demands that donors drop conditions with HIV/AIDS funding. Speakers ranging from the UN’s Stephen Lewis to ActionAids International’s Beatrice Were argued that the ABC strategy ignores on-the-ground realities and fails to address women’s powerlessness in sexual relationships in many countries. Bill and Melinda Gates and Bill Clinton kept women and girls at the forefront, focusing on microbicide development as a means to increase women’s control over their sexual safety.

Throughout the week activists directed delegates attention to the need for generic ARVs whose production is not governed by free-trade agreements, pharmaceutical companies or intellectual property patents.

Greater inclusion of all groups - PLHA, youth, MSM, transgendered peoples and others - at all levels of AIDS programming, as well as continued efforts for diverse regional conference coverage must be given greater attention in the coming years for the most effective prevention, care and treatment programs to be developed.

The conference was undoubtedly a success with critical issues addressed in diverse forums at every level of leadership. The question now is how the international community can sustain momentum built during the conference and create mechanisms for holding governments accountable to funding pledges and the Millennium Development Goals, which promise universal access to prevention and care by 2010.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Relections on the Conference

Yesterday we asked people how they are feeling about the XVI AIDS Conference, what they will take away from it, and if they think the most important issues are being tackled.

Here are some of their responses:

“People are talking more on prevention and microbicides and new results studies, but they have to think about positive people also, is their a response ready for preventing this HIV infection, to reduce this epidemic? Positive people, even I am positive people, I changed my behaviors. I have learned good knowledge and I have a good experience to share with others. It is important for me to be able to share this experience and this knowledge because I am able to prevent the spread of this disease. I can give some other faces to this epidemic. Whatever they are thinking about this prevention, they have to involve the positive people also in their programs."
- Asha, India


"I don't think there could ever have been another factor that brought so many people together for a common cause. We've all wished for a long time for an end to injustice and a healing for humanity and in such a bizarre way this virus is giving us that opportunity because we are now dependent on people in our society that we have turned our backs on in our world. We depend on sex workers and IDUs to help us combat this and understand it. I think this amazing to mobilize that wisdom and that dignity... There isn't a corner on the globe that isn't affected by this and it's an incredibly uniting movement."
- Les Dolyn, Jasper, Alberta


"This is my first International AIDS Conference. It's a huge conference, really amazing and there are many people from many parts of the world. It is really worthwhile to be here - I learn how people from African countries, from Central Asia, how they are facing AIDS challenges, including stigma and discrimination and lack of access to ARV and other supporting services. I am really happy to be here. There are issues we are not talking about here, but I am more happy to see that people are expressing their concerns here, openly, whereas we cannot do the same thing in the country because countries contexts will be difference, political leaders will have different priorities than AIDS, but here we in AIDS so we can talk about that."
- Bobby, Nepal



"The conference is very good, it's has been a huge job on the part of the organizers of the conference. It's a great time for people to come together to talk about their work and their opinions and their solutions to the issues of AIDS around the world. But there is not enough representation on Latin America, I am from Colombia, there is not enough representation of the governments and very few sessions on Latin America which is leaving Colombia in a critical situation similar to the one Africa is facing."
- Domingo Garcia, Colombia

"I think one issue that is not being addressed sufficiently at this conference is the issue of access to treatment. We now have the case where India must become TRIPS compliant and so because of that it many not be able to supply future drugs because now India grants patents on pharmaceutical products. We have TRIPS plus provisions being signed in the free trade agreements where the TRIPS flexibilities available are now being limited through the FTAs. So we have a situation where we are looking at least potentially access to second-line drugs being very difficult if not nearly impossible. I think this at this conference though the issue is being addressed, it is not at the forefront and to me its the most important issue right now - what are we going to do for cheaper generics on second line ARVs - taking into considering what's happened in India as well as the current trend on property rights in bilateral trade agreements."
- Singita, United Kingdom

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Rural Africa: Still forgotten?

I came to the 2006 International AIDS Conference wearing many hats. In addition to writing for three online publications (this one, Time To Deliver, and AIDS Combat Zone) I'm also a CHAMP activist, an SGAC member, a USF Global Health student, a Peace Corps nominee, and a concerned global citizen. The driving force behind my participation in these causes has long been my concern over the impact of HIV in the developing world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. That being the case, I came to the 2006 IAC with the hope of attending sessions that would better prepare me for my upcoming Peace Corps placement and subsequent career in global health, and also allow me to better communicate African issues to my blog audiences.

Even with the tremendous size of the conference, only a handful of sessions and workshops are dedicated to topics that can be applied to rural Africa. I've only been able to attend one so far, a very interesting workshop and discussion on incorporating traditional medicine into an HIV program. I hope to be able to attend several more like it before the conference is over, but I don't have nearly as many options as I had originally hoped.

The implied message is that Africa, despite being home to more than half of the world's people with HIV and AIDS, still isn't an important part of the global response to HIV. If the leaders of AIDS movements around the world are serious about reversing the spread of HIV in Africa, we are going to need to see more direct attention paid to the situation in Africa at global meetings such as this one. By bringing Africa out of the shadows of discussions about HIV, we can finally begin to reverse the African AIDS epidemic.

Protests at the conference

Activists from around the world are gearing up for creative actions throughout the rest of the conference aimed at pushing world leaders to deliver on promises now. On Tuesday AIDS activists staged at least three protests throughout the convention center bringing attention to pharmaceutical companies and the vital importance of generic drugs. Honoring India's Independence Day, activists marched throughout the Exhibition Hall with posters in the colors of the Indian flag and called pharmaceutical companies and national government to quit trying to patent life-saving ARV drugs. India which has long been a producer of generic drugs is under particular attack both because it supplies ARV's to only about 10,000 of the 700, 000 Indians who need them and because the country is set to relinquish independent, generic production of AIDS drugs at the end of 2006. Activists chanted "Big Pharma Quit India," "Time to Deliver" and "Life Before Profits" and hundreds of delegates rushed to take photographs while pharmaceutical company employees looked on with growing distress as the marched gathered more and more participants. In a related event activists took over pharma giant Abbott's booth at the entrance to the exhibition hall postering the area with signs demanding that Abbott lower its prices for second-line treatments (currently far more expensive than first-line treatments) and make them available throughout the world. Abbott Laboratories Inc. produces Kaletra, the biggest selling of a class of HIV drugs known as protease inhibitors.

Wednesday HIV/AIDS activists will take to the streets, the exhibit hall and the media room to demand leaders deliver on promises and increase attention to traditionally disenfranchised high-risk populations. The day kicks-off with a direct action outside the U.S. Embassy before moving back to the convention center where medical students will call on international governments to fund more health care practitioners in the global south. At ten activists are planning on re-taking Abbott's booth though they were warned in advance by conference activists liaisons that they may be met with security. At noon harm reduction advocates will join Toronto residents on the street outside the South Building to bring attention to the long-muted demands of IDUs and their advocates for expanded harm reduction services. Immediately after activists are planning to stage a theatrical performance where Uncle Sam shoots poorer countries in the back in the skywalk and pressrooms to demand an end to patents and ARV-related Free-Trade Agreements. Additionally, Korean activists are planning an action in the Global Village to bring attention to the need for affordable ARVs in the eastern Asia.

Stephen Lewis and Paul Farmer

Stephen Lewis, U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS to Africa, issued a call Tuesday at the close of his remarks on nutrition, for activists to take on all international institutions simultaneously with raucous, tenacious and well-crafted demands for global justice. Speaking on a panel entitled "Food and Nutrition in Care and Treatment Programs in Developing Countries" Lewis and fellow luminary Dr. Paul Farmer urged advocates, organizations and multilateral agencies to demand that government promises – such as those made at UNGASS in June – become reality rather standing as empty promises year after year. Lewis highlighted the symbiotic nature of hunger and HIV/AIDS particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean while Farmer gave specific examples of the relationship between economic insecurity, lack of food and consumptive diseases. Farmer charged that HIV/AIDS advocates must get better at dispelling the notion that essential wrap-around services for HIV/AIDS patients are "gold plated." Ensuring that hungry patients have food to eat, that thirsty patients have water to drink, and that their children go to school, he argued, must be understood by world powers to be critical to HIV/AIDS treatment provisioning. Arguing that trade barriers and free trade agreements have created a "paradox of tragedy – the coexistence of gluttony and starvation" while devastating local agricultural production, Farmer and Lewis urged western activists in particular to continue demanding global economic, political and social justice and fair trade agreements from their leaders.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Audio interview with Masias Cowper on forming relationships when living with HIV

Masias Cowper who’s been HIV positive for 13 years discusses her status and the problems of disclosure that continue to exist and the forming of new relationships. She talks about disclosing her status to her family which she describes as "the worst thing ever". It took her 6 months and when she did disclose to her partner the reaction was violent and negative even though it was he who was the source of the infection. Slowly she began to come out to her family and her workplace despite being fired from her job. "five years after my diagnosis was five years of recovery" - recovering her rights as a woman, to love, to be reproductive, to be respected, to be in a relationship, have a job, participate in her community.

Lisa Power of UK's Terrence Higgins Trust points out that for anyone with a a long term illness, building a new relationship is extremely difficult. People do not or are not able to deal with the long term illnesses of others. Often they are just not prepared to make the necessary effort to learn about that illness whether it be cancer or parkinsons. HIV is particularly difficult because of the stigma attacked to the illness which is largely based on ignorance as "public understanding lags behind the reality".

Listen to the podcast
Powered by Castpost

Harm Reduction In a Long Overdue Spotlight

Harm reduction - a set of practical strategies that reduce negative consequences of drug use - is finally getting the attention it deserves at this year's International AIDS Conference. Eastern European and Central Asian Harm Reduction and Injection Drug User (IDU) advocates took center stage yesterday with more than 10 session being held on topics ranging from HIV/Hepatitis C to related human rights violations to on-the-ground tactics for reducing discrimination and stigma against IDUs. Outside of Africa injection drug use currently accounts for 1 in 3 new HIV infections; worldwide, 13 million people living with HIV were infected through injection drug use. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia harsh discrimination and stigma against IDUs continues to marginalize HIV + people while denying them critical medical care, treatment programs and social services. As of the end of 2004, 36,000 IDUs worldwide receive ARVs, 30,000 of whom reside in one country - Brazil.

Talking today with harm reduction advocates from Indonesia, Thailand, Russia and Ukraine, denial of medical services to IDU's consistently emerged as one of their major concerns. Stories abounded of doctors routinely turning away drug users from medical centers and hospitals. Ukraine is currently home to one of the world's fastest growing HIV epidemics. Yet HIV+ IDUs are routinely subject to human rights abuses by health practitioners and police, which force these highly vulnerable populations underground or "into the shadows" in their efforts to avoid criminalization, persecution and prison. A Ukrainian activists talked at length today about the forced testing which Ukrainians are subjected to in health care facilities. Once found to be positive, men and women are frequently forced to sign a statement acknowledging their criminal liability and then turned out to the streets without treatment.

HRW covered many of these issues in a report earlier this year entitled "Rhetoric and Risk: Human Rights Abuses Impeding Ukraine's Fight Against HIV/AIDS". You can find it online at: in at http://hrw.org/reports/2006/ukraine0306/.

IDU advocates, activists and PLHA's also highlighted the relationship between HIV and Hepatitis C, a disease which many claim has been ignored by doctors, scientists, and national governments. Around the world, more than 500 million people are infected with Hepatitis C (HCV) but treatment is available for one percent of infected people. And, even for those who are on treatment often critical information on interference between ARV and HCV drugs is limited or non-existent forcing many people who start the treatment to drop it once unexpected side affects begin. Tomorrow look for interviews with Russian AIDS activists from FrontAIDS, a dynamic movement fighting for access to treatment, adherence and community mobilization across Russia.

Monday, August 14, 2006

ARV production and government responsibilities

Anand Grover, the co-founder of the Mumbai Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit, delivered a speech on the second day of the conference titled "Human rights and Social Vulnerabilities," in which he expressed concern about the availability of inexpensive generic drugs in five to ten years with India's agreement to comply with the Agreement on Trade -Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) regarding product patents. Lives in Focus had interviewed Grover in Mumbai earlier about this subject and asked what alternatives there are to Western pharmaceutical companies imposing licenses on Indian generic drug makers and why the Indian government itself does not begin production of the drugs. Listen to his thoughts on the subject in this podcast.

25 years of AIDS, Global Voices

Human Rights Watch and Making Contact collaborated on a radio show - “25 years of AIDS, Global Voices”, which presents the voices of activists and people living with HIV/AIDS from South Africa, India, Ukraine, Uganda, Nigeria, US, and more.

The show will air on more than 200 radio stations in the US, Canada, South Africa and Ireland.

To have truly effective AIDS programs that respond to the needs of those at risk and infected with HIV it's important that voices from the front lines are truly heard. In the program, people talk about discrimination, about struggling to learn that they are HIV positive, and about fighting for their rights to be respected. We will be posting the show at our HRW campaign page, and it will also be available at Making Contact: http://www.radioproject.org/.

The show is personal and powerful. Check it out.

Sexual Rights at Toronto

Here are a bunch of the events today and tomorrow on sexual rights to give you a flavor of one part of the conference schedule. You can see, it's quite a list!

Women’s and Girls’ Rally and March
Monday, August 14, 7:00 AM

Sexual Rights and HIV/AIDS: Activists working together to impact shifting policies on sexual and reproductive freedom and safety
Monday, August 14, 12:30 PM-2:00 PM

Sex workers are part of the solution
Monday, August 14, 2:15-3:45 PM

Where is the pleasure in safer sex?
Monday, August 14, 6-8 PM

Sexual and reproductive health and rights of people living with HIV/AIDS
Tuesday, August 15, 10:45 AM -12:15 PM

Being Queer in the African/Black Diaspora
Tuesday, August 15, 12:30-2 PM

Sex Work, HIV and Politics
Tuesday, August 15, 2:15 PM-3:45 PM

Women, taking charge in the AIDS response (Global Coalition on Women and AIDS)
Tuesday, August 15, 2:15 PM

Strategies to address gender-based violence – discussion and strategy session
Tuesday, August 15, 4-5:30 PM

Criminalization and HIV: stories of communities fighting back
Tuesday, August 15, 4:15-5:45 PM

Sex workers performance
Tuesday, August 15, 5:45-6:15 PM

LGBT Prevention Efforts in the Developing World
Tuesday, August 15, 6:00 PM-8:00 PM

Brad's Prologue

I wish I could report that all has gone smoothly in preparation for the IAC, but I can not. Several of my friends and I were among the press delegates who were stuck in line for upwards of 4 hours while trying to register. Fortunately that ordeal ended and we managed to obtain our press passes and conference materials. Despite the initial roadbumps, my praise goes out to the International AIDS Conference for their decision to grant press access to members of the new media such as myself.

Traveling also had its difficulties. My flight out of Tampa International Airport was scheduled to depart at 6:30 AM and so I heeded the (link) suggested guidelines of allowing an extra hour for added security measures. But when I arrived at the airport at 3:15 AM - having not slept at all the night before - I found that the airline counters didn't open until 4:00. Things were made worse when one of our delegates was denied entrance to the airport for not having a passport or birth certificate, when she had been told previously that all she would need was a driver's license. Fortunately she will be able to arrive tomorrow morning, without having missed much.

Yesterday was spent training youth activists from TimeToDeliver.org on how to be effective bloggers. I also attended be attending the star-studded opening ceremonies, and my post on that event can be seen at TimeToDeliver.org. I've talked with people from organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and the Ghanan Ministry of Health. I've come to appreciate the Canadian people, who are, generally speaking, just as friendly as their reputation suggests. Finally, I've been pleasantly surprised that some people here have visited my primary blogging site, AIDS Combat Zone. Overall this stands to be an affirming experience on many levels, even if the first few days have had their rough spots.

More to come.

Gates pushes "empowering women" blasts abstinence-only

Hope you are all watching the news coverage of the conference.

Bill Gates opened the meeting last night in the Rodgers Stadium with a talk on empowering women and blasting abstinence-only approaches supported by the US.

Here's an excerpt from Canada's National Post:

In a swipe at controversial U.S. AIDS-funding policies that encourage abstinence and discourage drug use and prostitution, they said prevention requires distributing more condoms, working with sex-trade workers and giving addicts clean needles.

"We need tools that will allow women to protect themselves," Mr. Gates said in a speech to some of the 24,000 delegates to the International AIDS Conference.

"This is true whether the woman is a faithful mother of small children or a sex worker trying to scrape out a living in a slum. No matter where she lives, who she is or what she does, a woman should never need her partner's permission to save her own life."





http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=76f29ab6-bdd6-4e28-9c48-ca5f6bd4c5f7&k=11568

Coming Soon - Hot Topics in Human Rights and AIDS

My presentation in the panel "Hot Topics in Human Rights and AIDS" is at 10:45 this morning. Stay tuned and I'll post excerpts from my talk and blog about the response. I'm sure we'll get a big crowd. Of course in the hall next to mine, Bill Gates and Bill Clinton will be talking, so I'm sure some of the people who would have wanted to get into my room may have to go over there.

Joe Amon

Youth Play Greatest Role Yet at the 2006 International AIDS Conference

Youth conference attendees kicked off the first day of the 2006 International AIDS Conference with a morning session entitled "From Rhetoric to Action: Defining a Stronger Role for Youth in National and International Policies. Youth leaders – many of whom had participated in the 3-day Youth Pre-Conference – called on world leaders to address the impact of HIV/AIDS on youth and to support an increased role for youth in policy and decision-making at the national and international levels.

Peter Piot of UNAIDS, Josee Verner, Minister of International Coorperation, Canada, Dr. Frenk,. Minister of Health, Mexico, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, First Lady of Honduras, and Julian Bond, Chairman, NAACP discussed their priorities for youth in the fight against HIV/AIDS before fielding questions from participating youth leaders from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and North America. The youngest panel member was an 11-year old girl from Nigeria who highlighted the stigma her HIV+ peers face from their classmates.

The increase in youth participation and leadership at this year's conference marks a significant shift from past conferences. Only four years ago – at the International AIDS Conference in Barcelona – a mere 1% (200 out of 15,000) of program participants were under 30. But with more than 50% of new infections worldwide affecting people 15-24, youth participation in the world's largest gathering of AIDS scientists, advocates and activists is essential. This year more than 1000 youth are attending the conference. They will lead skills building workshops, present abstracts, speak on panels, and continue to meet with top world officials in dedicated dialogue sessions.

This change is largely the result of the hard work of YouthForce – a coalition of youth-led and youth-focused groups which came together in Barcelona at the 2002 AIDS Conference determined to increase international attention to youth and HIV/AIDS. Today young people sit on the Conference's governance and planning communities, have formed a Youth Rappoteur Team to report on the Conference from a youth perspective, have created a full Youth Program to support young people's participation throughout the Conference, and will benefit from the Youth Pavilion – a youth dedicated space in the Global Village. Youth are determined to push the conference message "A Time to Deliver" home to world leaders this week.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

HRW at the AIDS Conference

Next week’s conference coincides with two important dates in the history of the epidemic -- the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first reported case of AIDS, as well as ten years since the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). The theme of this year’s conference – “Time to Deliver” – highlights the sad fact that the advances made in HIV treatment and prevention have yet to reach the vast majority of those in need.

Human Rights Watch first did an in-depth report on HIV/AIDS and human rights in 2001. Since then, we’ve done about 30 more reports. We’ve reported on HIV/AIDS and human rights from many different perspectives, and from the viewpoints of many affected populations around the world. From injecting drug users in the Ukraine to displaced populations in Zimbabwe; from women in the Dominican Republic to schoolchildren in Uganda.

AIDS can be found in truly every country of the world. The response virtually everywhere has been the same – first to deny that AIDS exists, then to say it only affects “other people” – foreigners, “deviants”, “sinners”. Governments have failed to respond quickly – even though it is in their best interests to act quickly, proactively, and to adopt policies which are effective and which respect human rights. How many millions of people have become needlessly infected because governments delayed providing honest information on AIDS? Or refused to allow needle exchanges? Or prohibited condom distribution to youth, or even to sex workers? Unfortunately we can’t ask this question in the past tense – it’s still the case in too many countries: How many more millions of people need to die?

In our advocacy at Toronto, we will push for several changes to current approaches to HIV/AIDS. First, we will encourage governments to step away from moralistic anti-HIV campaigns in favor of more effective prevention and treatment programs rooted in science and human rights. Additionally, we will urge national governments and international bodies to accept accountability for the epidemics that they face and to involve civil society in their response, and in monitoring progress in their response.

Members of the HIV/AIDS Program at Human Rights Watch will be on hand to participate in a number of conference panels and discussion sessions. Joe Amon is going to present at a panel providing an “Overview of human rights violations fueling the HIV epidemic” on August 14. On August 17, Researcher Rebecca Schleifer will present “Rhetoric and Risk”” – a report documenting rights abuses and HIV among Ukrainian drug users – at a panel on law, human rights and HIV. We’ll also have a poster on our recent research in Romania on the discrimination and abuse facing children living with HIV, which will be presented on August 14. The entire program of conference events can be found here.

For more information on the work of the HIV/AIDS Program at Human Rights Watch, and to find out more about the XVI International AIDS Conference, check out our webpage. The site features our reports as well as links to information on a number of organizations we’ve partnered with worldwide. You will also find clips of audio interviews with those at the forefront of the AIDS movement, report summaries and news. Be sure to keep checking back for updates!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Graying of AIDS" Photo-essay

According to Time magazine "More Americans are living with HIV into middle age and beyond, but they are often ignored by doctors and society. Six people share their stories about surviving with HIV". They have put together very interesting photoessay titled as The Graying of AIDS .

Friday, August 04, 2006

Compulsory HIV testing in Washington DC

The UK Guardian recently reported that the city of Washington DC is planning to test every resident between the ages of 14 and 84 for HIV. The campaign called "Come Together DC, Get Screened for HIV" will be able to report on a person's HIV status within 20 minutes using the "saliva" based test. It is hoped that by December 31st all DC residents will know their HIV status. According to the Guardian, DC has the highest rate of contraction in the country with 180 new cases per 10,000 residents each year - or 1 in 50 DC residents are HIV+. The DC government's position is explained by spokesperson as
"If we are serious about addressing this epidemic in our community then screening for HIV has to become routine," Marsha Martin, the city official in charge of the programme, told the Washington Post. "Because we'll miss too many people otherwise ... We have to start making it part of the public consciousness, that HIV is of and among us."
When reading this I am reminded of the New York experiment to treat HIV+ children in care as guinea pigs using experimental toxic drugs. Children as young as three months were fed and in some cases force fed these toxic drugs. The children were the most vulnerable members of the community - many were orphans, others were fostered, most were children of black and came from run down neighbourhoods in New York. Returning to Washington DC's plan to enforce every citizen to undergo an HIV saliva test sets a dangerous precedent. The city has a majority Black population many of whom are extremely poor and the project is yet another example of how black and poor people in the US are being treated with regards to HIV. The idea of forcing people to undergo HIV tests, the results of which will no doubt be used by employers, landlords, hospitals and other public services is unethical and alarming. Firstly the saliva test itself is not a reliable test and therefore many people will come away from the tests with false information and the city will not have accurate data on the HIV status of it's citizens. Secondly because of the speed of the test (20minutes) there is no opportunity for people to receive pre and post test counselling which has been established as an essential precursor to HIV testing. The organisers claim they will provide counselling but it is difficult to see how this will take place if the test itself only takes 20 minutes and provides an instant but unreliable result.

Tags:

Caucus for Evidence-Based Prevention

At the Toronto conference, the Caucus for Evidence-Based Prevention will promote HIV prevention efforts supported by sound science, report on HIV prevention-related proceedings to a wide audience, and alert the community when ideology, prejudice, or opinion interfere with evidenced-based approaches to reducing the further spread of HIV/AIDS.

Advocates.com also posted information describing plans by abstinence-only opponents during this conference.



Tags:

Lime juice or the female condom - negotiating safe sex

As in most of Africa, HIV in Nigeria is feminized. 58% of those with HIV are women. In addition the numbers of girls and women contracting HIV continues to increase. Therefore an essential aspect of any HIV/AIDS policy needs to address this reality.

Nigeria's "Journalists Against Aids" (JAAIDS) recently published an article on traditional forms of female contraception and hygiene –the use of Lime and Lemon juice, in some regions of Africa as protection against contracting HIV. JAAIDS together with Professor Solomon Sagay who is leading a "Lime Juice" research project at the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH)organised a roundtable event to "examine lime juice as a potential microbicide". A questionnaire of female sex workers (FSW) and attendees at a family planning clinic (FPC) found that 80% of FSW used lime juice as opposed to only 4% of those at the FPC. The FSW also used a number of other products such as dettol, TCP and drinks with lemon juice as protection against STDs including HIV.

The concern here is that although the users claim lime/lemon juice is effective as a contraceptive there does not seem to be any scientific proof as yet. However it is a huge leap from believing that lime/lemon juice or any of the above products, are effective as contraceptives to the idea that they could be effective in preventing the contraction of HIV. This leap shows a lack of understanding of STDs in general, HIV in particular and that both are, medically at least, unrelated to getting pregnant. The message that using a condom is the only appropriate protection against HIV is clearly not getting through even now in 2006 amongst an extremely vulnerable group, female sex workers. The question is why? Is it just a matter of lack of education on how STDs and HIV are transmitted? Or is it pressure from clients to have unprotected sex with the FSW?

Babatunde Osotimehin writing in the New York Times (19.08.05) reports that

”Many girls fall prey to sexual violence and coercion. Many others are married off very young, as young as 13 or 14, long before they are psychologically or physically ready. Abstinence is not an option for these girls, nor is getting their partners to use condoms. It is unacceptable for a woman or girl to ask her partner to use one in our part of the world. In Nigeria, only 23 percent of the men and 8 percent of women use condoms regularly, and, as elsewhere, almost none of them use condoms with a spouse or primary partner”.

Male condoms have been around and in many African communities for years but still men are refusing to use them even as a protection against HIV contraction. Would these same men now accept women using female condoms? Prevention Now is launching a global campaign to encourage the use of the female condom. They claim that the female condom has a higher acceptance rate amongst women in 40 countries because “it gives them greater control in negotiating safer sex” and that the main obstacle to increased access and use is cost. I would add that an additional issue for young women and girls would still be the matter that they do not have the power within their relationships with men to negotiate whether to use a male or female condom. Although it may be slightly easier to use a female condom in that situation. A further issue with the female condom is that it is not that simple to use as a male condom. Women need to be taught how to use it and it requires considerable practice. Even assuming that the use of female condoms would be easier to negotiate there still needs to be some basic changes. Changes in attitudes towards women, in understanding how STDs and HIV are contracted and the availability of free or very cheap condoms whether female or male. With these three components, the campaign has a much better chance of succeeding.

TAGS:

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

International AIDS conference: International Collaborative Blog

XVI International AIDS Conference to be held in Toronto during August 13-18, 2006 will afford the world’s leaders in the fight against the scourge of HIV/AIDS a landmark opportunity to infuse new energy and ideas into global solutions for a global problem. In addition to the extensive coverage of the conference by mainstream media, we think it is important that the perspective of bloggers be heard, and the voice of civil society from around the world – both those who are participating at the conference, and those who are not in Toronto, emerge. Bloggers have the ability to shape such coverage and we believe your perspective on these issues deserves to be heard.

Our goal is to share different perspectives on this subject and to give voice to an international audience; becoming a vehicle for those who are unable to participate in this conference to express their opinions and experiences.