The biannual AIDS conference is an important event in our advocate community. Everyone who attends has a different experience and comes away from the conference with a different perspective. We asked some of our GFAN speakers who attended the conference to share their thoughts and experiences.
Timur Abdullaev, Anton Basenko, Erika Castellanos, Serge Douomong Yotta, Maurine Murenga, and Resty Nalwanga all answered 6 questions and we are sharing their responses below.
How many days were you at the AIDS 2018 conference? Did you attend any meetings before the conference?
The number of days spent at the conference varied between 5 and 8 with several speakers also attending meetings before the conference including the TB 2018 pre-conference.
Serge also attended Out With It: MPact’s Pre-Meeting at AIDS 2018 and Maureen was at The Joep Lange Institute Conference where we spoke on UHC and Community Engagement and she also attended the HIV Cure Academy by AVAC. Erika attended both U=U and the Trans Pre-Conference .
What was the biggest highlight of the conference for you? Did you meet someone new at the conference?
The experiences of the speakers were very different and each had some very interesting highlights. For some it was the messages that they were trying to get across – such as Maureen who was able to highlight “the gaps we have on funding for the HIV response and the new WHO treatment guidelines which many women living with HIV were not happy with” and Erika, who spoke at the closing of the conference, and used part of her time to call for a fully funded Global Fund. Resty appreciated the opportunity to share the work that she does with mothers taking their children for screening and the importance of proper training for mothers providing medication to their children.
Other highlights included the Global Village, pre-conferences and the opportunity to meet new people including Anton, who was able to meet Prince Harry, and Serge who met Peter Sands the new director of the Global Fund.
Not all experiences at the conference were positive and Timur shared his frustrations about the opening ceremony and the failure of organizers to highlight TB, the biggest killer of PLHIV, until Allan Maleche was introduced late in the ceremony.
Finally, Serge highlighted the march before the conference: “I particularly enjoyed the community walk we did with the GFAN family and other community actors from around the world. This was a real inspiration.”
Editors note: This may have been my favourite part of the conference as well. It may have been extremely hot, but it was energizing and an excellent opportunity to connect with members of the GFAN family.
Was there any information or “intelligence” that you learnt from meeting with people that you think would be useful to share with other members of the GFAN family?
I will highlight two responses to this question, Maureen shared that “resource mobilization is not going to be easy so we need innovative ways to convince the world that we need more resources to defeat the 3 epidemics” and Resty highlighted a message of patient safety, in particular for young people and mothers sharing medication with infants.
How many Sessions did you speak at?
The Speakers had varying agendas and the number of sessions they spoke at ranged from 1 to 27. Thanks to the amazing work of all six Speakers, 51 sessions at the conference and Global Village heard their messages.
What were your key messages?
Anton: Funding for key populations.
Erika: The need to diversify the HIV response among the trans communities, particularly the inclusion of trans men in the HIV response, Funding for KP and the state of trans organizing, stigma and discrimination and how it affects people living with HIV, Funding in countries in crisis and how people living with HIV are doing in those settings and, Prevention tools and its adaptability for KP.
Maureen: The need to get back on track with funding for HIV, TB and Malaria, Need for better pediatric ARVs, Why PMTCT is failing in some countries/communities and what needs to improve and, Addressing TB/HIV co-infections.
Resty: Patient safety, The mother mentor program and, Challenges faced by young people mostly children and adolescents in access of services.
Serge: The launch of GFAN Francophone Africa and the importance of having a new French speaker to prepare for the next Global Fund Replenishment Conference to be held in Paris next year. The launch of the Get Back on Track Report which warns of the imminent need to fully fund the global fund and stresses that the Global Fund will need about $ 16.8 billion to $ 18 billion for the 2020-2022 period and, Sharing experience on LGBT activism in Francophone Africa and what Affirmative Action is doing on the ground to encourage young Malian activists.
Timur: We in TB need to change and start having a real community and engaging them, or we will continue speaking about the lacking TB/HIV integration at every IAC.
Were there any sessions that you attended that you thought were particularly interesting?
Again, the varying experiences of the Speakers are quite interesting. Erika found all the sessions she attended to be interesting, Anton singled out sessions on harm reduction and HIV to be most interesting to him, and Timur found that he found the individual conversations with other people to be more compelling than the sessions he attended. Resty found the session with Prudence Mable Prize honoring women who have stood up in fight of stigma and discrimination in their country to be inspiring.
Finally, Maureen found that “there were sessions on point of care HIV diagnosis for HIV exposed children and it was annoying how human rights were not part of the conversations especially when it came to the mother’s mental health. The new WHO treatment guidelines if combined with the gag rule will make it difficult for women of reproductive age from Africa to access better quality treatment (dolutegravir based).”