STI* HIV* Sex* Congress – Key Highlights & Takeaways

Posted by Maria Codina on December 3, 2018 at 11:03 am

The 22nd National Congress STI* HIV* Sex took place on the 23rd of November in the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. This year’s theme focused on ‘Together towards a breakthrough: smart solutions for successful STI & HIV control.’ More than 550 professionals attended.

Fred Verdult was honored with an Orange ribbon by mayor Femke Halsema as a reward for his commitment and hard work of over 20 years as HIV patient and activist. Mr. Verdult made a large contribution to openness about HIV in The Netherlands and was knighted in the royal order of Orange Nassau.

Kimberley Meijers attended on behalf of Share-Net Netherlands and KIT Royal Tropical Institute. Our members Cordaid and KIT Royal Tropical Institute successfully launched Sichingo! a serious game for HIV interventions in fragile settings.

Interesting numbers:

  • A quarter of new HIV-diagnoses in the Netherlands in 2017 are above 50 years old.
  • On 31st December 2017, 19.582 persons with HIV were in care of which 12.378 Men who have Sex with Men (MSM)
  • 2300 persons in the Netherlands don’t know they have HIV.
  • Nearly 160.000 people were diagnosed with HIV in the WHO European Region in 2017. Of which 14% in Western Europe, 4% in Central Europe and 82% in Eastern Europe.
  • In Western Europe 72% of all people living with HIV are virally suppressed, 46% percent in Central Europe and only 26 percent in Eastern Europe.
  • Research results from Youth Survey ‘Sex in the Netherlands below 25’ show that 4 out of 10 youth don’t use a condom during a one-night stand.

Key Highlights & Takeaways

  • There is added value of informal HIV-care through peer to peer support next to formal HIV care.
  • The role of communities and NGOs is essential in combatting HIV/AIDS. In some parts of the world (Russia, Eastern Europe & South-East Asia) their valuable work becomes increasingly difficult. Collaboration is important even if different strategies, like ‘fight’, ‘hide’ or ‘unite’ are used to reach the same goal.
  • U=U: undetectable is untransmittable. The fact that people infected with HIV who are virally suppressed cannot sexually transmit the virus to others.
  • A better life with HIV includes a future without stigma, healthy ageing, timely testing and a conscious lifestyle.
  • In theory we can eliminate two deadly STIs; HIV which can cause AIDS and HPV which can cause cervical cancer. However in practice we encounter resistance and there is a challenge for public health care.
  • HIV is still often linked to ‘unpopular’ or ‘unwanted’ behavior. For someone to realise they might belong to a group to which they don’t want to belong to can make it more difficult for them to test for HIV.
  • Stigma is the largest obstacle towards 0 new HIV-infections in the Netherlands.
  • Focus points from Youth Survey:
    • Provide sexuality education throughout school career with teacher support, engaging study material and involvement of Youth Services etc.
    • Promote condoms and testing via ‘safe sex campaign’ and with involvement of general practitioners, increase access to and offer free STI testing. Give special attention for vulnerable groups.
    • Address unacceptable behavior including Gender-based Violence via Defensibility Campaigns, include defensibility & negotiation skills in Sexuality Education, address sexting and provide extra attention to young people at risk.
    • Include Sexual & Gender Diversity in sexuality education and give specific attention to LGBTI negativity.
  • Focus points from MSM survey:
    • Treat earlier to reach the UNAIDS goal of 90-90-90. By 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status. By 2020, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy. By 2020, 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
    • More and easier access to HIV testing is needed. There is still a substantial group of men that was never tested. Opportunities lie in self testing, involving peers, outreach, testlab, triage, campaigning and financing. Via Testlab, MSM can arrange free and anonymous STI incl. HIV testing without consulting their general practitioner or visiting an STI clinic.
    • Safe sex should be increased through PrEP and condom use. There is still a substantial number of men that does not use any form of protection.
    • HIV should be normalized and we should focus more on addressing stigma.

“Let’s work together and do everything we can to drastically reduce STIs and get HIV under control so that more people can enjoy protected and carefree sex” – Febe Deug, Manager National & International Programmes Aidsfonds & Soa AIDS Nederland.

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