Posted by Kimberley Meijers on August 8, 2016 at 3:57 pm
The 21st International AIDS Conference 2016 (AIDS 2016) took place from 18-22 July 2016 in Durban. Share-Net International joined the more than 18,000 delegates from 183 different countries. Here are some of the most important key takeaways.
Since the last IAC in Durban 16 years ago, lots of progress has been made: more than 17 million are on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment out of the 36,9 million people living with HIV (PLWH) (UNAIDS, 2016). Although this is 22 times higher than in the year 2000, in order to end the AIDS pandemic as a public health threat by 2030, our fight needs to continue! We need to pursue the UN Fast-Track targets and leave no one behind.
During the UN High Level Meeting on AIDS last June, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized that AIDS is far from over. He said: “Over the next five years, we have a window of opportunity to radically change the trajectory of the epidemic and put an end to AIDS forever. Despite remarkable progress, if we do not act, there is a danger the epidemic will rebound in low- and middle-income countries.”
Although additional funding is needed, 13 of the 14 donor governments have decreased their funding in the last year. We know that realizing efficiencies in the available budget alone will not be sufficient. A strong call echoed to fully replenish PEPFAR and the Global Fund. Increased funding remains essential to not lose the created momentum and back up the commitments made.
Even though several significant advances were presented in HIV cure & vaccine research, it was stressed that we already have the tools we need to stop AIDS. The WHO guidelines advice to start ARV treatment immediately after diagnosis and provide access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for most-at risk populations (MARPs). We need to close the HIV prevention gap. Quality HIV prevention and ARV treatment programs urgently need upscaling, especially targeting MARPs who are often left behind by the AIDS response.
Further attention should be given to reduce new infections and AIDS related deaths under adolescents, specifically young girls and women, MSM, transgender, intravenous drug users, sex workers and their clients. Countries often under-prioritize these key populations in their national policies and programs and refuse to honor their human rights. In many countries some MARPs including PLWH are still criminalized by law. Criminalization, stigma and discrimination should be addressed and eliminated. To be able close the prevention and treatment gap men need to be actively involved and our youth needs to be empowered and educated as they are the future generation who need to use the tools at their disposal to end AIDS.
South African actress Charlize Theron attended AIDS 2016 and delivered a passionate opening ceremony speech during which she said: “It’s time to face the truth about the unjust world we live in, the truth is we have every tool we need to prevent the spread of HIV… let’s ask ourselves why haven’t we beaten this epidemic. Could it be because we don’t want to?”
The 22nd International AIDS Conference will be held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Let’s make sure together that in 2018 we will still be on track to end AIDS in 2030!