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Be Heard: A preview of activism in Durban

July 12, 2016

Dear Advocate,

With less than a week to go until the International AIDS Conference, here’s the next in AVAC’s series of brief updates to prepare. In this one... prevention activism at Durban. What, where, why and how. We hope you’ll find this useful and thought-provoking whether you’re coming to an IAC for the first time—or whether this is familiar ground. 

What does prevention activism mean in 2016? 
As it was in 2000, access to antiretroviral treatment for people living with HIV will be one important theme for this year’s meeting. That 35 years into the HIV epidemic, less than half of the 37 million who need ART are on treatment means that access continues to be a major issue.

Prevention activism starts with this premise and adds loud, specific, targeted demands for funding, programs and research for the things we know, and need, as combination prevention. This means male and female condoms and condom-compatible lubricant, comprehensive harm reduction, PrEP, VMMC, structural and rights-based interventions, and R&D for additional options. The world won’t end AIDS without targets, accountability and action around these interventions—and action won’t happen without activism. 

Why is activism needed? 
Because there are major, glaring gaps in HIV prevention worldwide. UNAIDS just took a stand on this with its first Prevention Gap report that highlights numerous places where we are failing. Just 2 percent of the people who need PrEP, according to UNAIDS’ target of 3 million by 2020, have access to it today—a situation similar to ART access around the last Durban conference. Also this week, WHO reported that the number of voluntary medical male circumcisions performed in 2015 declined by 20 percent from 2014. A month ago, UNAIDS put out its annual progress report which noted that there has been no decline in the number of new cases of HIV worldwide in the past five years. 

This because public health systems are broken; there are not enough health workers; prices of new medicines and technologies are still high; and supportive policies and funding for community-led programs should be priority for any program implementation, but this is hardly the case. 

How should it happen at the meeting? 
Anywhere that there is a conversation about ending AIDS, prevention activism is needed. You can do it by sporting a message—look for AVAC’ers and allies with prevention “red alert” stickers like the one in this message. You can also do it by speaking up.

Here are some questions to ask specific speakers and stakeholders: 
  • UNAIDS leadership: How will you help lead the world to less than 500,000 new infections per year by 2020 and fill the gaps in your new report? 
  • PEPFAR leadership: What will it take to get PrEP offered to adolescent girls and young women in all of the countries where you are implementing your DREAMS program, and how will you ensure that the newly-announced initiative for key populations has true impact?
  • National leadership: How are country targets and budgets aligning with global targets—for prevention, for key populations and for human rights?
  • Session chairs: Where are the voices of the people leading the fight? Those most highly burdened and underserved, including young women, should be front and center of the conversation, leading with their voices and not being talked about from the podium.

Where should it happen? 

It’s time activists shaped the International AIDS Conference to ensure these issues are raised and rhetoric matches action. Community needs to set a new global agenda in its response. Activists could start by showing up, grabbing a sign, marching, demanding answers of decision-makers, meeting with media, blogging and being counted. See you in the streets! 



HIV Prevention Roadmap and Research Literacy Networking ZoneCheck out the HIV Prevention Roadmap of relevant sessions and activities at the conference, and the Research Literacy Networking Zone in the Global Village—a destination we hope will be on your path through a busy conference week.


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