The 26th International AIDS Conference: Washington DC, USA: July 2012
In the summer, the XIX International AIDS Conference or AIDS 2012 took place from 22 -27 July at the Walter E. Washington Convention Centre in downtown Washington DC under the theme “Turning the Tide Together”. AIDS 2012 was one of the most highly attended International AIDS conferences ever, drawing close to 24,000 delegates and media representatives from over 180 countries.
CAAT had a great presence at this historic conference, which was held in the US for the first time in over 20 years. The CAAT team presented posters and workshops, chaired and moderated sessions, and participated in affiliated events and symposia. Our CHAMP research team members Christian Hui and Amanuel Tesfamichael were especially honoured with an invitation to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House as part of a community leaders’ delegation.
CAAT’s abstract on “Community mobilisation through research activism: Benefits of applying GIPA/MEIPA in HIV research” was selected for poster presentation at the conference. CAAT also presented at the Canadian Exhibition booth on “Strategies for improving service access and maximizing GIPA amongst PHAs who are immigrants, refugees and without full citizenship status in Canada”
CAAT was excited to work with Laurel Sprague from the Global Network of PHAs to co-develop and present a workshop on specific strategies to promote the Greater and Meaningful Involvement of PHAs. CAAT program coordinator Maureen Owino presented the work of ETSN under the title:“ From taking care of ourselves to taking care of each other: Engagement of immigrant, refugee, non-status PHAs and those from racialized communities as treatment advocates, caregivers, and service-providers”. CAAT research chair Dr Alan Li spoke on the topic of “Non-positive allies and health providers promoting GIPA/MIPA in marginalized PHA communities: Experiences and strategies for engagement, capacity building & leadership”.
CHAMP research project coordinator Henry Luyombya co-chaired a session on Black diaspora entitled “Turning the Tide of the Impact of HIV in African and Black Diaspora Youth”. He also gave an opening statement on a bridging session on HIV and Migration titled “HIV Responses in the Context of Migration: What Have We Learned”.
Delegates also participated in the community activities including protests to the White House about the exclusion of commercial sex workers and people who inject drugs were barred from attending the conference through visa restrictions; and the increasing criminalization of people living with HIV. The CAAT team, including steering committee members Sandra Chu, Alan, Henry as well as Maureen, participated in the PHAC co-sponsored forum on HIV and Migration where we advocated for the inclusion of newcomer PHAs as a priority population in the Federal AIDS strategy, and raised concerns about the recent cutback on the Interim Federal Health coverage on essential and preventive health services for refugees.
The conference drew speakers from all walks of life – people living with HIV (PHA) leaders, community activists, scientist, clinicians, politicians, diplomats, media celebrities, philanthropists, entertainers etc. Discussions focused on scaling up treatment efforts as part of prevention, investing dollars in research and vaccine development, HIV and aging related issues, and continuing to work with innovative strategies to reach out to key affected populations including women, young people and youth, men who have sex with men (MSM), transgendered people, people who use drugs, commercial sex workers, and migrants.
At a Youth pavilion session in the Global Village, Princess Nuru Nabbumba Kisitu of Uganda emphasized the importance of mentorship for young people living with HIV and developing their leadership capabilities. She also outlined the qualities of a good mentor, and underscored the value of persons who have successfully navigated being HIV positive by assisting other youth to find their potential as leaders in the HIV movement.
The conference showed that turning the tide was possible with closer partnerships amongst government, civil society, corporations, pharmaceutical companies, health workers and people with lived experiences and those at risk of HIV infection. However, it was noted that the barriers that stand in the way of ‘turning the tide’ are many, a most important one being stigma and discrimination. It was emphasized that to end the epidemic, communities and individuals must unite in our efforts to combat stigma and discrimination against HIV as well as homophobia and the ongoing and increasing systemic marginalization and criminalization of people who engage in sex trade and substance use.
AIDS 2012 by the numbers (Source: www.aids2012.org, 30th July 2012)
- 23,767 participants, including:
- 17,066 delegates
- 1,904 media delegates
- 12,042 participants from the U.S.
- 851scholarship recipients
- 991 volunteers
- 183 countries represented
- 12,433 abstracts submitted, 3,837 abstracts accepted
- 194 sessions 19 plenary speeches
- 14 special sessions
- 265 Global Village activities
- 210 exhibits
- 185 satellite meetings
- 9 scientific prizes and awards
- 85,608 #AIDS2012 tweets (Sunday, 22 July – Friday, 27 July)
- 14,475 downloads of the AIDS 2012 mobile app
- 77,945 visits to www.aids2012.org (Sunday, 22 July – Friday, 27 July)
- US$27 000 in carbon offsets
Notable personalities at the conference included:
- President Bill Clinton
- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
- U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius
- Canadian Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq
- South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe
- Former U.S. First Lady Laura Bush
- HRH Mette-Marit, Crown Princess of Norway
- World Bank President Jim Yong Kim
- UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé
- Nobel Laureate Françoise Barré-Sinoussi
- NIAID Director Anthony Fauci
- Philanthropist Bill Gates
- Humanitarian and Singer Elton John
- Actress Whoopi Goldberg