2012 International AIDS Conference Highlights
In July 2012, the United States hosted the International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) for the first time in over 20 years. Thousands of people gathered together to share best practices, life stories, research, trends, interventions and latest policies in the HIV/AIDS field. It was an incredible opportunity to attend an international conference in APA’s backyard — Washington, D.C. The event was marked throughout the city with metro stops, buses and trains that were plastered with displays from organizations and various institutions sponsoring this major event.
Staff from APA’s Office on AIDS and its Behavioral and Social Science Volunteer (BSSV) Program, as well as Public Interest Governmental Relations Office (PI GRO) staff participated in the conference and attended sessions, events and activities.
IAC Global Village
The International AIDS Conference (IAC) featured a free entrance Global Village which ensured that everyone was able to interact and engage in activities, advocacy and discussions about the epidemic at a global level.
The IAC Global Village featured safe, free expression spaces for communities such as young people, women, sexual minorities, men, people who use drugs, and people living with HIV. A mini market place displayed artwork from different parts of the world, and a main stage dedicated to Dr. Robert Carr allowed for cultural performances from many countries.
Panel discussions such as “Turning the Tide in the HIV and AIDS Epidemic in Washington D.C.” and “Community and Science Speak” allowed scientists, government representatives and advocates to interact. Workshop sessions focused on research, prevention services, and interventions targeting specific populations such as heterosexual black males, transgendered populations, men who have sex with men (MSMs). Sharon Asonganyi, BSSV CBA Coordinator (pictured left), was able to share her hands at the YAHAnet booth Wall of Hands as part of the collective whole, and the “taking the LEAD to get to zero!” exhibition.
Related Conference Programs
In addition to the conference sessions and the Global Village, a number of free meetings and events were held. The National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition (NBGMAC) and the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) sponsored two major events–a Leadership Institute and Turning the Tide of HIV/AIDS For Black Gay Men. Both of these events were attended by APA staff and included participation by local and national leaders from the community and the public, non-profit and private sectors.
The NBGMAC/NMAC Leadership Institute provided cutting edge information regarding current biomedical interventions, ongoing research and various clinical trials. Turning the Tide of HIV/AIDS For Black Gay Men, a policy forum and community discussion, was sponsored by the National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition, National Minority AIDS Coalition, George Washington School of Public Health, Justice Resource Institute and Fenway Institute. Panel presenters included Leo Rennie (APA PI GRO), Dawn Smith (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Dr. Patrick Wilson (Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health), and Ace Robinson (Gay Men’s Health Crisis).
Mr. Rennie discussed “Optimization of Biomedical and Behavioral HIV Prevention for Black MSM.” His presentation highlighted the APA Resolution Combination Biomedical and Behavioral Approaches to Optimize HIV Prevention. This resolution emphasizes the need for prevention research that incorporates strategies to deal with mental health and substance abuse, behavior change and adherence. Comments by Dr. Anthony Fauci (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease) during the IAC opening plenary were particularly noteworthy. He stated, “Biological interventions work but they don’t work if you don’t adhere, which tells us why we have to marry biological with behavioral. There’s no doubt about that.” As the APA resolution recognizes, behavioral approaches attend to challenging factors such as poverty, culture, stigma, sexual orientation and gender identity, violence and trauma, mental health and substance use disorders and psychosocial concerns.
Oftentimes the passion of being involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS can get dimmed in the jungle of changing governmental directives, limited resources, budget cuts, administrative tasks for funders, data reports and trainings, etc. The International AIDS Conference — Washington, D.C. was an opportunity to acknowledge how far we have come in this fight, and renew our commitment that we can work in partnership to turn the tide together.