As a membership-based organization, these major global policy meetings, require strong International AIDS Society (IAS) engagement to speak up on critical issues that our members face. With that in mind, a number of IAS Members and partners were part of country delegation teams. This, together with IAS partnering with other civil society organizations, had the ability to influence and advocate on a number of key issues at the following meetings:
Side Event: The end of AIDS as a global health threat: Science-based or science fiction?
IAS representation: Chris Beyrer, IAS President
The discussion focused in part on the question of translating science into action if the end of AIDS is to become a reality. Scientific evidence is essential for policies and programmes to advance the AIDS response and end the epidemic as a public health threat by 2030. Research has been fundamental in shaping effective programmes and Chris Beyrer, IAS President, specifically highlighted the importance of addressing key populations - men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender people, people who inject drugs and sex workers - in the global HIV response as they now account for 52% of new infections worldwide. Chris highlighted why these key populations are ‘key’: elevated HIV burden and low access to services which is often exacerbated by stigma, discrimination and denialism. By highlighting an example in Nigeria, where a measurable increase in viral load among MSM was noted after the passage of an anti-LGBT law, Beyrer succinctly identified how the advancements of science are impeded by structural factors – especially for key populations.
- Science advancements are a key part of the AIDS response. Science has made a critical contribution to the AIDS response to date and is set to continue to do so
- Evidence in action. Scientific evidence clearly supports that we have the tools to end AIDS as a public health threat
- Combination prevention packages. ARVs, both for treatment and prevention, take centre stage in the response but have to be supplemented with the rest of our available tools as appropriate for effective combination prevention
Side Event: Sustaining HIV responses through linkage with sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)
IAS representation: Kevin Osborne, IAS Director of Programmes and Advocacy
Host: Governments of Botswana, Kenya, Norway and South Africa
The session aimed to promote understanding of the connections between and benefits of linking HIV and SRHR responses, and demonstrate how national governments are successfully integrating HIV and SRHR services. There was a call for intensified commitment to a joint HIV and SRHR response for achieving the related Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to support efficiency, sustainability, and client needs.
- A joint response makes ‘people sense’. Integrating services - particularly by providing all services by one provider in one room in the same visit - increases productivity, accessibility, uptake, and quality of services, including reducing stigma and discrimination, defaulter rates, and waiting times.
- Change is necessary across both HIV and SRHR responses. Changes in the health system that have facilitated integrated HIV and SRHR service delivery include task-shifting, capacity-building of health workers, and integrating planning tools and data.
- Service integration alone is not enough. Although integration of services is necessary it is not sufficient. The social and legal context is imperative for reaching the targets of zero new infections and zero discrimination through access to social justice. Yet, rights are being denied and abused, including SRHR which are not being recognised as fundamental human rights, especially for women and girls, key populations, and people living with HIV.
Side Event: Ending AIDS is only possible by investing in and meaningfully involving young people
IAS representation: Carlo Oliveras, Adolescent HIV Treatment Coalition (ATC), Programme Co-ordinator
Host: Governments of the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Kenya
The first panel presented the numerous challenges youth across the world face in accessing funding, and the policy implications of weak declarations on matters of youth, SRHR, HIV/AIDS, and key populations. Additionally, this session addressed the policy challenges and discussed possible solutions to address the needs of young people within the HIV response, as well as possible areas of engagements.
- Funding flexibility to foster youth-led initiatives. There is increased need of funding flexibilities that allow youth-led initiatives to thrive in order to respond to the needs of young people.
- Meaningful engagement of young people. Youth in key populations need to be prioritized across the board in order to curve the epidemic.
- Adolescents living with HIV need to be prioritized. Adolescents living with HIV are directly impacted by the lack of inclusion of youth in general policy making, which increases their vulnerability.