Today was a busy but informative day! We all attended sessions from when we got to the conference around 9 am until we left at 6 (with a quick break to scarf down lunch as we walked from one session to another).
The first session covered new scientific innovations within the field of HIV/AIDS, including vaccine research, new antiretroviral treatments called integrase inhibitors, and different ways to prevent HIV infections in the first place. We also went to a session later in the afternoon covering recent developments in cure research. Currently, there is only one person in the world who has been cured of HIV, but scientists have gotten close and are working hard to come up with a solution. This was all pretty science-y so we were glad to have Dr. Wessner with us to translate!
I then attended a session on epidemic transition, essentially asking at what point do we consider the HIV epidemic under control. There are many ways to define this and they all have different implications for global health strategies so while it sounds pretty pedantic, it’s actually really important (and pretty fascinating for a public health nerd like myself).
A big topic of discussion in controlling the epidemic is key populations, groups of people that are at greater risk of contracting HIV. These include men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender people, injection drug users (IDU), female sex workers (FSW), and people of color. As you can tell, public health officials love their acronyms. My notes from today kind of look like alphabet soup.
All jokes aside, these populations are in dire need of attention from the HIV/AIDS community. We cannot make a dent in the epidemic without addressing the needs of these communities. It was reassuring to see so many people at the conference agreeing with this fact and ready to fight for these people. It also made me proud that a lot of the work Warner does already focuses on these populations and fighting the stigma and discrimination that they encounter on a daily basis. It really shows that the work Warner does for HIV/AIDS is vital to the effort to end this epidemic.
One of the exhibits at the conference allowing you to experience the stigma that key populations encounter so often.
Can’t believe tomorrow is our last day! Time flies when you’re having fun!