Today was a successful last day of the conference. We all tried to go to some sessions with topics that we hadn’t covered previous days. I ended up going to four in total, with some time to spend at the Global Village and Exhibition Hall in between.
In the first session of the morning, we heard a compelling speech from Peter Piot, a former president of the International AIDS Society (IAS) and a microbiologist who has played a key role since the early years of the epidemic. He warned against complacency in current progress against HIV. Operating under the assumption that we are close to the end of the epidemic can be dangerous because it is often followed by a scaling back of quantity and quality of donor funding for interventions and research. He urged the public health community to re-focus and re-engage with a multi-faceted global response.
Following Dr. Piot was Dr. David Malebranche, a physician and activist from Atlanta. He cautioned against using only numbers to quantify HIV outcomes instead of studying the experiences and quality of life of people living with HIV. He referenced several case studies where interventions were tailored around a human rights approach as examples of a community centered response. Many presenters have talked about populations that are labeled “hard to reach” because they are not engaged in interventions or meeting goals that have been set for them, but Dr. Malebranche compelled the public health researchers and providers to change their own perspective and actions rather than implicating those of their clients as the cause of the trends. These issues were addressed again in different aspects during sessions I attended later in the afternoon on the efficacy of HIV prevention among populations of men who have sex with men and mental health of people living with HIV.
In the Global Village and Exhibition Hall, we picked up some info fliers on the Global Gag Rule, drug and harm reduction policy, and sex work decriminalization among others, and managed to get more pins, stickers and condoms along the way (because you can never have too much conference swag). It’s so impressive to see the breadth of organizations represented, some who are focused on larger topics on a global scale while others are locally based and work on more specific issues within the epidemic. Both are critical and shape the community of activists, researchers, and government and NGO leaders that all have a stake in the response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Art in the Global Village.
A Pharmaceutical Company Booth in the Exhibition Hall.
The week has gone by so quickly, but we’ve been able to pack a lot into a few days between a variety of sessions and visiting booths at the Global Village. It will definitely be hard to leave tomorrow!