Wednesday 25 July 2012

Opening Plenary - AIDS 2012

Hillary Clinton addresses the conference.
© IAS/Ryan Rayburn -
The start of AIDS 2012 has been stimulating and thought-provoking. The opening plenary on Monday morning attracted many important speakers, the most well-known being US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. To a rapturous welcome she described the great strides that have been made in the global fight against HIV – highlighting the US' efforts both domestically and internationally.

As would be expected from any sitting politician, she highlighted progress made by her government in addressing HIV. She identified the recently up-held Affordable Care Act, which for the first time will prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, as well as stop insurance companies from capping the amount in dollars that people receive. She also cited the new US National HIV Strategy.

Clinton called on governments around the world, particularly those in developing countries, to increase their contributions to the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. She also argued forcefully for the equal participation and  inclusion of women in relation to decisions about all aspects of their lives, especially in relation to their own sexual and reproductive health. Her call, arguably from the most powerful woman in the world, received thunderous applause. Clinton's comments echoed other voices who had expressed the urgency of full enfranchisement of women in the response to HIV. In the context of an international conference, where in many places among women in many parts of the world, her call resonated widely.

Phil Wilson, of the Black AIDS Institute, provided a rousing address on the need to redouble efforts to stem the HIV epidemic among African-Americans, including African American MSM who are so disproportionately affected. The leading challenge today for the American response to HIV, he argued, is the falling away from care and treatment among people with HIV. According to 'Gardener's Cascade', while 80% of Americans with HIV know their sero-positive status, only 36% are receiving treatment, and only 28% have a very low viral load. 

He asserted that in order to better respond, it is essential that we embrace both the medical and scientific discoveries and technologies that are being developed, as well as key social behavioural understanding and interventions.

He told of a recurring dream he has, in which an older woman asks him, what did you do to address HIV? Before he can answer, he wakes up. He shared that he worrys that in the dream perhaps he never provides an answer because he's afraid his answer might be 'not enough'. This, it seems, is a challenge to us all, as to whether we feel that we are doing enough to address HIV.

See also

Plenary: Ending the Epidemic: Turning the Tide Together - Anthony Fauci, Phill Wilson, Hillary Clinton and Sheila Tlou (Swaziland)

Health Disparities and the U.S. MSM HIV Epidemic

Homophobia hinders AIDS fight Opinion piece on prevention funding citing data on HIV among gay and bisexual Black American men

They say we can “end AIDS,” but who will pay for it? This session on Monday was dedicated to discussions about financing the HIV response

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