Monday, 27 July 2015

Don't leave Indigenous communities behind: Marama Pala closes IAS 2015

Marama Pala, IIWGHA CO-Chair,  at the closing of IAS 2015

AFAO's Ben Wilcock reports back from the closing of IAS 2015.

After summaries of the four main tracks of the conference were presented in the closing session of the #IAS2015 conference, the conference attendees had the honour of being present for an inspiring talk by Marama Pala, Co-Chair of the International Indigenous Working Group on HIV & AIDS (IIWGHA).

Marama started and finished her talk with beautiful traditional Maori songs. She asked the audience to remember the importance of people and the communities affected by HIV while the very important work happening in the field of biomedical prevention continues, and to not work on these biomedical strategies in silos. She stressed the importance of the first priority of human rights, as well as the importance of activism and the continuation of activism.

During her speech, Marama discussed her experience as an Indigenous person living with HIV and the experiences of others. In particular, she drew attention to the disproportionate rates of HIV among Aboriginal people in Canada.

She made particular note of not leaving Indigenous peoples around the world behind as we move forward towards the ambitious UNAIDS 90-90-90 goals for 2020.  (By 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.)

In a passionate statement she said that the needs of Indigenous peoples with HIV are already being left behind:

"Despite all the advances in HIV. Despite all the goals and strategies. Despite all the good will. Despite 90-90-90. Despite 'No-one Left Behind',  I'm here to tell you that Indigenous people have been left behind. And - unless things change - we will continue to be left behind, and 10-10-10 will be our reality," she said.

She spoke about the Vancouver Consensus Statement and the Community Statement demonstrating community support for the Vancouver Consensus: The Canadian Declaration by Persons living with HIV (2015): Statement from the People living with HIV and communities affected by HIV in support of The Vancouver Consensus (2015).

Marama encouraged everyone to sign both the Consensus Statement and the Canadian Declaration.

Watch Marama's IAS 2015 address in full here

IAS Local Co-Chair, Julio Montaner
 and IAS President, Chris Beyrer
After Marama's talk, Chris Beyrer (IAS President and International Chair for IAS 2015) and Julio Montaner (IAS 2015 Local Co-Chair) gave the closing remarks, including Chris Beyrer announcing that Desmond Tutu will be opening the next IAS conference in Durban in 2016 (IAS 2016).

Ben Wilcock, AFAO Health Promotion Officer, is blogging live from IAS 2015 in Vancouver.

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