The event was held at the Human Rights Campaign in D.C. and it was co-sponsored by Center Global and the HIV Working Group, both programs of the D.C. Center for the LGBT community.
The panel of experts and activists included Temi Oke, a Nigerian asylee and HIV prevention worker in Nigeria and D.C.; Thomas La Salvia, deputy coordinator of affected populations and civil society leadership at the State Department; Jose Zuniga, president of the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care; and A. Toni Young, executive director of Community Education Group.
Jamieson Brill, chair of the HIV Working Group and overnight hotline supervisor of Community Crisis Services, Inc., moderated the panel.
The International AIDS Conference is a biennial forum sponsored by the International AIDS Society that brings together the world’s top scientists, activists and policy makers to discuss ways to eradicate HIV/AIDS.
The panel discussion aimed to address the developments put forth during the International AIDS Conference from a LGBT perspective.
The event was well received by the panelists and attendees in that it provided an opportunity to discuss strategies to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS locally and globally.
“Overall, we were very pleased to hear the breadth of information that the conference attendees gained from participating in the IAC and their opportunity to learn about innovative programs in other parts of the world,” Eric Scharf of the D.C. Center.
“The Center Global-D.C. Center forum was extremely encouraging for me in that we were able to translate the global progress announced at the 21st International AIDS Conference and place it within a local context,” added Zuniga.
“Repealing punitive laws against against whole groups of people or for perceived HIV exposure, eliminating stigma, getting more people tested and linked to care, including preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and antiretroviral therapy, and providing psychosocial and other support are critical to attaining the United Nations goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, “ he said.
Zuniga also emphasized the importance of the data available to target communities most affected by the HIV virus.
“We cannot afford to leave anyone behind,” he said. “Thus the use of data to map where and among whom the greatest need lies in relation to HIV testing, prevention, care, treatment, and support is extremely important both strategically and financially. We are therefore pleased that the District of Columbia, as a Fast-Track City, has embraced the open use of data for both decision-making and remaining accountable to local stakeholders, notably HIV-affected communities.”
Although no new information was revealed on prevention or treatment, some experts used the platform to highlight the importance of HIV/AIDS as a global health crisis and AIDS-related illnesses.
“I think that people who are doing work in HIV and people living with HIV don’t always get the intersectionality of HIV internationality and domestically,” Young told the Blade during a telephone interview.
“I’m really focused on work around Hepatitis C and Achalasia. Most people don’t even know there is an epidemic of Hepatitis C and Achalasia,” she added. “People don’t know think of West Virginia as a place where there is an Hepatitis C outbreak or crisis. Nor do they see that as a place where we can definitely learn from the telemedicine, distance learning and legacy carrier activities that have been going in Africa and South Africa.”
Some suggest the success of the fight against the eradication of HIV/AIDS is ultimately dependent on actions taken by policy makers and political leaders.
“So much of our AIDS response is reliant upon political will,” said Zuniga. “Therefore, elections matter and we must evaluate the positions and stances taken by those who are seeking elected office and determine whether these are in the best interest of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.”