Monday, July 23rd, 2012
This week tens of thousands of HIV/AIDS stakeholders will descend on Washington, D.C. for the bi-annual International AIDS Conference (IAC). Scientists, activists, policy makers, people living with HIV/AIDS, NGOs, other stakeholders from around the globe, and (of course!) FACE AIDS will participate in a week-long conference to discuss advances in the fight against HIV and look forward to the beginning of the end of AIDS. As the weeks begins, we’d like to look at two critical moments that made this moment possible.
- Lifting of the travel ban. Although the United States is far and away the largest contributor to the global fight against HIV, hosting the conference on our shores was not always assured; in fact the IAC has not been held in America in over 20 years. A federal ban on travel visas for people living with HIV/AIDS precluded the United States from candidacy as a host country. In 2009, President Obama lifted the travel ban, recognizing that it provided no legitimate public health benefits. Now that people living with HIV/AIDS could enter into the United States, the IAC elected to return to the US to showcase significant advances in the fight against HIV.
- Treatment as Prevention. Last year a research team led out of UNC Chapel Hill published results of a study called HPTN 052. This study definitively showed that the immediate treatment of an HIV infected member of a serodiscordant couple (i.e one person has HIV, the other does not) reduces the rate of transmission in heterosexual couples by 96%. HPTN 052 means that when we treat infected individuals, we prevent others from getting infected. Essentially, treatment is a form of prevention. It alters the way we talk about the virus and how we can stop it. Indeed, this groundbreaking research led Secretary of States Hillary Clinton to declare last November that creating “an AIDS-free generation” was a “policy priority of the United States government”.
These exciting developments have brought part of the FACE AIDS staff to DC this week. Lauren Piper, our Education and Advocacy Intern, and I will be blogging about our experiences attending the RESULTS International Conference, a concurrent conference that teaches how to effectively advocate for those living with HIV/AIDS around the world. Margo Watson, our Executive Director, is actively engaging hordes of young people, luminaries, and movers & shakers at the IAC. Together we working to engage our peers and colleagues so that together we can create an AIDS-free generation.
Austin Carroll Keeley
Recruitment and Partnerships Director