The global AIDS epidemic remains a public health crisis with many complex and stubborn problems that demand urgent and continued advocacy actions. The tepid atmosphere at the 10th IAS Conference on HIV Science (IAS 2019) in Mexico City at the end of July was a reminder that complacency is a real threat to the fight against AIDS.
In the Latin America region, Venezuela is a tragic example of what happens when treatment, prevention and support services break down, forcing people living with HIV to become refugees.
At IAS 2019, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) hosted a satellite panel titled “Health system collapse and HIV crisis in Venezuela: What can be done?”—which featured presentations by an HIV positive person and a healthcare expert from Venezuela—along with representatives from the Pan American Health Organization, AHF and encouraging words by Ambassador Deborah Birx from the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The session filled to capacity, underscoring the concern and desire of the audience to do more to help Venezuela.
Globally, efforts to reduce AIDS mortality and prevent new HIV infections are flagging. In an effort to reinvigorate primary HIV prevention, AHF hosted a second satellite panel, titled “The primary prevention revolution: Getting back on track!”. This session also featured a presentation by Ambassador Birx, along with experts on sexuality education, clinical science, public health, and a special focus on engaging policymakers by Member of Portuguese Parliament Dr. Ricardo Baptista Leite.
AHF also hosted an exhibition booth as an opportunity to engage with conference delegates on the importance of continued advocacy for HIV treatment, prevention and strong, ongoing support for the upcoming replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. On the scientific front, AHF presented eight posters and one oral presentation highlighting its clinical and epidemiological studies and program successes in Mexico, Nigeria, Kenya, India and the United States.
“The outcome of the IAS in Mexico can be summed up as a ‘coming to terms with reality’,” said Terri Ford, AHF Chief of Global Advocacy and Policy. “The rose-colored glasses have come off; the world is off-track on prevention, mortality remains stubbornly high, funding is down by $1 billion and young women and girls are taking the brunt of the epidemic. These shortfalls are a cue for all of us to fire back up the advocacy and tell everyone, from pharma and decision makers, to communities and the UN system – it’s clear – business as usual just won’t cut it anymore.”