Urgency a Must for HIV Response at AIDS 2022

In Global Advocacy by Fiona Ip

AHF accomplished a full slate of actions earlier this month at the 24th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2022) in Montréal, Canada – the first in-person conference in four years. AIDS 2022 was overshadowed by Canada’s unwelcoming visa policies that kept many HIV advocates from the Global South from attending.

The visa issue also eclipsed a worrisome UNAIDS report that prompted AHF to release a statement on the conference’s last day addressing the report’s lack of guidance on basic Test & Treat actions and tackling the rising rate of late HIV presenters globally.

“It’s unacceptable that many HIV advocates, including several from AHF, could not attend this conference. International AIDS Conferences must be held in countries and regions affected by HIV/AIDS, not in rich countries – like Australia, where IAS 2023 is slated to be held,” said AHF Director of Global Advocacy and Policy Guillermina Alaniz. “The visa issue aside, the sobering UNAIDS report confirmed our worst fears about the damage done by COVID-19 to the global HIV response. It also drives home the point that we must do everything necessary to ensure people everywhere know their HIV status and get enrolled and retained into care – aspects mostly absent from the report.”

A live and virtual press conference kicked off day one of AIDS 2022 and drew local news coverage at the AHF exhibition booth. The Pandemics & HIV: Failure is not an option! satellite session rounded out the day and offered the crowd a chance to hear public health experts and advocates from around the world speak on the most pressing HIV topics. The conference also served as a perfect setting for unveil its wildly popular Condom Emoji pin that enticed scores of people looking to snag some fun, “safer is sexy” wearables!

Press Conference

Our live and virtual press conference drew a crowd at its exhibition booth, where expert panelists urged governments and global public health agencies to bring a renewed sense of urgency to the HIV response. Fully funding the Global Fund and expanding its mandate were other hot topics, along with several pressing global public health issues. Local Montréal media also interviewed Dr. V. Sam Prasad of AHF India Cares and Guillermina Alaniz regarding the denial of Canadian visas that kept many HIV advocates from lower-income countries from attending AIDS 2022.

Watch the entire press conference here!

Satellite Session 

Pandemics & HIV: Failure is not an option!

AHF’s Dr. Adele Schwartz Benzaken kicked off the satellite session that featured a high-profile panel of public health experts and advocates. PEPFAR’s Dr. Angeli Achrekar praised health care thinkers and workers who adapted to create new care models under pressures brought on by COVID-19. Denise Byrnes of Oxfam addressed vaccine and treatment inequity globally and expressed the importance of prioritizing using generic HIV medications while combatting influence from big pharma.

AHF Ambassador Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil added that there must be improved harm reduction initiatives, increased access to ART during health emergencies, including medication deliveries, and targeted mental health support. AHF’s own Dr. Jorge Saavedra reiterated the importance of expanding the Global Fund’s mandate to combat future pandemics while applauding PEPFAR for using its platform to address the recent monkeypox outbreak.

Condom Emoji Madness!

Our Condom Emoji pin stole the show and was highly sought-after swag for hundreds of conference attendees. Dr. Winnie Byanyima, head of UNAIDS, said she “loved” the campaign and sported the pin during the conference. Harold Phillips, Director of The White House Office of National AIDS Policy, was also a fan of the Condom Emoji initiative and vowed to don the pin in Washington D.C.!

Sign the petition to create a Condom Emoji here!

Abstract Posters

The International AIDS Society selected 14 AHF abstracts for AIDS 2022, including two in-person posters that Dr. Nkululeko Dube from AHF Eswatini and Dr. V. Sam Prasad from AHF India Cares presented during the conference. Be sure to view theirs and all the other digital abstract posters by clicking the links below!
Compassion and Care Earn AHF Social Worker Recognition
L.A. Needs New Leadership on Monkeypox, HIV and STDs