Update from Melbourne - Aidan's Day 2

  • HIV Scotland team members George Valiotis and Aidan Collins have been sending updates about what they're seeing and hearing at the AIDS 2014 international conference in Melbourne. This update is from Aidan, giving an overview of the second day of the conference from his perspective.

"Today I took time out from the conference sessions to explore the global village and speak with people from across the globe (as well as those from close to home) about their local communities, emerging issues and their work. Here is a summary of some of the discussions that I’ve had so far:

"I spoke with the Australian Government delegation who told me about their seventh National HIV Strategy. This has just been launched following a period of extensive consultation. The guiding principles informing the strategy have been drawn from Australia’s efforts over time to respond to the challenges and impacts of HIV: human rights, access and equity, health promotion, prevention, harm reduction, shared responsibility and commitment to evidence-based policy and programmes. It will now be the responsibility of each Australian state to implement the priority actions set out. Hopefully we can draw upon this approach to help inform the development of our own Framework – it would be great to see Scotland place similar principles at the heart of its national strategy.

Aidan at AIDS 2014

"I met with broadcasters from JOY94.9 - an LGBT community radio station broadcasting live from the Global Village. They have a huge listenership in Australia with increasing numbers of LGBT people tuning in from countries where homosexuality is criminalised. In fact, JOY94.9 has been campaigning for Australians who were criminalised due to their sexuality prior to the 80s to have their records expunged – I was shocked to learn that people can face problems travelling and entering certain occupations as these outdated convictions can still appear on their records. The JOY94.9 staff also introduced me to the Australian Minister for mental health and we got into a discussion about self-testing and the work which is ongoing in this area in Scotland - see the picture below of the minister, the JOY94.9 DJ and me.

"Through discussions with staff from the Victoria AIDS Council, WA AIDS Council and Willie Rowe (National President of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations), I learned that Australia is just starting to launch rapid testing pilots and self-testing is very much on the Australian agenda. As such, they were extremely interested in our self-testing report and will be attending our session on self-testing on Thursday. The German delegation will be attending that too – they told me about their work in relation to prevention amongst MSM through Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe and there are many links with self-testing.

"I met with Tamas Berecczky, Board of Directors Secretary for the European AIDS Treatment Group, who explained that in Hungary there is a complete absence of HIV organisations and advocacy. In the European Networking Zone, George and I participated in an engaging open discussion led by Tamas about chemsex and possible responses on a European level.

"I spoke with a delegation from France – representing a range of organisations. It seems France and the UK share a number of commonalities in relation to how we approach HIV and support people affected by it.

"At the human rights networking area I heard about collaborative working by 24 NGOs to place human rights at the centre of the global AIDS struggle and the coproduction of a guide called Human Rights and HIV/AIDS: Now More Than Ever. Speaking to people within the Global Village it is apparent that many groups are being denied their basic rights and that this is fuelling the HIV epidemic. For example, I spoke with Reach Out Cameroon about the experiences of women and children who are denied equal access to resources, information and education, and who are as a result at a high risk of HIV. Staff from REDLACTRANS (a network of transgender people in Latin America and the Caribbean) told me about the horrific levels of discrimination and violence that they can face on a day-to-day basis.

"I also heard about the way in which sex workers can often be denied their human rights and placed at risk of HIV during an open debate which was attended by Pamela Nash MP (Chair of UK All Party Parliamentary Group on HIV).

"I’ve enjoyed a broad range of colourful performances and films throughout the day, including dancers from Nepal and Bangkok, singers from Papua New Guinea and much, much more. This is just a snippet of what’s going on – in every direction you turn there is something new to see and learn and new discussions to be had. So, I had best get back to it…"


Follow HIV Scotland and CEO George Valiotis on Twitter for real-time updates, and read more of his updates and about HIV Scotland and AIDS 2014.