Update from Melbourne - Aidan's Day 3

  • 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 third day of the conference from his perspective.

Bill Clinton, on progress we've made and challenges we face

"Today I attended a plenary at which Bill Clinton (founder of the Clinton Foundation and 42nd President of the United States) reflected on the progress made in overcoming the HIV epidemic, as well as the challenges ahead. It’s not every day you get the opportunity to hear directly from such an accomplished speaker and so I thought I might share with you some of what he said.

"He began by highlighting that the IAC was not simply a conference but rather a movement. As such, we must now consider how the lofty UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets can best be achieved and work together towards this goal; a pledge to increase to 90% the proportion of people who know they have HIV, the proportion on treatment, and the proportion with suppressed viral load.

"With improved treatments and quality testing we now have the know-how and tools to effectively treat HIV and stop its transmission. However, progress in relation to HIV and AIDS will also require political will and sustained investment on a global scale.

"The challenge will be ensuring that HIV is a key priority for our political and scientific decision makers with adequate funds and supportive policy.

"Mr Clinton highlighted that growth in international donor spending is slowing, so we must also use the money we do have more efficiently - providing people with access to the best available medicines, diagnostics and care. CHAI has been working to ensure that drugs are available at reasonable cost and to build the capacity of communities.

"There has been fantastic progress in some areas but there are also challenges ahead which remain to be addressed. For example, there are still too many people who are being left behind while stigma and discrimination continue to undermine progress throughout the world. It is these issues which I believe should be the focus of our efforts. Bill Clinton also spoke about the importance of children and young people, with too many still falling through the gaps.
It seemed that children and young people were a central theme today with a range of sessions taking place specific to youth and sexual health.

'Not so straight' youth documentary

"I attended a viewing of ‘Not So Straight’. This is a youth documentary which presents a candid and engaging exploration of contemporary issues facing same sex attracted young people in Melbourne. By bravely telling their personal stories a diverse group of young people invited viewers to consider the real impact of homophobia, while providing a snapshot of some of the triumphs and hardships which they had experienced.

"This included the story of a young man who was recently diagnosed with HIV. The film made clear and young people need and want access to quality information about HIV and sexual health which is relevant to their needs.

"It made me consider the situation in Scotland and whether we have done enough to ensure that we are fulfilling the human right of all young people to receive sexual health education.

We can pick up the pace - if we work together

"I participated in several workshops throughout the day. This included a discussion in the European Networking Zone led by Dr Dirk Sander from Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe in Germany about prevention amongst MSM. It was fascinating to hear about approaches being taken elsewhere and it was discussed how social media has changed the LGBT community – we will have to step up the pace to remain relevant and effectively reach key groups. However, in some areas grass roots organisations are operating with no support while in others they do not exist at all."

"Although progress has been made in many areas which should be celebrated, my time at the IAC has made clear to me that we cannot afford to become complacent. We really do need to step up the pace and ensure that no one is left behind. And, I believe that we can and will but only if we work together."

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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.