As the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City wrapped up last week, there are many voices applauding activist and government efforts at eradicating the epidemic, while others express that there is still much more to be done.
The blog AIDS2008.com is a
venue for participants to express their sentiments about the 17th
annual conference. Covering topics as diverse as HIV in prisons to color and
flavor of female condoms, the blog does not veer from its purpose: to cover
community blogger perspectives and ideas on the information that comes out of
the conference as well as suggestions for solutions to the AIDS epidemic.
Zambian blogger, Sanday Chongo Kabange, offered much insight into the coverage of
the epidemic on the African continent. Women won’t use female condoms, despite their
proven potential to reduce infection rates, Sanday argues, because they are not
marketed well and have not changed in design since their inception fifteen
years ago. Sanday offers other analysis on the blog in regards to the conference, particularly advocating for efforts to make an
AIDS free generation in the near future.
When it comes to the disease on the African continent, there were criticisms on governments’ sluggish responses to the crisis. For example, although the UN General Assembly set a target of access to antiretroviral drugs to all who need it by 2010, governments appear to be retreating from this date and instead advocating for universal access by 2015. As the theme of this year’s conference “Universal Action Now,” it’s sad to notice that governments and institutions are backing down on universal access targets.
At the conference African and global leaders advocated for prevention to be central to the fight against AIDS/HIV, urging the world to not be “complacent” in the prevention of the disease. Former Botswanan President, Festus Mogae, said that prevention methods were not getting through and urged African leaders to come up with better methods to fight the disease. Mogae stated that “prevention should be priority number one, priority number two and priority number three." To do this, he announced at the conference that he would start a new initiative, called Champions for an HIV free generation, which would include prominent African leaders and HIV/AIDS activists. The purpose of the group is to provide visible leadership on the epidemic and innovative policy prescriptions and ideas on how African leaders can counter AIDS/HIV.
Although PEPFAR is heralded by many as a success for President Bush, the community present at the IAC is still a bit skeptical. In a session focused on young people, youth activists from all over the world came up with practical solutions to further evidence-based prevention programs and policy. The groups called for the abolition of abstinence-only stipulations in global AIDS policy, believing that comprehensive sexuality education is more important than focusing on the ideology of abstinence. Another blogger attending the conference re-iterates this idea, emphasizing the importance of family planning and services that address sexual and reproductive health needs of the HIV/AIDS community.