News / Health

    At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

    UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe (L) from Mali speaks at the opening of the Global Village on the 2nd day of the 20th International AIDS Conference at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Center (MCEC) in Melbourne, July 21, 2014.
    UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe (L) from Mali speaks at the opening of the Global Village on the 2nd day of the 20th International AIDS Conference at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Center (MCEC) in Melbourne, July 21, 2014.
    Anita Powell

    Everyone at this year's AIDS conference agrees on one basic goal: eradicating the deadly virus. On the sidelines of the meeting, experts and activists have vastly different visions for how to get there.
     
    AIDS is often called the world’s smartest disease. Once inside a host, the nine-gene retrovirus replicates with uncanny speed, yet changes tack suddenly whenever the immune system tries to challenge it.
     
    The virus, which under a microscope looks like a little ball covered with spikes, has outwitted some of the world’s greatest scientists, who have yet to find a cure more than 30 years after the virus was first recognized. The U.N.’s AIDS organization says that in that time, AIDS has killed a staggering 39 million people worldwide.
     
    Many paths

    And so, as some 12,000 delegates -- among them, scientists, activists, and people living with HIV and AIDS -- meet this week in Melbourne, everyone seems to have a different plan for neutralizing the virus that attacks on so many fronts.
     
    Many, like Nagat Elhadi of the Sudan Family Planning Association, have a simple wish from this conference.  “Ending new infection, ending HIV new infection. All the science, all the posters, all the presentations -- come in and to work together to end new infection,” Elhadi said.
     
    Others, like the head of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, have a detailed, step-by-step plan, which he outlined at the conference’s opening ceremony. 

    “My vision for ending AIDS looks like this: voluntary testing and treatment reaching everyone, everywhere. Each person with HIV reaching viral suppression," he said. "No one dies from AIDS, or is born with HIV. People living with HIV live with dignity, protected by laws, and free to move anywhere in the world.”

    But, as many activists point out, medicine is not the only route. Society plays a powerful role in the fight against AIDS -- especially in societies where gays, lesbians, transgendered and intersex citizens are ostracized or criminalized. This conference has made special note of that issue in its declaration, calling for an end to discrimination against those who are different.
     
    Stigmas, challenges

    Abhina Aher is one such person. She was born with a male name. She now lives as a hijra -- a person who is neither fully male nor fully female -- in her native India, though she publicly identifies as female. Because hijras are ostracized, she said, they often resort to sex work to survive, which in turn leads to a huge risk of AIDS.  
     
    She said she sees a huge gap in the medical approach. If, she said, a person is so depressed that he does not care if he lives or dies, how can he be protected against HIV?
     
    “My priority is not HIV. My priority is feminization. My priority is social support. My priority is mental health," she said. "When you design an HIV program, you cannot keep these things out of that.”
     
    "I think the most important thing, for me, is that community doesn’t get lost in the biomedical," said researcher Kylie Johnston of the Australian Research Center in Sex, Health and Society. Because I think that they have a lot to contribute still to the fight, and also we can get sort of caught up in the science and the excitement of things like the cure and treatment as prevention, but I think we need to make sure the community is still involved.”

    On the conference’s first full day, Monday, there were 87 different scheduled events -- and that does not include side events or exhibitions.
     
    It’s a lot to think about -- especially considering that somewhere, in that enormous mental haystack, there may be that cure that everyone so desperately wants.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora