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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

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.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid