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

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    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.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.