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 Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

Iraqi Kurdish Leader: Protect Syrian City

Islamic State fighters are besieging Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, after seizing at least 21 surrounding villages in a major assault against city on Syria's northern border with Turkey More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid