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AIDS 2008 - Mexico

The XVII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2008)

Mexico LogoMicrobicides at Mexico

 

With 3 million new infections each year, the ongoing and urgent need to find women-initiated HIV prevention methods was high on the agenda at the recent International AIDS Conference in Mexico City.

Symposiums on prevention research, including 'Vaccines and Microbicides: Where do we go from here?' and 'The Future of Microbicides: From Vaginal ART to PrEP' bookended the conference. The sessions focused on moving the field forward, offering tangible next steps to address the scientific, funding and political challenges of developing new products and running large-scale trials necessary to determine if products are safe and effective.

Despite setbacks from previous results, researchers and advocates are optimistic about next-generation ARV-based microbicides. At a late-breaker session on Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data from a monkey study showing that a combination emtricitabine (FTC)/tenofovir (TFV) topical gel provided complete protection against SHIV. These exciting results support the need for further research in human clinical trials of a possible Truvada gel.

(The abstract of this session can be viewed here: http://www.aids2008.org/Pag/Abstracts.aspx?SID=288&AID=15936)

As excitement about the new generation of ARV-based microbicides occupied many hallway conversations in the main Convention Centre, there was a new generation of microbicide advocates being nurtured in the neighbouring Global Village. With the field expanding rapidly, many young advocates and other new to the AIDS field were hearing the word, mi-cro-bi-cides for the very first time. For these participants, GCM offered introductory workshops in English and Spanish, including screenings of GCM's video, In Our Own Hands.

At another skills-building workshop co-sponsored by GCM, AMAG, AVAC and CHANGE, a female condom demonstration and demonstrations of microbicides applicators and rings being tested created a space for open and stark dialogue. The finger-sized applicators made the possibilities and the challenges feel real, as potential future users asked question after question about the possibility of covert use, partner involvement in studies and the practical issues around accessibility if products prove effective.

Although there are still more questions than answers, the IAC provided a virtual banquet of information, which facilitated critical conversations and exchanges and gave us all food for thought for when we return to our daily work supporting prevention research in our many corners of the world.

 

No Youth, no change - Young people in Mexico lead the way forward on HIV responses

Addressing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people was high on the agenda at the Mexico Youth Force-led IAS pre-conference, with figures such as Dr. Pedro Cahn (IAS President), Peter Piot (UNAIDS) and Thoraya Obaid (UNFPA) drawing attention to the importance of ensuring that all young people, regardless of HIV status, have access to comprehensive sex education and services. The message to provide youth-friendly services, condoms and other contraceptive options as well as information about HIV in family planning clinics was welcomed by the youth advocates who travelled from all over the world to take part in the conference. Advocates were also encouraged to hear world leaders say that the innovation and creativity that only young people can provide in decision-making, policy and implementing activities must be taken on board seriously. It is only in recognising the unique understanding that young people have of the epidemic that we can move forward in new ways to address it.

The youth pre-conference involved a range of interactive skills-building sessions for young people. Arwa Meijer of the Global Campaign for Microbicides joined a team of young people who presented a session on 'Expanding prevention options for women and girls'. Throughout the session, youth advocates raised complex and considered questions demonstrating how gender, sexuality and exclusion can impact on young people's vulnerability to HIV. These issues were discussed and the session explored how the role of existing and new prevention technologies can work to promote the sexual and reproductive health rights of young people. There was much enthusiasm amongst young leaders to advocate for the scale-up of female condoms and for research and development into new prevention technologies such as microbicides, PREP and vaccines that help to bridge the gap of inequality faced by young women and girls.

        The pre-conference ended on a high note with young people taking part in the 1st International March Against Stigma, Discrimination and Homophobia. The cries of 'No hay libertad politica si no hay libertad sexual' (No sexual liberty equals no political liberty) resonated strongly with youth advocates and set the tone for the main conference where young people called for more comprehensive HIV prevention strategies and for strong leadership and commitment to youth issues to be sustained over time. 

During AIDS 2008, Youth Journalist Georgina Caswell from the AHPN interviewing Youth Advocate Arwa Meijer from the Global Campaign for Microbicides to educate their peer youth advocates about female initated prevention options.  For more featured videos and articles created by Youth for Youth can be found at: http://www.youthaids2008.org/en/

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Looking back at GCM's activities at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City

  • Workshop sessions at the Youth Pre-Conference entitled "Expanding Female-Initiated HIV Prevention Options". Co-sponsored by GCM, AVAC and CHANGE.

    Summary: This workshop seeked to engage youth in an interactive session about existing and potential female-initiated prevention options, including female condoms, cervical barrier methods, microbicides, vaccines and oral pre-exposure prohylaxis. (Read article above for more information)

    Deirdre Grant, AVAC - Arwa Meijer, GCM - Kimberly Whipkey, Change
  • GCM shared a booth space: in the Global Village, with the African Microbicides Advocacy Group, AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, PATH, and the International Rectal Microbicide Advocates. The booth will include:

 

  • Learning panels designed to act as teaching tools re: science, the research process, map of trials.
  • A variety of materials and publications from each organisation.
  • Satellite session entitled: "No Simple Solution: Investing in HIV Prevention Research for Women and Girls. Co-sponsored by AVAC, CHANGE, GCM, Ibis, IAVI, IPM and IWHC. Save the Date! -- Please see the flyer for list of speakers and further details.

    Panel HIV Prevention Research Satellite
  • People Living With HIV Networking Zone: In Women’s Hands – A film on Women, HIV and Hope

    Summary:
    The screening of the Global Campaigns film‘In Women’s Hands’ and question and answers on the women initiated prevention method: microbicides.

    HIV+ Women's Networking Zone
  • Women’s Networking Zone: Taking prevention into your own hands: Introduction to Microbicides, a new women-initiated prevention method on the horizon

    Women's Networking Zone
  • Session "In our own hands: Advocating for women-initiated prevention methods": This workshop is co-sponsored by AVAC, AMAG, CHANGE & GCM.

    Summary: This session, grounded on a comprehensive, rights based approach to HIV prevention, gave participants an introduction to and update on the search for new HIV prevention strategies that women could initiate themselves to reduce their risk of acquiring HIV. In the two years since the last IAS conference; there has been a wealth of information from efficacy trials of HIV prevention methods. The data from each of these studies is highly relevant to women. The challenges, questions and opportunities raised by the new information were addressed in this interactive workshop.

    In Our Own Hands
     

For more pictures of the conference, The International Rectal Microbicide Advocates created a page with a collection of pictures from the conference, check them out here! 


A comprehensive PDF schedule of the conference was created by AVAC, which provided information on sessions and events of interest for HIV Prevention research advocates.


As the eyes of the public health community turn toward Mexico City, Mexico, for the XVII International AIDS Conference, HIV prevention will once again take center stage.

The Caucus for Evidence-Based Prevention—composed of more than 50 nongovernmental organizations and their international partners meeting throughout the conference—is eager to learn from new prevention research, incorporating a breadth of biomedical, behavioral, and social interventions. The caucus was created for the specific purpose of promoting HIV prevention supported by sound science at the International AIDS Conference.

The caucus will monitor the use of evidence in HIV prevention programs and policies, report on HIV prevention-related conference proceedings to a wide audience, and alert the community when ideology, prejudice, or opinion interfere with evidence-based approaches to reducing the further spread of HIV and AIDS.

Because ideology and politics have become part of the current HIV prevention landscape, the caucus will be outspoken in defense of prevention strategies based on evidence.

Please join the Global Campaign for Microbicides and countless other Caucus member organisations in promoting scientific evidence as a critical element of HIV prevention worldwide.

For more information about the Caucus for Evidence-Based Prevention, please visit www.hiv-prevention.org

 


Looking back at GCM's activities at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City