AIDS 2004 - Bangkok
Microbicides at the Bangkok Conference, AIDS 2004
As many of you know (or saw first hand in Bangkok), microbicides made quite a buzz at the 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok last month. From the Opening Ceremony to the Closing Ceremony, microbicides received high profile endorsement and was effectively mainstreamed into key sessions on funding, leadership,
prevention and research. In his opening speech, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan demanded that the global community to work towards ‘full access to microbicides.’ The thread was taken up each day in presentations by Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA, Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of UNIFEM, Graca Machel, and Zackie Achmat, head of South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign. On Thursday, Zeda Rosenberg, Chief Executive Officer of the International Partnership on Microbicides provided a comprehensive update on the field during her morning plenary on microbicides.
Since the middle of July, hundreds of press articles around the world have featured both women and HIV as the new face of AIDS and microbicides as one part of the solution. This edition of GC News spotlights three microbicides related events at the conference.
Youth take lead on microbicides issues
The Bangkok Youth Force, a network of leading organizations working on youth-related issues worldwide, organized an exciting and energetic two-day training for approximately 100 youth from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the US. The purpose of the pre-conference was to provide youth with information and skills to be able to effectively participate in the scientific, community, and leadership tracks of the AIDS conference. Demi Adebohun, intern at Family Health International, presented an introduction to microbicides that included clinical trial phases and how youth can be involved in community bodies that helped facilitate research. Yen Troung, former intern to a Global Campaign initiative in California provided a microbicides advocacy platform for youth urging them be involved in all fronts of microbicides development from mobilizing resources to making youth be part of microbicides debates. The participants were also provided with ways they could get involved at the conference and at home.
Samples of a placebo gel were distributed so participants were able to see and feel what a microbicide would be like. Some were concerned about efficacy and possible side effects while others asked how developers were making effective use of current resources to ensure the accelerated development of microbicides. Participants also wanted to start doing advocacy work in their colleges and making sure that microbicides were included in their curriculum.
Notable presence of microbicides at the Global Village
Thanks to the Women’s Health Advocacy Foundation of Thailand (WHAF) and PATH Thailand, community members at the International AIDS conference were able to find out more about the latest on microbicides and the female condom. The Global Village, an extension of the AIDS conference, was a space for various local and international community groups to display their own booths, have their own sessions and rallies and to network with other organizations.
At the Thai Women and Advocacy Task Force’s booth, WHAF held one morning and one afternoon session on microbicides. WHAF director, Nattaya Boonpakdee, passed out female condoms and answered questions on some basic questions about microbicides. Participants also asked questions on the various microbicides safety trials that have been conducted in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Currently, another Phase I safety trial of the product, Carraguard, is being conduct among HIV-positive women.
In addition, the Global Village had its own media outlet that was all geared to capturing women’s perspective on HIV/AIDS. Both radio and television conducted half hour slots for both English and Thai interviews on microbicides.
Joint Action on Microbicides, Treatment and Vaccines in Bangkok: Activists join together and demand "I want my M-T-V!"
Activists from three vibrant and diverse streams of HIV advocacy are recognizing the strength of numbers. (M)icrobicides, (T)reatment access and (V)accine advocates are exploring complementary strategies and collective action. The "M-T-V" trend got a big kick-off at the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok this month, with the launch of a Statement of Commitment and a jump-start on implementing a Plan of Action.
Framed as a moral imperative in achieving the human right to health, the Statement of Commitment and the 12-point Plan of Action can help governments, industry and civil society organizations work together to accelerate research, development and access in the areas of treatment, vaccines and microbicides. At a press conference in Bangkok, advocates gave several examples of how the comprehensive approach described in the Plan of Action can contribute concretely and immediately to improving health and well being for people and communities affected by HIV/AIDS. For example, treatment access improves prevention efforts, since people are more willing to seek counseling, testing and other services when they feel confident that this can improve their health outcome and quality of life. Widespread access to sustainable treatment improves equity in the context of prevention research as well, and will help move forward trials of essential preventive tools like microbicides and vaccines.
Turning this vision into joint action requires dialogue and cooperation among numerous groups. Our success in our own respective movements have brought about fundamental policy shifts, resource commitments and community mobilization-- but often we don’t know any more than the basics about our colleagues’ work! An "MTV Advocates Cross-training" workshop--organized by ICASO and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network-- brought together veteran activists from all three fields to learn about each others’ issues and to share ideas and opportunities (and even frustrations!) in working together on the 12-Point Plan of Action. Global Campaign partners IN-N (Indian Network of NGOs working on HIV/AIDS) and NHVMAG (Nigerian HIV Vaccine and Microbicides Advocacy Group) already have experience implementing collective agendas on the ground. IN-N, which has led microbicides advocacy in India since 2001, mobilized its networks to respond to the Government of India’s treatment access plan. And NHVMAG is pushing the Nigerian government to develop a national microbicides plan similar to the national vaccine plan about to be released there.
Please have your organization consider endorsing the Statement of Commitment! To download the Statement of Commitment, visit our website. www.global-campaign.org. To endorse, contact Richard Elliott: firstname.lastname@example.org