DNNGo.xBlog

10

Our greatest challenge and greatest opportunity

posted on

By Manuel Venegas, defeatHIV Community Advisory Board member, AIDS 2020 Conference Coordinating Committee Youth Representative

More questions than answers remain in the global fight against HIV and AIDS. However, one idea brings consensus from researchers, clinicians and advocates alike: while young people pose a tremendous challenge in the epidemic, they also offer our greatest opportunity for ending it. When equipped with the right information, skills and tools, adolescents and other young people are uniquely capable of halting the epidemic’s progress in its tracks.

We have miles to go before young people are on par with general progress in the HIV response. According to data from the United Nations Children’s Fund, 30% of all new HIV infections globally are estimated to occur among those aged 15 to 24. Currently, adolescents are the only age group seeing a drastic rise in AIDS-related deaths.

This priority population has historically been excluded from policies and practices, resulting in soaring diagnoses around the world. Adolescents are in dire need of the kind of innovative research that has been focused on adults and young children for decades. To this day, youth are left out of the majority of HIV and AIDS research due to ethical and legal complications and parental oversight. However, I’m involved with groups, such as defeatHIV, the AIDS Clinical Trials Group and the Center for AIDS Research at the University of Washington, that are working to optimize laboratory and clinical science for the adolescent population.

Progress is made when young people are put at the centre of the discussion. Adolescents are more likely than adults to adopt and maintain safe behaviours, especially when they are involved in programmatic design and implementation. Age-specific programmes that leverage information sharing, provision of youth-friendly health services and promotion of voluntary HIV counselling see results.

I found out that I was HIV positive when I was 20 years old, and I felt first-hand the effects of the lag in youth-related research and treatment. While current best practices would have instructed me to begin treatment immediately, antiquated science at that time led doctors to wait until my T cell count dropped below a certain level, ultimately delaying my treatment by 10 months. It is now common knowledge that the longer treatment is postponed, the harder it is to reverse the effects of the disease. We need to find a balance between relevant medical guidelines and the ability of adolescents and young adults to decide for themselves when they are ready to start treatment. Adequate research, education and communication is the only way to achieve such vital advancements.

As the Youth Representative on the International AIDS Society’s Conference Coordinating Committee, I am committed to working with my peers to ensure that our collective perspectives are represented at the 23rd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2020). We have a global platform at our fingertips and this is a moment that we cannot let slip by. Not only do young people have a critical need for expert support, we also need strong mentorship. Before long, the “old guard” of AIDS research and activism will no longer be around. We must take advantage of their insight and wisdom, or else face that generation’s worth of knowledge lost to a new generation who needs it more than ever.

I am hopeful that scientific advancements will bring more favourable and functional methods of prevention and treatment to adolescents worldwide. If we play our cards right, there is still time for today’s youth to know an AIDS-free world. We are just not there yet.

| Categories: | Tags: | View Count: (508) | Return

Related

Post a Comment

Frequently Asked Questions

  • To determine the location for each International AIDS Conference, the International AIDS Society (IAS) conducts an extensive, open-bid process that begins 18 months before a decision is made. For the 23rd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2020), IAS also conducted proactive outreach to more than 20 cities worldwide to encourage them to submit a bid, starting in 2016.
  • The process involves an extensive evaluation of each city’s ability to house the meeting and its delegates, commitment to supporting scientific research and implementation, and inclusion of civil society and communities living with HIV in their local response. Each city is required to include a cross-section of policy makers, scientific researchers and civil society as part of the bid.
  • The leadership demonstrated by the State of California in bidding for AIDS 2020 was unparalleled. We received 33 letters of support from local AIDS organizations, local key population networks, leading activists and political leaders, all willing to support the mission of the conference. These included:
    • Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris
    • Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi
    • Congresswoman Barbara Lee
    • Leaders of the State Legislature’s LGBT Caucus
    • Governor Jerry Brown
  • For AIDS 2020, only cities in the global North chose to submit bids. Even after extensive outreach from IAS staff and site visits to potential hosts in the global South, we did not receive any applications.
  • Experience tells us that locations with significant challenges frequently offer the greatest opportunities for change. AIDS 2000 in Durban is a good example. We went in fully aware that the South African president was in denial that HIV even caused AIDS; that gathering marked a turning point for our movement.
  • The US Government plays a vitally important role in addressing the epidemic both globally and domestically, and yet, year after year, we see attempts to dismantle and de-fund these programmes.
  • In its bid, the State of California and the cities of San Francisco and Oakland have jointly shown their willingness to leverage the conference as a platform to resist discriminatory policies, in partnership with conference organizers.
  • Holding AIDS 2020 in the Bay Area will allow us to showcase innovations that have helped San Francisco nearly eliminate new infections and to examine new strategies being employed in Oakland, a city tackling very different challenges.
  • Beyond the Bay Area, AIDS 2020 will shine a spotlight on communities across the US where the HIV epidemic is far from over. People of colour in the US continue to face disproportionate barriers to accessing prevention and treatment and if current trends persist, one in two black gay men will acquire HIV in his lifetime.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that roughly 1.2 million people in the US are living with HIV – and nearly one in eight of those are not aware that they are infected.
  • The opioid crisis has fuelled a resurgence of new infections. In 2015, an outbreak was discovered in Indiana, and in 2018, the CDC announced another cluster in Massachusetts linked to injecting drug use.
  • Partners in both San Francisco and Oakland are committed to using the conference to make HIV science and policy front-and-centre election year issues.
  • With the selection of the Bay Area for AIDS 2020, we have the chance to elevate US and global HIV concerns to the national and international stage. That includes shining a spotlight on and working to reform unjust policies that restrict entry into the country and perpetuate a climate of stigma and fear.
  • This is a rare moment to put HIV and those most affected, including people of colour, minorities and the economically disadvantaged, at the centre of the election discussion.
  • Key community and political leaders in San Francisco and Oakland recognize the benefit of the conference in solidifying collaborations between the two cities that will play an important role during the election year.
  • We think that hosting AIDS 2020 in the US at this time will potentially give HIV a much bigger platform than it would otherwise have in important national and political debates that will be happening then.
  • Through the unique partnership of Oakland and San Francisco, we can examine two very different epidemics.
  • San Francisco and Oakland represent a tale of two cities, and two diverging experiences that offer insights relevant to the broader HIV community.
  • San Francisco and Oakland represent a tale of two cities and two diverging experiences that offer insights relevant to the broader HIV community.
  • San Francisco was one of the first cities to embrace the UN 90-90-90 targets, and to launch a Getting to Zero effort involving a citywide collaboration of stakeholders from all sectors. It is on track to end new HIV infections by 2020.
  • Across the Bay, Oakland continues to face racial and economic disparities and disproportionate rates of HIV. The city signed onto the Fast-Track Cities Initiative in 2015 and is strengthening policies and programmes tailored to communities most affected by HIV, specifically those that reduce social and economic barriers to HIV prevention and care, in order to reach the 90-90-90 targets.
  • he Bay Area is a hub of top-line, multi-disciplinary, global HIV/AIDS research, led by UCSF, SFDPH, the Gladstone Institute of Virology & Immunology, UC Berkeley School of Public Health and Stanford University.
  • Conference organizers are committed to ensuring that programming and activities are equally represented in both cities.
  • No decisions have been made yet about how to split programming across the cities. The Conference Coordinating Committee will take on this responsibility, seeking input from partners throughout the decision process.
  • Since 2014, we have doubled the number of scholarships for conference attendees. We are committed to continuing to increase the number of scholarships available to those who otherwise could not afford to attend.
  • San Francisco has agreed to waive the cost of the conference venue. These significant savings will allow us to increase our investment in scholarships and keep to the commitment we have maintained for the past decade to not raise registration fees.
  • Local partners are also helping to secure low-cost accommodation by working with universities, hotels and hostels.
  • While there are many reasons for holding AIDS 2020 in the Bay Area, we recognize that an HIV conference in the United States faces serious practical challenges. We have strong political commitment that we believe will help us in finding creative ways to address these issues.
  • AIDS 2012 in Washington DC is an important model for preparing for AIDS 2020. Early engagement from policy experts and advocates helped address a large number of access issues for delegates travelling internationally. This successful model will be put in place for 2020.
  • Given the additional challenges we face under this US administration, for AIDS 2020, we are committed to taking that a step further. We have already convened a high-level, multidisciplinary, bipartisan working group to address specific immigration challenges, of which safe and unimpeded entry for key populations – even beyond the conference – is a priority. This working group will coordinate with migration experts to examine existing laws and advise attendees on how to navigate them.
  • We are working with our partners to come up with creative solutions to make AIDS 2020 virtually accessible to participants in other countries and to ensure that the voices of those who cannot attend in person are heard at the conference. We are actively pursuing support from the many leading technology companies in the Bay Area to enhance our remote access options.
  • This planning has only just begun and is a priority of the Conference Coordinating Committee.
  • All countries have immigration restrictions and, as with each conference, we work with civil society, governments, private sector partners and others to find innovative ways to ensure maximum participation in the conference – especially for key populations and people living with HIV.
  • We pledge to use the conference platform to continue advocating against discriminatory and stigmatizing policies and practices in all countries to effect change on our shared concerns, such as visa and immigration issues. Although many of these challenges are not just US-specific, they are particularly challenging under the current administration.
  • There are, however, specific events that would automatically be grounds for moving the conference. If, for example, the HIV travel ban is reinstated, the reintroduction of this policy would not allow for the GIPA Principle – one of the key markers in the HIV movement – to be realized and, as such, would be a catalyst for moving the conference.
  • Medical conditions and evidence of financial security for entry are requirements from all governments, including “friendly” administrations, such as The Netherlands and Canada. In anticipation that a strict administration would likely affect the interpretation and enforcement of these criteria, we commissioned a report from a subject matter expert to better understand current US immigration law related to non-immigrant travel into the US (Business B-1 and Tourism B-2 Visas) and the implications for AIDS 2020.
  • The report will be used to help guide the work of the national advisory group and local leaders to help us leverage this moment for change.

More information is available and will continue to be updated at www.aids2020.org.

AIDS 2020 offers excellent opportunities for corporate partners to demonstrate their support for the HIV response and to showcase their HIV-related work. Please check our sponsorship brochure to find out more details on available packages.

For further information, please contact Jeanne Mencier who is also available to discuss customized sponsorship packages tailored to best meet your specific needs.

Our greatest challenge and greatest opportunity

posted on

By Manuel Venegas, defeatHIV Community Advisory Board member, AIDS 2020 Conference Coordinating Committee Youth Representative

More questions than answers remain in the global fight against HIV and AIDS. However, one idea brings consensus from researchers, clinicians and advocates alike: while young people pose a tremendous challenge in the epidemic, they also offer our greatest opportunity for ending it. When equipped with the right information, skills and tools, adolescents and other young people are uniquely capable of halting the epidemic’s progress in its tracks.

We have miles to go before young people are on par with general progress in the HIV response. According to data from the United Nations Children’s Fund, 30% of all new HIV infections globally are estimated to occur among those aged 15 to 24. Currently, adolescents are the only age group seeing a drastic rise in AIDS-related deaths.

This priority population has historically been excluded from policies and practices, resulting in soaring diagnoses around the world. Adolescents are in dire need of the kind of innovative research that has been focused on adults and young children for decades. To this day, youth are left out of the majority of HIV and AIDS research due to ethical and legal complications and parental oversight. However, I’m involved with groups, such as defeatHIV, the AIDS Clinical Trials Group and the Center for AIDS Research at the University of Washington, that are working to optimize laboratory and clinical science for the adolescent population.

Progress is made when young people are put at the centre of the discussion. Adolescents are more likely than adults to adopt and maintain safe behaviours, especially when they are involved in programmatic design and implementation. Age-specific programmes that leverage information sharing, provision of youth-friendly health services and promotion of voluntary HIV counselling see results.

I found out that I was HIV positive when I was 20 years old, and I felt first-hand the effects of the lag in youth-related research and treatment. While current best practices would have instructed me to begin treatment immediately, antiquated science at that time led doctors to wait until my T cell count dropped below a certain level, ultimately delaying my treatment by 10 months. It is now common knowledge that the longer treatment is postponed, the harder it is to reverse the effects of the disease. We need to find a balance between relevant medical guidelines and the ability of adolescents and young adults to decide for themselves when they are ready to start treatment. Adequate research, education and communication is the only way to achieve such vital advancements.

As the Youth Representative on the International AIDS Society’s Conference Coordinating Committee, I am committed to working with my peers to ensure that our collective perspectives are represented at the 23rd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2020). We have a global platform at our fingertips and this is a moment that we cannot let slip by. Not only do young people have a critical need for expert support, we also need strong mentorship. Before long, the “old guard” of AIDS research and activism will no longer be around. We must take advantage of their insight and wisdom, or else face that generation’s worth of knowledge lost to a new generation who needs it more than ever.

I am hopeful that scientific advancements will bring more favourable and functional methods of prevention and treatment to adolescents worldwide. If we play our cards right, there is still time for today’s youth to know an AIDS-free world. We are just not there yet.

| Return

Our greatest challenge and greatest opportunity

posted on

By Manuel Venegas, defeatHIV Community Advisory Board member, AIDS 2020 Conference Coordinating Committee Youth Representative

More questions than answers remain in the global fight against HIV and AIDS. However, one idea brings consensus from researchers, clinicians and advocates alike: while young people pose a tremendous challenge in the epidemic, they also offer our greatest opportunity for ending it. When equipped with the right information, skills and tools, adolescents and other young people are uniquely capable of halting the epidemic’s progress in its tracks.

We have miles to go before young people are on par with general progress in the HIV response. According to data from the United Nations Children’s Fund, 30% of all new HIV infections globally are estimated to occur among those aged 15 to 24. Currently, adolescents are the only age group seeing a drastic rise in AIDS-related deaths.

This priority population has historically been excluded from policies and practices, resulting in soaring diagnoses around the world. Adolescents are in dire need of the kind of innovative research that has been focused on adults and young children for decades. To this day, youth are left out of the majority of HIV and AIDS research due to ethical and legal complications and parental oversight. However, I’m involved with groups, such as defeatHIV, the AIDS Clinical Trials Group and the Center for AIDS Research at the University of Washington, that are working to optimize laboratory and clinical science for the adolescent population.

Progress is made when young people are put at the centre of the discussion. Adolescents are more likely than adults to adopt and maintain safe behaviours, especially when they are involved in programmatic design and implementation. Age-specific programmes that leverage information sharing, provision of youth-friendly health services and promotion of voluntary HIV counselling see results.

I found out that I was HIV positive when I was 20 years old, and I felt first-hand the effects of the lag in youth-related research and treatment. While current best practices would have instructed me to begin treatment immediately, antiquated science at that time led doctors to wait until my T cell count dropped below a certain level, ultimately delaying my treatment by 10 months. It is now common knowledge that the longer treatment is postponed, the harder it is to reverse the effects of the disease. We need to find a balance between relevant medical guidelines and the ability of adolescents and young adults to decide for themselves when they are ready to start treatment. Adequate research, education and communication is the only way to achieve such vital advancements.

As the Youth Representative on the International AIDS Society’s Conference Coordinating Committee, I am committed to working with my peers to ensure that our collective perspectives are represented at the 23rd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2020). We have a global platform at our fingertips and this is a moment that we cannot let slip by. Not only do young people have a critical need for expert support, we also need strong mentorship. Before long, the “old guard” of AIDS research and activism will no longer be around. We must take advantage of their insight and wisdom, or else face that generation’s worth of knowledge lost to a new generation who needs it more than ever.

I am hopeful that scientific advancements will bring more favourable and functional methods of prevention and treatment to adolescents worldwide. If we play our cards right, there is still time for today’s youth to know an AIDS-free world. We are just not there yet.

| Return

Sign up for
AIDS 2020 news