02 September 2009

9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia-Pacific (ICAAP)

The congress itself was a comprehensive and original mix of various topics addressed in satellite meetings, community forums, symposia, field visits and was complemented by cultural performances, spas (in the convention centre!), an international cartoon contest, a photo exhibition and an opening ceremony hosted by the president of Indonesia himself. More than 2000 delegates were protected by more than 300 security staff and submitted xyz number of abstracts.

Some highlights of the 9th ICAAP:

Satellite Meetings:
Organised and operated by several companies, government agencies, institutions or non-governmental organisations. There are 75 satellite meetings and some are open only for selected delegates invited to the meeting.
  • Engaging Islamic leaders to strengthen the HIV response: strategies, successes and lessons learned:
    "This satellite will explore the role of Islamic leaders in fostering an enabling environment for HIV prevention, treatment, and care at the national, province, and community levels. Based on work in the region, the session will share effective strategies for partnering with Islamic leaders to address sensitive issues, such as stigmatising attitudes ad religious opposition to harm reduction and condom use. The session will also share successes in transforming Islamic leaders into HIV policy champions who are making a difference in their communities. In particular, Islamic leaders form the region will share their personal experiences, triumphs, and lessons learned so that approaches can be adapted and replicated in other areas. they will also discuss how passages from the Quran can support HIV-related interventions. the intended audiences include religious leaders, HIV program implementers and any other stakeholders interested in mobilising communities of faith in response to HIV in Asia"
  • Women parliamentarians addressing feminisation of HIV/AIDS:
    "[...] A recent UN study reveals the percentage of adults living with HIV/AIDS who are women have increased in all regions surveyed, indicating a worrisome 'feminisation' of the epidemic. Therefore, there is a need to highlight this issue by engaging women parliamentarians and leaders to raise awareness of the linkages between gender inequity and HIV/AIDS."

  • Pleasure and safer sex, have they come together?
    "Most dialogue around AIDS - including at international AIDS conferences - has omitted discussion of sex and sexual pleasure. Safer sex campaigns have focused almost exclusively on fear-based messages to promote safer sex. the key objectives of this session is ensuring a wide audience of health professionals learn how to make safer sex sexy, in order to create more effective safer sex messages creating skills to ensure effective incorporation of discussions of pleasure and desire into safer sex messaging highlight key resources, such as the global mapping of pleasure and other international evidence of the eroticising of safer sex for practitioners to use in the future."
    (Hosted by The Pleasure Project and the Global Mapping of Pleasure)
There are 24 symposia hosted by various organisations, where invited speakers and lecturers will discuss cross-track issues. Several symposia will take place after the plenary sessions are open for all delegates.

  • Viagra vs. condoms: Unequal footing technology of sex and sexuality:
    "The juxtaposition of 'condom' and 'Viagra' in the title of the proposed session is to indicate that there are different perceptions and values centering on the various types of sex-related products in the market. whereas there is still a great hesitancy in Asia to discuss openly and promote condoms for safe sex, Viagra has been aggressively promoted in the media and marketed widely in the region, for objectives well beyond its prescribed purposes, without facing any 'moral' or political objection. how can this difference in societal acceptance be explained, considering that both products focus on male sexuality, and could thus be considered equally 'sensitive' (or not 'sensitive')?
    [Ha! It's a man doing this lecture against what many would expect]

  • Impact of financial crisis on labour migration and HIV:
    "In the midst of the current financial and economic crisis there are likely to be both direct and indirect consequences for migrant labour supply and demand. A two-way increase is expected in the movement of people: Overseas migrants returning home after losing their jobs, or those recently laid off at home moving overseas in search of work. As some countries may take increasingly protectionist stances, the options for formal migration may narrow. Migrants abroad may also face increasingly difficult conditions, with fewer employment opportunities and may encounter greater discrimination and stigmatisation. Of particular concern is the likely impact on the lives and jobs of millions of documented and undocumented migrant workers in the region, and their access to health services."
Community forums:
People living with HIV/inter-faith/migrants/people who use drugs/sex workers/women including lesbians/youth/MSM

Field visits:
  • Gaya Dewata Foundation
    Established on 29 December 1999 by the Bali gay community to promote safer sex. The foundation plays an active role in spreading information about preventing STIs and HIV to the general public by conducting outreach activities, counselling, radio talk shows, discussions, edutainment, VCT referral and hotline services. HIV counselling and education are often packaged in the form of stage entertainment. it also functions as a communication forum for the gay community in Bali.

  • PTRM Sandat: Sanglah General Hospital
    Methadone maintenance therapy - comprehensive holistic approach at this hospital including social, cultural, sprititual and humanitarian activities, spritual water therapy and prayer, yoga and hypnotherapy.
Poster presentations:
  • Fiji: mapping peer education programmes for Asia-pacific islands
  • Australia: Myanmar: Those who 'talk the talk' of HIV prevention in Myanmar do not always 'walk the walk'
  • Philippines: How SMS & online networking increases sexual networking among risk groups
  • Myanmar: Digging the Scriptures: A small Buddhist faith-based organisation's quest for tailored HIV prevention
  • HIV/AIDS cross-border competence: Thailand, Lao PDR, Myanmar (a Thai hospital)
  • Homeopathy an effective way for OI management and improvement of CD4 count in HIV/AIDS cases
Photo exhibition: "Access to life":
"[...] visual chronicles that encompassed their subjects lives both before and four months after the start of ART treatment" Global Fund + Magnum Photos

A few facts and figures about AIDS in the Asian context:
In Asia, an estimated 5 million [4.1 million–6.2 million] people were living with HIV in 2007. Asia-Pacific has the second-highest number of HIV positive people after Sub-Saharan Africa. The HIV epidemic in Malaysia is concentrated mainly around unsafe injecting drug use practices, and it is estimated that more than two thirds of HIV infections to date have
been in people who inject drugs. (UNAIDS)

An interesting video from AlJazeera English about the debate on mandatory HIV testing for Muslim couples before they get married:

And another more informative video about children living with HIV/AIDS in Malaysia, by UNICEF:

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