25 July 2010

Vienna proudly presents: The XVIII AIDS Conference!

• 19,300 participants, including:
- 16,012 delegates
- 845 participants from Austria*
- 1,218 participants from Eastern Europe and Central Asia
- 848 scholarship recipients
- 1,276 media delegates
• 770 volunteers
• 197 countries represented
• 10,831 abstracts submitted, 6,238 abstracts accepted
• 248 sessions (59 non-abstract driven sessions, 79 workshops, 110 abstract-driven sessions)
• 19 plenary speeches
• 18 special sessions
• 279 Global Village activities, including 55 sessions, 95 NGO booths and 27 Networking Zones

* Does not include general public participation in the Global Village, which is difficult to estimate.

AIDS 2010 in Vienna

For a good 1.5 hour summary of the five day event, have a look at the Rapporteur Session embedded below (a handful of VIPs elected to filter through the sessions and give feedback). If you want to jump straight to the rapporteur session of your preferred Track, I suggest you go straight to the WEBSITE of the Kaiser Family Foundation, where you can watch all kinds of webcasts: daily plenary sessions, press conferences, opening and closing remarks, interviews etc. (Social and Behavioural Sciences are Track D; Policy, Law, Human Rights and Political Science are Track F).

Human Rights and HIV/AIDS: Now More Than Ever
On 20 July 2010 many delegates took to the streets on the Human Rights March, after an address and free concert by Annie Lennox (who actually had performed in the Oxford Play House the week before as I know from somebody who worked on that event backstage). The open air gig took place in front of City Hall which is also the annual venue of the Life Ball, a popular high profile drag ball with public gala and fashion extravaganza to raise awareness for HIV/AIDS while being a great party for everyone. This year's Life Ball kicked off the conference and was attended by VIPs Bill Clinton, Whoopie Goldberg, Liz Hurley and so it was rumoured, Kylie Minogue as surprise guest.

"The Human Rights and HIV/AIDS: Now More Than Ever joint statement was originally drafted for the XVI International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2006) by 25 leading HIV/AIDS and human rights organizations, under the leadership of the Law and Health Initiative of the Open Society Institute’s Public Health Program. It has since been endorsed by over 650 HIV/AIDS organizations worldwide, as well as by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Development Programme, and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.

Now More Than Ever represents the hope of AIDS activists everywhere to place human rights at the center of the global AIDS response. It presents ten simple reasons why protecting human rights is essential to public health, particularly for a disease such as HIV that affects the most marginalized in society: women and girls, children, people who use drugs, sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender persons, prisoners, people needing palliative care, and others whose voices are rarely heard in the debate over how to allocate resources for health."

The Vienna Declaration:
"The Vienna Declaration is a statement seeking to improve community health and safety by calling for the incorporation of scientific evidence into illicit drug policies. We are inviting scientists, health practitioners and the public to endorse this document in order to bring these issues to the attention of governments and international agencies, and to illustrate that drug policy reform is a matter of urgent international significance."

You can read the full text HERE. So far, nearly 1400 people have endorsed the declaration.

Screenings in the Global Village
Watched The Other City, a documentary by Susan Koch about the fact that not even half a mile from Capitol Hill, you find evidence of Washington D.C.'s under-addressed HIV/AIDS epidemic (2-3% HIV prevalence). Quite fitting then that the capital will host AIDS 2012 under the Obama administration. The documentary itself is quite interesting, as it follows the lives of different groups of people but on the other hand, its structure is quite chaotic which makes it a bit confusing to watch.

Diamonds, a documentary film directed by Mikael Enlund of women living with HIV in the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia. The film received support by UNIFEM and might pop up in film festivals during the coming months.

Shuga: If your regional interest is more Africa-related, I recommend visiting the vibrant WEBSITE of this mini series on MTV Ignite – Kenya. In partnership with UNICEF and PEPFAR. A must see!

"Brand new from the MTV Staying Alive stables is a new campaign that challenges young people to ignite a movement to change their sexual behaviour, and turn previously held norms on their heads to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS specifically in Kenya, Trinidad and Tobago, and Ukraine. This campaign, under MTV’s award winning global HIV/AIDS campaign, Staying Alive, will address sexual networks, multiple partners, drug use and living with HIV, all in the context of national cultures and norms.

Kicking off all campaigns are explosive dramas in the three countries, all locally shot and produced, that will take a microscopic lens into the lives of young people who could be you, your best friends, your cousins or just random people you want to invite into your homes. You’ll love them, you’ll hate them, and you’ll want to see how their stories end."

Condom is the Word: If you're in for a laugh, you should see the really hilarious VIDEOCLIP about a smart multi-media campaign by the BBC World Service Trust in India building on the fact that men who talk about condoms are also more likely to be consistent condom users.

Networking in the Global Village - Featuring the Harmony Home Association Taiwan
A real treat for me was to see the potential power of such a large-scale conference where researchers, campaigners, professionals and other representatives come together from literally around the world to engage in dialogue with one another and to be visually confronted with so many people who all want to make a change - be it within their community or within global policy. I had my own opportunity to plunge into the networking frenzy, kindly facilitated by a friend from the US whom I had met while in Kuala Lumpur who visited a shelter in Taiwan which happened to be accomodating not only AIDS orphans but also children of Southeast Asian migrant workers! I therefore made the lovely acquaintance of a young Filipino missionary who strangely enough had only seen my US friend last week when I haven't had a change to see him again in nearly a year. Also, it is quite a coincidence I happen to be in Vienna and that I happen to know a SOAS Alumni working for human rights in Taiwan who might be interested in visiting the shelter and whose ex-colleague was also in Kuala Lumpur. Also, the lady from HHAT happens to have some links to the UK herself. The world is a global village indeed!

The HHAT is an organisation founded in its first form 23 years ago by Nicole Yang who since has been dubbed the Mother Teresa of Taiwan despite any controversy regarding the sensitive issue of HIV in Taiwan. I pasted a brief summary below from their bilingual WEBSITE:

"We provide shelter and care for people living with and children affected by HIV/AIDS, particularly those with financial and physical difficulties, ensuring adequate social care and support, and medical assistance. At present, all the shelters combined has a capacity of 40 beds for severely ill AIDS patients in need of intensive care, and 54 beds for those who were discharged from hospitals but destitute and homeless. We also provide 10 beds for foreign workers and nationals referred by the Taiwan National Immigration Agency to stay for a short period of time, and for HIV-positive IDU's, many who are under the Methadone treatment.

We provide children affected by HIV who are under our tutelage with basic education. Many kindergartens and schools refuse to accept children who are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. That is why there is much need to protect the health status of every child and keep their condition confidential. At present, HHAT has a private teacher for the younger children teaching basic kindergarten education. The older children go to different primary schools around Taipei city."

I am glad I had this positive experience of international buzz in the city!

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