Hello from the 12th International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa! The brightest minds are already swirling with ideas, the halls are littered with publications and flyers and the amount of information being shared is already overwhelming after just two days of pre-conferences. There are endless highlights to report and the official conference has not even begun. There is no possible way to report back on all the activities so we have chosen to be selective and provide insight into MSM related trends and buzzwords throughout the conference.
On Saturday, July 16th, MSMGF (the Global Forum on MSM & HIV) convened 700 HIV activists, policy makers, donors, researchers, and program implementers for its 7th biennial gathering ahead of the International AIDS Conference to discuss and develop shared strategies for addressing uncontrolled HIV epidemics among gay and bisexual men worldwide. Titled, Action + Access: Rights and Demands of Gay and Bisexual Men in the Global HIV Response, the gathering, delivered a program to address an increasingly complex constellation of issues. To our knowledge, this is the only global gathering of its kind.
Aligned with AIDS 2016’s theme– Access, Equity, Rights, Now –MSMGF’s Pre-Conference theme shined a spotlight on gay men’s community-level contributions to HIV advocacy and service delivery, with an
emphasis on the action and access. Participants discussed the availability of new HIV prevention
technologies like PrEP, criminalization of homosexuality and HIV transmission, escalating violence
directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and uncertainty about HIV treatment access as governments continue to erase gay and bisexual men in HIV responses and shy away from their funding commitments to AIDS. Pre-Conference delegates also strategized approaches to fast-tracking the HIV and human rights responses.
One common theme already popping up in multiple sessions is the “cost of homophobia”. In the MSMGF pre-conference opening plenary, Jose Antonio Izazola of UNAIDS stated that the annual cost of homophobia may be up to 184 billion dollars globally.
Young, impassioned advocates Keletso Makofane, Sergio Lopez and Midnight Poonkasetwattana reminded us that our silence will not protect us and that we need more radical, fact-based activism. Meg Davis of NYU reminded us that HIV is definitely political, and punitive laws against HIV have a direct correlation to high infection rates. Ambassador Deborah L. Birx recommitted support for targeted HIV programs for gay and bisexual men and other key populations. She took audience questions about PEPFAR’s new $100 million Key Population Initiative. And in closing, artists and queer archivists Pato Hebert and Ajamu presented stunning artwork, photography and music that reminded us just how powerful art can be. We must remember the brave queer artists that have come before us and continue to honor them and promote freedom of expression.
Delegates coalesced around four actions necessary for redressing high HIV prevalence and increasing
HIV incidence among gay and bisexual men:
1. Target and tailor HIV and sexual health responses at country and local levels;
2. Decriminalize and destigmatize homosexuality and HIV;
3. Fund high-quality, evidence-informed, and rights-based HIV and sexual health programs;
4. Keep communities of gay and bisexual men front and center of the HIV response.
Delegates also committed themselves to raising questions four critical questions during sessions at the
International AIDS Conference:
1. How is the global HIV response failing gay and bisexual men?
2. What have we been ignoring in the global HIV response?
3. How do we liberate our responses from outdated ways of views about gay and bisexual men and
our sexual health concerns?
4. What are necessary actions to progress the global HIV response?
We have a small team of bloggers who will be covering many of the week’s events in their own voices and expressing opinions that may not be representative of MSMGF.