Judith in Durban

We are very excited that the Positive Women Inc. Health Promoter, Judith, was granted a full scholarship to attend the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, from  the 18th –22nd of July 2016.  The following is a brief summary from Judith of the conference.

“The opening ceremony off the 21st International AIDS conference was held on a special day as it was Nelson Mandela Day. All the delegates were reminded how Nelson Mendela called everyone to break the silence, banish stigma and discrimination and ensure inclusiveness within the struggle against AIDS.

The theme of the conference was, “Access Equity Right Now”. With this theme, I thought, it was great that the conference was held at the province of Kwazulu-Natal where the access to ARTs is still an issue and where more work on prevention and treatment for women, girls and young people is needed.

For me the highlight of this conference was that the majority of the abstracts are presented by African researchers. We all know the sub-Sahara Africa has higher HIV prevalence. Those countries having their own researchers will help them find the barriers and implement the strategies to reach the UN 90-90-90 target.

Day by day, there were amazing presentations and lively discussions on HIV prevention and treatment. Within all those sessions I had two sessions highlighted on my programme as I didn’t want to miss them. One was about HIV vaccine and the other one was about HIV cure. The South Africa study presented the result of RV144 regimen, the only HIV vaccine. This successful study shows that if everything goes well, this could lead to a licensed HIV vaccine in South Africa and the World’s first preventive HIV vaccine. For the HIV cure there was not much improvement. It was even impossible to tell when or even if a cure would be found.

The conference without the voices of PLHIV would be a useless conference. Edwin Cameron, a justice of the constitutional Court of South Africa, the first senior South African official to state publicly that he was living with HIV, in his talk mentioned the impact of HIV stigma in his own life. He understands what the people living with HIV are facing. Therefore he invited those key populations affected by HIV  to take over the stage with him, shout louder as a symbol to break the silence and reclaim their rights.

Let me stop here for now, I still have a few sessions to attend. I am hoping at the end of the conference I will be able to let you know how we are doing in NZ compared to other countries.”