XVIII INTERNATIONAL AIDS CONFERENCE

Vienna, Austria July 2010

By Jhoanna Resari / Missionary, Full-Time Volunteer

This year’s XVIII International AIDS Conference was attended by 19,300 participants representing a total of 193 countries. The venue was in the massive halls of Messe Wien in Vienna, Austria. AIDS 2010 which is held once every two years is a major gathering of people from different backgrounds who are actively involved in the field of HIV/AIDS all over the world.

“RIGHTS HERE, RIGHT NOW!”

The theme for this year: “Rights Here, Right Now!” aims to remind government leaders, policy makers and civil societies of the vital connection between human rights and HIV as all forms of stigma and discrimination still continue to be a major struggle for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Covering a wide range of major issues from access to HIV prevention to scientific advances, AIDS 2010 provided many opportunities for education, dialogue, discussions and networking for all delegates. This is through the various sessions, presentations, meetings, workshops, exhibitions and other events happening simultaneously throughout the conference.

The conference has also provided the delegates the chance to speak out and bring the attention of the international community to the serious problems faced by people living with HIV/AIDS. “NO RETREAT, FUND AIDS”-- Advocates called for global leaders to renew their commitment to fund resources and programs to fight AIDS based on evidence from scientific findings and actual experiences of PLHA. “TREAT AIDS DON’T TURN BACK” People protested for universal access to treatment as there are still millions of people who are in urgent need of ARVs but are unable to get the life-saving treatment. Rallying cries of locals and participants of the conference to uphold and protect human rights of PLHA: children, women, sex workers, injecting drug users, gays, transgender... different messages from people around the world, with everyone calling for social justice and equal rights for all people living with HIV/AIDS.

HOPE IN SIGHT FOR WOMEN

One topic which caused much excitement and discussion among the participants in the conference was the session on: “The Safety and Effectiveness of 1% Tenofovir Vaginal Microbicide Gel in South African Women based on a clinical trial done by the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA)”. The safety and effectiveness of the gel which is an antiretroviral-based vaginal microbicide was tested among 900 women from two areas in South Africa. This clinical trial was a direct response of researchers to the serious epidemic of HIV among a growing number of South African women who are most vulnerable of getting infected through unprotected sex.

The study results after the trials showed a significant reduction in risk of HIV infection by 39% in women who used the gel. According to the global summary of the AIDS epidemic, almost half of the people living with HIV are women. The results bring much hope to women, and in the future, if this gel is confirmed to be safe and effective, it can provide women the choice to protect themselves from HIV infection, independent of their partners.

Harmony Home Exhibit Booth at the Global Village

HARMONY AT THE GLOBAL VILLAGE

Harmony Home exhibit booth at the Global VillageHarmony Home Association, Taiwan (HHAT) was fortunate to be given the opportunity to once again set-up an exhibit booth at the Global Village and to actively participate in the many events held throughout the conference. Nicole Yang, founder of HHAT, along with friends, volunteers represented Harmony Home Association, Taiwan. We all took part in supervising the exhibit booth and in disseminating information to other delegates and to the public. The booth was surrounded by photo images of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS in Taiwan and China with posters displaying the message: “I am also human; I need rights to live like one.”

At present there are hundreds of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS in Taiwan and in China who are under the care of or supported by Harmony Home: from children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in China to patients who are in vegetative state in Taiwan. They are our motivation in applying for an exhibit booth for this year’s conference. Our exhibition was mainly aimed at presenting to the international community the services provided by Harmony Home in the different regions of Taiwan and China; to engage people into open dialogue to bring about a deeper awareness of the different realities and challenges faced by PLHA, especially in ensuring that their rights are protected and upheld; and to encourage future partnerships with other organizations in different countries.

The Global Village provided Harmony Home and other organizations working in different fields on HIV/AIDS from different parts of the world to come together and reach out to the participants and the public for much needed education and better awareness on HIV/AIDS. There were also sessions, presentations, interactive activities, shows, demonstrations and campaigns that inspired and encouraged open dialogue and networking among various individuals and groups.

LIVES AT RISK

As the conference progressed and I became more involved in the various events, and listening to different speakers and organizations share about their findings, experiences, and realities of HIV/AIDS in their regions, it is evident how despite the progress made for the past years, there is still a long way to go before we can see the end of HIV/AIDS. And sadly, along the way, people continue to suffer and more lives are lost each day. According to UNAIDS, in 2008 alone, there were 2 million aids-related deaths. Reports from the conference state: At present, only 40% of people living with HIV know their status. Only 5 million of the 15 million people in need of HIV treatment have access to life-saving medicine. 10 million AIDS-related deaths could be prevented if treatment access is scaled up.

Learning all these, hearing the problems we face and meeting people who are working hard to fight HIV/AIDS has convinced me that we need each other, more now than ever, to work towards a world free of AIDS. HIV positive or not, we are all affected by HIV/AIDS. From our governments to our own small communities, we all need to do our own parts to be effective in fighting HIV/AIDS. In my involvement in the conference, I also became a part of other people’s experiences. In the same way, I believe that in committing to doing our part in our local communities to fighting HIV/AIDS, we are also causing the waves of change across the world. This is how we are connected and it is in working together that we will succeed.

IT BEGINS WITH YOU

You can do something to fight HIV. You can stop the spread of HIV/AIDS by knowing how to protect yourself. Ignorance about HIV/AIDS puts you more at risk of getting infected. Be educated about HIV/AIDS and get yourself tested. Our being human makes us all vulnerable just like any of the 33.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the world. Don’t let yourself or your loved ones become at risk.

More information about HIV/AIDS and the XVIII International Conference can be accessed at the official website: www.aids2010.org

To know your HIV status, you can get anonymous testing available in certain hospitals located at different cities around Taiwan. For more information, please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or through our office number: 2738 9600 / 2738 9993.