From July 18 – 22nd, DI team members from Toronto and Malawi attended the 21st International AIDS Conference (IAC), presenting results from our research programs and participating in the event’s Global Village, the focal point for high-energy civil society groups that are working to battle HIV/AIDS around the world.
Held in Durban, the site of a landmark IAC in 2000 that represents a major turning point in the battle against AIDS, this year’s event focused on the need to strengthen the global AIDS response. In particular, delegates looked at ways to better protect the world’s most vulnerable populations and how to scale up prevention and treatment for women, girls, and all young people.
Major points of concern that emerged early in the conference were the worrying decline in donor financing for HIV, which is making efforts to scale up of treatment and prevention even more challenging. You need look no further than the Global Fund Replenishment Conference, hosted by the Canadian Government in Montreal from September 16 – 17, to get a sense of what’s at stake.
In the main conference center, DI was given the opportunity to discuss a few different topics from our research portfolio, including an examination of how Expert Clients help enhance retention and adherence among people with HIV and AIDS in Malawi, HIV services offered in Zomba Central Prison, and integrating non-communicable disease screening in HIV clinics in Malawi. The research is presented on different days throughout the conference, with participating researchers standing by at a designated time to discuss their findings with participants.
In the Global Village, we hosted a film screening of the Make Art / Stop AIDS (MASA) Community Film Project, followed a Q&A session. We also steadily pedaled our way to the next conference in Amsterdam with our Race for Dignity Challenge.
The MASA project is built around a play developed and performed by residents from a small Malawian village, all of whom are living with or affected by HIV. The residents act out their shared experiences to the whole community. After the film, villagers explore issues such as stigma and discrimination in a lively discussion while other residents take advantage of moonlight HIV testing that is offered.
The next day, residents and village chiefs develop community action plans to address the barriers raised by the community. Designed to confront deeply rooted attitudes about HIV and provoke community debate, this film is helping change how people think and act. The film is currently being screened in various villages in Malawi and is bringing together health care providers, community leaders, chiefs and residents to find long-term solutions that improve access to HIV treatment and care.
Race For Dignity Challenge
Dignitas International was a key partner at this year’s AIDS 2016 Inter(SEX)ion Youth Networking Zone in the Global Village. Here we engaged youth and people of all ages to become agents of change in raising awareness and safeguarding the right to HIV treatment and care through our Teen Club and Race for Dignity programs.
The Race for Dignity Challenge gave conference participants the opportunity to symbolically push for results at IAC 2016 – and all the way to the AIDS conference in Amsterdam in 2018. Hundreds of people hopped on our stationary bike at the Youth Networking Zone and enthusiastically helped mobilize resources to support HIV programs for youth.
— Dignitas Intl (@DignitasIntl) July 19, 2016