HIV/AIDS & Advocacy – What’s Next? Learnings from AIDS2014
This summer, the eyes of the global HIV community were turned on Melbourne and the 20th International Aids Conference. The Conference was a combination of the latest breakthroughs in science and an examination of topics relevant to the millions of people living with HIV. Among the hundreds of presentations and events, some key themes emerged as welcome developments; in particular, addressing the overly broad criminalisation of HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission.
The “Beyond Blame” conference pre-meeting, organised by a number of leading Australian patient advocacy organisations (PAGs) was an opportunity for the revision and reinvigoration of advocacy approaches surrounding the criminalisation of HIV. Indeed, as a result of advocacy efforts led by Australian PAGs, health minister David Davis announced, to a standing ovation of HIV researchers and advocates that Australia’s only HIV-specific law that criminalises the intentional transmission of the virus is set to be amended.
The conference ended with thousands of delegates endorsing the Melbourne Declaration, calling for an end to stigma and discrimination impacting people living with HIV around the globe. In terms of advocacy, this can be regarded as an important step forward. Stigma not only makes it more difficult for people trying to come to terms with HIV, access therapies and manage their illness on a personal level, but it also stymies attempts to fight the HIV and AIDS epidemic globally.
Whilst HIV/AIDS related stigma is not a straightforward phenomenon to address, empowered patients are more likely to play an increasingly important role in driving access to innovative therapies. In order for stakeholders to make their voices heard, however, targeting the right influencers, with compelling and relevant messaging, will be key to achieving their desired outcomes – better treatment and management for people living with HIV.