AIDS 2022: back to personal contact

Which problems?

four years. It’s been four years since the world’s largest face-to-face HIV conference took place. The last edition took place in Amsterdam in July 2018. In four years, the world, and with it the fight against AIDS, has experienced great upheavals and many crises: a health crisis with a global pandemic (still ongoing, no, despite the “calming down”); an ecological crisis with numerous catastrophes from global warming; an economic crisis with the war in Ukraine or the recent and worrying monkeypox epidemic. The place of the fight against HIV/AIDS in this saturated global context is one of the challenges of the AIDS 2022 conference and in particular of the opening plenary, which sets the tone: “More than 40 years after the first reported case of AIDS, we live in a world , in which HIV is the forgotten epidemic Concerned about the lack of interest and slow progress in the fight against HIV, the IAS calls on the world to re-engage and follow the science: follow the science, mantra of the IAS. AIDS 2022 is more than just one conference among others, it is a time for meetings and exchanges with scientists and activists from around the world. The place itself is gigantic, a city within a city where a total of 30,000 people are expected. The more than 50-page program makes you dizzy. Five days of conferences, 3,000 posters, more than 100 sessions (plenary sessions, workshops, symposia, oral presentations, etc.), but also militant actions in the Associative Village and even cultural events: a drag queens show and a theater group show.
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AIDS is still here!

The masks are still there, but the joy of being together is palpable. Four years after the 2018 Amsterdam Conference, activists and scholars from all over the world are finally meeting. Some hug; others take selfies. There is a somewhat electrifying atmosphere in the vast corridors of the Palais des Congrès de Montréal. The large island and port metropolis on the Saint Lawrence River is hosting the World Conference on HIV for the second time (1989 and 2022). But when the joy of seeing each other has evaporated, another topic of discussion is on everyone’s lips. The visa applications of hundreds of participants, mostly from Africa, Asia and South America, were denied, including some who had received a scholarship partially funded by the Canadian federal government. In a widely publicized July 26 tweet, Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS, shared her feelings after nearly missing her plane to Montreal. “All documents were checked again and again, phone calls were made and I was able to board last. It’s unfair and racist! As a result, Coalition PLUS tweeted, “Hundreds of Southern activists have been unable to obtain visas to attend the Montreal AIDS conference. The delegation of the PLUS coalition will therefore be reduced by 15% of its members.”
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Opioids, the other epidemic

The opening plenary session of the second day was opened by Doris Peltier, an Aboriginal activist who has been heavily involved with the Aboriginal HIV movement in Canada and Aboriginal health research for more than a decade. This mother, grandmother and great-grandmother living with HIV seems very moved as she speaks. Indigenous peoples have experienced discrimination and human rights abuses and are disproportionately affected by HIV. “95, 95, 95 … Will we reach this goal as tribal peoples? asks Doris Peltier? “I don’t think so and I’ll tell you why.” And the activist enumerates the brakes preventing an end to the HIV epidemic in the Aboriginal community. There is a strong serophobia in the community, but also a strong reluctance to raise the issues of HIV and sexuality, particularly in the more remote rural areas. “I speak publicly about my HIV status to break this taboo,” explains Doris Peltier. The activist also insists on the need to include indigenous people as a “key population” in the global response to HIV, making commitments to these peoples wherever they are in the world.
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Proud dealers of RDR

It’s 8am but many Coalition PLUS activists are in the room, proudly wearing a t-shirt with the slogan “Proud Harm Reduction Dealers” on the front and “Support community health” on the back. The Coalition PLUS Symposium, moderated by Camille Spire (President of AIDES), will focus on “Drugs, HIV and Community Involvement: A 360-degree View of How to Address Harm Reduction Practices and Strategies”. An extensive program, the importance of which Camille Spire recalls: “People who use drugs are 35 times more exposed to HIV than any other group”. She also takes the example of the Ballroom (LGBT+ Dance and Performance Contest) organized the day before, one category of which included ‘drug use’, and shows with costumes metaphorically using RDR tools how to address the issue of innovation. To illustrate the gaps in DRR funding (only 13% of required funds are invested) and the paramount importance of advocacy building on community-based research, three presentations showcased innovations in research conducted with and for communities became.
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Community Health Master Class

Rena Janamnuaysook is a Thai trans activist who made a very strong impression in the fourth day plenary of the AIDS 2022 conference by delivering a real master class on the power of community health. A powerful presentation that made us want to know her.
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Follow the activists!

After five intense days of symposia, plenary sessions and satellites, the final session summarizes the themes and closes the AIDS 2022 conference. An hour and a half before the ceremony, the IAS rapporteurs follow each other to analyze and provide a critical look at the main themes and topics of the last five days. The ceremony will be moderated by Birgit Poniatowski, Executive Director of the IAS, and opened by Jean-Pierre Routy, Local Co-President. The latter begins the ballet of thanks and recalls the meaning of the slogan that “resonated in these rooms,” that of U=U. As he gives way to Canadian Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, the Canadians take the activist stage with “Canada’s Broken Promise.” -Describe. The activist at the microphone berated the Minister and the room: “The Canadian response to HIV is stuck in the past. Help us move forward.”
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