July 19, 2010

Now more than ever: human rights march and rally

The Human Rights and HIV/AIDS: Now More Than Ever campaign will march and rally for human rights at 18th International AIDS Conference on July 20, 2010 in Vienna.

Internationally acclaimed singer songwriter and long-time AIDS activist Annie Lennox will headline an historic rally in downtown Vienna. The march and rally will feature a memorable live musical performance by Lennox and provide an opportunity for people to demonstrate their commitment to protecting human rights and stopping the spread of HIV.

The event will consist of a 30-minute peaceful march in downtown Vienna to a public rally with government leaders, human rights and AIDS advocates, and people affected by HIV. Following the speeches, Annie Lennox will give a special presentation of her SING Campaign, which will include a musical performance and some short films highlighting the issues that surround HIV and AIDS.

The event will highlight the central role of human rights in the response to HIV. It will focus on the human rights of people living with HIV and of those affected by HIV, especially women and young people, gay, lesbian, and transgender people; and people who engage in sex work or who use drugs. It will focus on the global AIDS struggle as well as pressing concerns in Austria.

"Together we will give a voice to the voiceless," Annie Lennox.

July 18, 2010

XVIII International AIDS Conference

The International AIDS Conference is the premier gathering for those working in the field of HIV, as well as policy makers, persons living with HIV and other individuals committed to ending the pandemic. It is a chance to assess where we are, evaluate recent scientific developments and lessons learnt, and collectively chart a course forward. The 18th International AIDS conference theme is Rights Here, Right Now, emphasizing the central importance of protecting and promoting human rights as a prerequisite to a successful response to HIV.

About 25,000 researchers, policymakers, and activists are attending the six-day biennial International AIDS Conference, which begins on July 18 in Vienna. Speakers include former US president Bill Clinton and Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates.

The conference will focus in part on G8 countries' commitments to sustain the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. IAC is also expected to draw attention to human rights abuses in countries with laws that target and stigmatize persons living with HIV, as well as the dire situation in some parts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where the spread of HIV has been particularly rapid.

Saturday, before the conference was set to open, celebrities gathered for Vienna's annual AIDS dinner and Life Ball. Clinton was present, along with Hollywood actress Whoopi Goldberg, singer Patti Labelle and German tennis legend Boris Becker.

The AIDS 2010 programme will present new scientific knowledge and offer many opportunities for structured dialogue on the major issues facing the global response to HIV. A variety of session types – from abstract-driven presentations to symposia, bridging sessions and plenaries – will meet the needs of various participants. Other related activities, including the Global Village, satellite meetings, exhibitions and affiliated events, will contribute to an exceptional opportunity for professional development and networking. Following the success of the pilot programme at AIDS 2008, the 18th International AIDS Conference will provide or facilitate hubs (centres) where selected sessions of the conference will be screened, to increase the access to the conference programme.

UN Millennium Development Goals set 2010 as the target for universal treatment for HIV/AIDS by everyone who needs it, but that deadline has not been met.

Some 4.7 million people in the world received HIV treatment at the end of 2008, only 42 per cent of those who needed it, according to UNAIDS.

Worldwide, there were some 33.4 million people living with HIV in 2008. Sub-Saharan Africa, home to 67 per cent of all people with the AIDS virus, is the most affected region.

In Europe, Ukraine has the highest rate of HIV infection, at 1.6 per cent.

Activists say that governments are backtracking from funding for the treatment, both domestically and internationally.

"It seems that the political leadership is losing interest," said Julio Montaner, president of the International AIDS Society (IAS), the conference organizer.

Michel Sidibe, the head of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said universal access was "a fight for human justice."

He urged a "prevention revolution" that would lead to development of a single pill for treatment of people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

MSF@IAC2010 informs that after a decade of important progress on AIDS treatment in developing countries, donors are walking away from AIDS when 10 million people are still waiting for treatment.

MSF is speaking out to urge donors to reaffirm their promises now and provide timely treatment to all in need.

July 17, 2010

Be heard! Global Forum on MSM & HIV

The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) starts the 4th pre-conference on July 17, 2010 to the 18th International AIDS Conference in Vienna Austria. This one-day event explores the challenges and best practices in achieving universal access to HIV-related prevention, care, treatment, and support services for sexual minority communities worldwide.

Be Heard! convenes 450 human rights advocates, artists, researchers, public health officials, multi-lateral organizations, and global donors for a day of workshops, skills building, information exchange, and networking sessions. The MSM pre-conference will be followed by an evening networking reception.

MSMGF recommends a rights-based and person-centered approach to developing guidelines that will help transgender persons receive non-discriminatory, non-judgmental and quality health care. There has been an international wave of advocacy calling on authorities such as the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and World Health Organization (WHO) to depathologize transgender identities. Pathologizing gender identity variance as a ‘psychiatric disorder’ only perpetuates the stigma, discrimination and violence that these individuals experience around the world.

As a global advocacy organization working for the health and human rights of men who have sex with men (MSM), the MSMGF is familiar with stigma within health system structures and its negative impact on individuals and communities. For instance, the classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder by institutions such as the APA until 1973 and the WHO until 1993 helped endorse discrimination against gay men and other MSM at multiple levels. Stigma and discrimination impact health by heightening HIV risk factors, including social isolation, and compromising access to HIV prevention, care and treatment services. Transgender persons are also the targets of stigma and discrimination that can be exacerbated by a mental diagnosis, ultimately resulting in compromised health and wellness.

July 15, 2010

Make it happen! The Vienna YouthForce pre-conference

On July 14 the Vienna YouthForce begins its three-day pre-conference, an event open to young people attending the 18th International AIDS Conference. The pre-conference conists of informative sessions and skills-building workshops on HIV and AIDS issues ranging from scientific knowledge to effective political advocacy.

The pre-conference brings together more than 300 young activists and researchers from 100 different countries to prepare youth delegates to be effective advocates on issues that affect them. All the activities are organized in partnership with other activists and organizations who voluntarily participate on various different committees.

Public Information and Need of Knowledge Armenian NGO is presented by Marine Margaryan, NGO's projects coordinator.

Every two years, tens of thousands of experts, advocates and decision-makers gather for the international AIDS conference, the largest health-related event in the world. With each conference, young people, who have so much at stake in addressing this issue, have been playing an increasingly large role in the proceedings.

The overall theme for the conference is Rights Here! Right Now. The advocacy campaign of the Vienna YouthForce focuses on the 3 HRs: human rights, harm reduction and health resources.