The opening ceremony of AIDS 2010 was heralded by an impressive protest against recent cuts in global funding for HIV. The largest session room of the global village, Vienna where the conference is holding was filled to capacity with researchers, activists, political and NGO leaders, and delegates from all over the world.
Following an opening video message from Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon reiterating UNAIDS vision for the AIDs response and expressing concern over recent funding cuts, Ms Brigette Schmied president of the Austrian AIDS society’s and Dr Julio Montaner president of the international AIDS society proceeded to give opening remarks which were disrupted intermittently by the protests of hundreds of demonstrator’s. Bearing banners protesting recent funding cuts and concerns of other of diverse groups ranging from youths to the LGBTQ community, People living with HIV/AIDS and the very vocal sex workers the activists occupied the stage and walkways for about an hour to express their concerns.
Speeches from the community and youth representatives, John Dalli the European union commissioner for health and consumer policy, Ms. Annie Lennox goodwill ambassador of UNAIDS, South African deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe and the executive director of UNAIDS Mr. Michel Sidibe echoed the requests of the protestors and made clear calls for our need to fight the disease more aggressively while ensuring that we have full access to our human rights regardless of the person.
Each speech in some way reflected the concerns of different groups represented and emphasized the urgent need for the scaling up of our response to the HIV pandemic and a new approach to ARV treatment which will reduce costs drastically and maximize the value of anti retroviral therapy- “treatment 2.0” as introduced by Mr. Sidibe. Mr Sidibe in his speech also reported the findings by UNAIDS 2010 showing a decline of 25% in HIV prevalence among young people in 15 of 21 countries most affected with HIV. As he put it young people are leading the HIV prevention revolution by taking definitive action to protect themselves.
The theme of AIDS 2010 is “rights here, right now”, and it’s being convened in Europe is extremely significant as it puts the spotlight on the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia which has the most rapidly increasing HIV prevalence. With its human rights based theme, it is also an opportunity to focus on numerous minority groups- LGBTQ, sex workers, injecting drug users and youth who also cut across all the afore mentioned categories.
AIDS 2010 conference program will allow for the presentation of exciting new scientific discoveries, and many opportunities for active conversations on the global pandemic the issues being faced in our response to it and how best to advance the battle against the scourge of the disease.Karthik Naralasetty, Brand Manager at YourStory is at The International AIDS Conference at Vienna, Austria.Karthik Naralasetty is involved in AIDS related causes in Andhra Pradesh. He is the founder of Redcode Informatics and RE:FRESH.