Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Gain: My Participation in AIDS 2012 Conference

By Gabriel Adeyemo: 
My United Nations Pledge 2011-2012: "To lend my wit and my strength to the AIDS Response guiding global youth towards one goal: Zero HIV: Zero AIDS Related Deaths, Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma"

International AIDS Conference took completely another dimension for me this time in 2012. My simple definition was to attend, make new partnership, form alliances with international recognized organization, advocate for my interest in the field, make formal presentations, etc.

The tussle began when I was refused scholarship to attend and I need to pay a sum of $690 for my conference registration if I must attend AIDS 2012. I paid this sum and secured my attendance.

Youth Pre-conference often prelude all/most International AIDS Conferences and I had the privilege of meeting all my long-lost friends that we had met since Vienna @ the AIDS 2010. I attended all HIV/AIDS prevention sessions and upcoming PrEP/prevention technologies at the youth pre-conf. No sooner did I realize that, young people are not on same page towards advocating for New Biomedical Prevention Technologies (NPT) in HIV/AIDS, simply because whilst others believed in it potency to save more lives in the future, another thought PrEP/Microbicide will increase promiscuity/more risky sexual behaviors among young populations including MSMs and Sex Workers. Likewise the issues of medical male circumcision as preventing HIV/AIDS.

There are just so many (+)&(-) views/perception of young scientist towards prevention technologies...

The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) organized my first panel presentation and also supported me to attend the AIDS 2012 conference. It was titled: Research for New HIV/AIDS Prevention Technologies – Community Perspective. I spoke alongside great panelists and from a position of an African Youth, & specifically one from a country with a heavy HIV burden but no NPT clinical trials currently.

My considerations were based on; 
- Youths are vulnerable to HIV, but for many reasons related to this vulnerability, we often cannot take advantage of existing prevention methods.

- The at-risk populations needs NPT that are easy to use, easily controlled, and that don’t inhibit pleasure, while focusing young girls, street and other very poor young people, young MSMs and sex workers.

- Concerns about protecting youth from exploitation by medical researchers are real, but there must be ethical trials for youths so that we have access to the NPTs as soon as they are developed.

The Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) and other prevention partners organized my second speaking session titled:Is the Scientific and Programming Community Ignoring Condoms? The Visible Yet Invisible Method that is proven to prevent the transmission of HIV. I share my involvement on Condom Programming projects here in Nigeria with UNFPA supports, the barriers I see in the field as regards male and female condoms.

- Why we need to rethink our advocacy strategies to suite all populations of young people involved, the key policy and financial barriers facing female and male condoms and the tactics/evidence needed to overcome them.

I also gave some recommendation to making promotion and use of both condoms more effective, particularly within the context of emerging prevention and treatment strategies.

My whole perception towards IAC changed this time, as it was not all about attending many/irrelevant session to my field, but to being more effective in the little I could do.

Aside basic meetings and speaking role I was engaged with at the conference, some other plenary speakers blew my mind with positive thoughts and willingness to continue the HIV/AIDS advocacy.

- Annah Sango from Zimbabwe spoke with much energy and strength at the opening ceremony of the conference as a young & positive lady/advocate. She restores courage and hope in most young people that our advocacy should continue.

- Prof. Anthony S. Fauci – Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) spoke with much enthusiasm and restoration of hope towards the search for a cure, which is also one of the major themes of the AIDS 2012. Delegates heard about what scientists meant by a cure; how a cure can be achieved and about the difficulties and challenges that lies ahead.

- Hilary Clinton – US Secretary of State also inspire delegates with different funding mechanisms that the US government has set in place to help resource constraints nations to fight HIV/AIDS and develop prevention programs with key HIV Projects.

- Phill Wilson – The President and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute was also not left out. He spoke with so much inspiration and affections about the love he had enjoyed as a black gay man living with HIV. Mentioning issues of stigma and discrimination as related to HIV with examples makes his presentation more captivating.

Many other speakers were of great benefits with time to network and interact with the mighty in the field of public health.

Many thanks to GYCA and IAVI for making it possible to attend the AIDS2012.

About the author 
Gabriel, ADEYEMO is the Regional Focal Point - West Africa
Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AID (GYCA), a program of the Public Health Institute. You can connect with him online: TIGblogs: |

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