Friday is the final day of the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. The conference is a global forum regarding the prevention and treatment of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. Twenty-five thousand delegates from around the world assembled in Mexico City this week.
In a press release (see PDF), Dr. Pedro Cahn, the conference international co-chair, and Fundación Huésped, president of the International AIDS Society (IAS), said, “AIDS 2008 is taking place at a unique moment in the epidemic, when there is widespread consensus on the urgency of ensuring universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010. What we now need is action on the part of all stakeholders. As we gather in Mexico, each of us must ask ourselves: What can I do to end AIDS? In 2008, there are no longer bystanders in this global struggle.”
Many reports of the discussions covered during the conference have come to light via bloggers who attended the conference. According to blogger Janna A. Zinzi, of the Guttmacher Institute, the Fuerza Joven de Mexico (Youth Force of Mexico) promoted comprehensive sex education at the conference as a way to prevent the spread of HIV in young people. More than four in ten new cases of HIV are in young people.
RH Reality Check bloggers reported about the importance of women’s rights in the global fight against AIDS. The Bush Administration’s AIDS response, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), requires HIV positive women in Botswana to sign a contract promising not to become pregnant. Activists at the conference provided recommendations to improve PEPFAR in ways that respect women’s basic human rights.
Links between HIV and gender based violence has also been the focus at the conference. RH Reality Check reports that women who have experienced gender based violence are at greater risk for transmission of HIV. Comprehensive sex education programs and policy changes to hold perpetrators of violence against women accountable were recommended.
The conference was open to both delegates and the general public to foster comprehensive dialogue about the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Words of Welcome for the conference stated, “The AIDS 2008 theme, Universal Action Now, underscores the continued urgency of the pandemic and reminds us of the responsibility we have to take individual and collective action.”